I was wondering if I could possibly put all my scrambling thoughts into sequence enough to make sense for any reader. How does one put tragedy into context? Every day people commit suicide and we don't mourn. A celebrity dies and the world watches and weeps. In context, this is our opportunity to weep and mourn and then to learn and grow as a society.
Of course, you might have figured out I am referring to the suicide of comedian/actor Robin Williams. The sad reality is that Mr. Williams suffered from deep depression and from the facts I have gathered, his struggle lasted for many years. I am not a fan of suicide, but I must stress that I have deep compassion for those who take their life in this manner. How great the darkness can be. I think it might be easy for some looking on, to misunderstand how anyone could end their own life. I confess I have struggled with this thought. But I have faced depression of my own in recent years, and I now understand how darkness feels. NO, I haven't wanted to end my life, but I have reached places that I was begging God for relief. So, if you have never walked there, you just cannot possibly understand why people would do this.
What concerns me more is that we are failing people with depression and other brain illnesses on so many levels. We enjoy watching their creativity. We enjoy when they are doing well. We rejoice they have made regular visits to the doctor. We pat ourselves on that back for once in a while saying a kind word. But in truth, what we need to understand is this...mental illness is first and foremost an incurable disease. Even with treatment, the boogie man lingers on the fringes. Sometimes just out of sight but he will make an appearance here or there enough to remind us that he is still there...lingering in the shadows. He is never completely gone. That's what reminds us that this is a disease.
If only it were as easy as a one time consult with a physician, one prescription and voila it's all over. Sad fact is, many people treat it as such. There is this group of people who love to talk about mental illness like they understand. They exhort those suffering to get help and seek treatment. If you told these same folks what you needed from them, like their time and energy spent lending a helping hand or listening ear, they would be long gone. The time it takes to manage mental illness can be staggering. Just ask those who live with it or live with those who do have an illness. You will quickly realize, that without it stealing all our time, it indeed consumes much of our time and attention in order to successfully manage it. It's a takes deep resolve and commitment to assuage mental illness.
And it's never really over. You wage war again and again. That is where people drop off. Friends, family....they weary of the repeated battles. The energy it takes to stand with someone gets old. It's ok to say it aloud. It is hard work but isn't anything that's worth the effort? We are talking human lives here! What is the value of just one human life? What should we do to save just one life from tragedy? I say everything!!!!!
I value my husband. That's obvious to those who know me. But I value his bravery and commitment to wage battle for 35 years. Do you have the courage to do this? Another problem is with people's serious lack of understanding. He understands how often his life is put into question. Why did he react like he did? Why did he just say that? Did you notice how animated he was? He seemed distracted, didn't he! This is how we call people into question. We misunderstand their behaviors. Imagine what it is like to be misunderstood on a sometimes daily and if not that, at least on a consist basis.
Now, let me clarify. I have permission to call him into question. And I do! Often and perhaps too much. I walk a tight rope of helping preserve his personal manly dignity while trying to be a supportive wife and personal advocate. It is a tough balance to find and then to maintain. It takes careful thoughtful consideration of his needs as a man and as one who suffers not of his own accord.
At the very least, discussions about mental illness (brain illnesses) need to begin with how we can treat people with consideration and respect. I am truly sick of the judgment that await both Glen and myself when he may not react appropriately. I've taken his defense when necessary. And when he is wrong, I say so and he is often quite quick to make things right. But it requires that I step back and consider the battles that are raging inside his mind.
This is the kind of education and consideration that must occur. Persons suffering from such hideous diseases deserve respect. Human life is valuable. People are souls. They have meaning. You were put here on this planet not just for yourself but for your fellow man. You owe your neighbor the courtesy you want. The golden rule is so profoundly simple yet so often not adhered to.
So can we at least begin some conversations with someone by asking what we can do to help? Are you willing to expend time and energy just listening and carrying burdens? If you are a person of character, you cannot help but answer these questions with a yes. Work, making money, getting a new house, car or boat are not more important than people. People are more important than any of those things. But when mental illness reminds people that it requires time to walk with someone, many people take quick exit from that highway. And this is what makes me so angry!!!!!!
Few people want to discuss the losses that accompany mental illness. Stress happens. It's impossible to avoid these days. Stress invokes trouble in the brain. Depression sets in. Or perhaps a sudden burst of mania strikes and you can conquer the world. Perhaps ones days are filled with roller coaster rides. I don't know, but it strikes and life has to slow down. We must reign this hideous disease in or it will take us to places we don't want to go. There is where life is lived. Sometimes my husband has to retreat to a quiet place so he can quiet his mind. Naps are a regular part of his regime. De-stressing, de-fragging...they are mandatory. Work suffers, life suffers, paychecks suffer. Add to that, people walk away from you and relationships suffer.
Mental illness is consuming both to live it and to whip it into shape! This is the world people need to understand and embrace. If we make life easier for these people, their world is more productive. Relationships strain less and less. They can succeed at tasks better knowing their family and friends care and will help carry their burdens. Their disease tends to stay in check and balance can be more easily maintained when everyone is doing his or her part.
So clearly, we are past the point of knowing it's real. We now understand it's real but what are we willing to do to help our neighbor, friend, co-worker, family member, mother, father, brother, sister, husband, or wife succeed?! Is your life so much more important that you would continue to snub you nose at those you place lower than you? Are you so much more important that you would hold a grudge based on your misunderstanding of facts and you would cut off your family member who needs your love and support?
It's time to rise to the challenge. You are not more important than anyone else. You are no less important, either. Disease has riddled our world and it's a matter of time that we all will suffer from something. No matter what, you deserve to know you will be loved and cared for. Cancer isn't more or less important than mental illness. If you'd bake a casserole for the cancer patient, will you do it for the person who has mental illness? Will you dare to take time to place a phone call asking how you can help? Will you dare to open your heart, your mind and your life to make room for advocacy and support? I guarantee it will not hurt you. You will emerge forever changed for the better.