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Sunday, March 31, 2013
Christina Nuckols’ column “Breaking the stigma of mental illness” (March 24) is encouraging. Mental illness is an uncomfortable subject for most people.
Our son was diagnosed with a mental illness at 18, just when his life should have been starting. That diagnosis was devastating to him and to us. While we searched for answers, so did he.
He didn’t understand the changes in his brain. He couldn’t connect his desires for a normal life with the path to get there. There was a barrier, invisible to us, but very real to him. Eventually, he stopped trying.
How do we learn to deal with mental illness in our family? We learn through some really, really painful stages. I have often thought that it would be easier on the mentally ill if this happened at birth. Sounds harsh to most of you, I am sure. But what I saw with my son was this total inability to match his present life with what he expected. Why won’t his brain work?
I watched and felt his pain of social ostracism. While his reality may be different from yours and mine, he does feel. His heart does ache. Mine aches for him. Each day is an uphill climb. I am grateful for baby steps.
It has been 10 years, and it still consumes so much of our thoughts and our day-to-day routines. I feel selfish sometimes. Why can’t this be different? But those thoughts waste valuable emotions, and I quickly dismiss them.
Mental health is too often in the news for the wrong reason. For many of us, a beloved family member suffers, and so does his family. I have been surprised at how many people have shared their own stories. There are many in our community who silently struggle. Instead of judging, be supportive.
My son lost his self-esteem and his direction when he became mentally ill. Surely, we can find a way to make our mentally ill family members feel worthy again. Perhaps Diane Kelly’s initiative will lead to more understanding and support.
I hope for more volunteering opportunities, job training and any activity to help fill the empty hours and social isolation of the mentally ill. It will take time, but to cast off a segment of society is tragic.
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