Mental illness is this taboo thing that people skirt over more often than not. As someone who grew up with a mother with schizoaffective disorder (a mix of schizophrenia and a mood disorder) I got to see first hand just how taboo the subject is. No one talked about it. It wasn’t the elephant in the room, it was a house filled with talking elephants, one that everyone quickened their pace when walking by. Is it awkward to talk about someones mental state? Yes, of course. But I think it’s also necessary. Absolutely so for the person with the illness, for the immediate family members of said person, and for the general publics consumption in order to breed understanding.
A lot of people fail to realize just how wide the reach of one persons altered mind can span. I spent the majority of my childhood embarrassed by my mother because I did not understand what was happening with her. No one ever made sure I knew there was a reason for her peculiarities and as a result I grew to distance myself from not only her, but from other people in general. I was a shy kid because I didn’t have answers to the questions I knew people would have if I ever opened up about my home life (in fact, I was 19 before I finally got a name for her disorder). In turn, I became clinically depressed around the age of 13 and wound up seeing a child psychologist.
I will say this, it helped to have someone to talk to. I still didn’t receive answers about my mothers condition but I did get an outlet for how I felt and it was nice to have someone to pour my life into without judgement. I am pro-therapy and I know it doesn’t work for everyone but I’d say give it a chance. In honesty, the first few sessions were spent in silence. My psychologist would ask questions that I didn’t want to answer and so we’d just pass the time. But one day, it changed. I decided to speak and as a result I started to understand myself better. So to anyone who is on the fence about going to talk to someone; just give it a chance, give yourself a chance.
I think we need to teach more about mental illness, to make it something people can talk about without worrying that it will come with a preconceived stigma attached. Mental illnesses are not going away, yes there are treatments for them and people can live normal lives but they are still issues. I urge everyone to educate yourselves, to at least learn that underneath the mental illness is a person and they have to live their lives the best way they know how. I think for a long time, due to lack of knowledge I mistook my mothers mental health as a defining factor of who she was when really it was only just a small part. Only towards the end of my mothers life did I realize that aside from the quirks of her disease she was pretty normal. She had her hobbies and things she loved and she was funny. Most importantly, she was human.
I’d like to write more about this topic in future posts. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences as well. Thanks for reading! Lets continue the conversation in the comments section below or on twitter: @talichaj