I am thankful I am alive. I want to give back. I have learned to love me. So I have learned to love the people around me. Never ever give up. Every hard step taught me something. So it WILL do the same for you. I am grateful for my life. I have added value to the lives of people around me. SO WILL YOU.
In ancient civilizations the people who behaved like those we now label schizophrenic were regarded as visionaries. Shamans. A circle was drawn around them in which they could live, respected, within the existing society to which they weren’t suited. A circle. Nick has a red diamond on his right wrist, covering his suicide scar. A tattoo over a scar. But isn’t the white line of the scar really just a tattoo as well?
This is one story about our experience with the mental healthcare system. I have too many stories to count and our experience has not yet ended, it never will but hopefully it will get better. For two years I have stayed very silent about our struggles, a few close family members and friends know but overall no one would have any idea what we have been through. In part because I didn’t want my family or my daughter to be judged.
My folded hands are pointing heavenward and my head is bowed in prayer. A scrumptious meal is spread out before me: cranberry sauce, a basket of rolls, a plateful of mashed potatoes and peas. In the center of the table is a golden, glazed turkey. I am five years old in this photograph. Everything about the dinner is fake. Everything but the prayer. I was praying for real food.
I am in the community mental health center again. Waiting room. Nick is outside, smoking, I am holding a chair to make sure he isn’t overlooked. It’s the story of my life, these days. Across the room in a corner, a father and teenage girl huddle, speaking quietly to each other.
The culture has made some progress in the understanding and acceptance of others, but in matters of mental illness it lags behind. There still aren’t enough beds, still isn’t enough training, affordable medication and therapy, to help the many schizophrenics lost to the streets and left to fend off the demons in their minds on their own. I know this firsthand, so I talk about it.
I spend a great deal of time reading and listening to other people’s stories about mental illness. I belong to several Facebook groups that support families of those with serious mental illness. Every single day I read tragic accountings of mental illness and families. One woman’s son set fire to…
Besides grieving and experiencing the guilt, sadness and anger that accompanies when someone close to us dies by suicide, I was left with an empty space to fill. I could have gone one of two ways. I could have tried to fill that void with things that would only have masked the pain I was in and sunk into a deep depression, or I could fill that empty space with actions that made me feel whole again. And this is how my journey brought me to music.