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 therapist is as important to the mind as the doctor is to the body. They both work with the patient to establish a baseline of good health, mental and physical, appropriate to the client’s individuality. The key is to take that first step in trusting your experienced caregiver. Sometimes that trust is hard won. Making the effort to contribute self-knowledge with as much clarity as possible to help your doctor or therapist get to know you better is paramount. Being open, honest, and willing can be keys to success.
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…
If someone has a genuine interest in knowing what it’s like to live with schizophrenia, I feel obligated to share my personal experience. The truth might make them uncomfortable, but the conversation has to start somewhere. Change cannot happen if we live in a bubble.
We do all the normal things while overriding the insecurity and uncertainty that self-stigma hammers us down with. We manage that, which takes a certain strength. So be proud. Take time to practice some self-care in your own inimitable way. Live your best life. You deserve it.