I wanted to get this posted earlier today, but didn’t like the angle. I’ve written this post no less than half a dozen times, since the shooting at The Mall in Columbia. I decided to go with a short story. After reading it let’s open up the dialogue on mental illness. I know it’s a hard topic to talk about, but must be done.
I’m so glad the holidays are over. I hate them. They make feel even worse. Everyone is always looking to see what crazy looks like. Inside I laugh because they look crazy looking for crazy. Uncle Fred’s eyes bug out as soon as he sees me. Cousin Miranda looks at me like I’m about to explode. Cousin Aiden walks on egg shells, like I’m about to crack at any moment. Then there’s mom and dad. Mom hushes anyone who mentions the word crazy no matter the context and dad just gives people the stink eye. Well, the holidays are over and I’m still crazy.
I took my journal to the therapist. The therapist that no one knows I see. Dr. Edwards has been on me to stop calling myself crazy, but I don’t know what else to call myself. He says that I have a mental illness. Alright, I say, but how does that not make me crazy. Change your way of thinking about your mental illness, he says. Your mentally ill. Okay. Semantics. He’s frustrated, I can tell. I think I might be driving him crazy. Oops I mean mentally ill.
My mom bless her heart hasn’t come to grips with it. It’s been almost a year since my diagnosis. I take meds. I hate the way they make me feel. Dr. Edwards wants me to keep trying to open a dialogue with my family, but my mom won’t even let me get a word out about it. She’ll let out an audible mutter like it’s a shame. Such a beautiful mind. Gone. A Beautiful Mind was a movie and the dude was crazy but he was also a genius. I’m crazy but not a genius. I’ve got to stop calling myself crazy.
I told my parents that Dr. Edwards wants to talk to them. They’re pissed. Mom doesn’t understand why I took this outside the family. She doesn’t want to talk about it. Dad shakes his head and walks away. Mom cries and mutters it’s a shame. Sometimes I wonder if I’m really the one with the problem. I’m on meds, so maybe that’s why I feel more normal than my parents. I took my last pill this morning. I need to go to the drugstore.
I picked up my prescription today.
It’s been two weeks since my last pill. Dr. Edwards asked me, if I was taking my meds. I lied. He didn’t believe me. He told me that I need to take them. My parents still refuse to come to therapy with me. Dr. Edwards wants to come to the house. I tell him I’ll think about it, but the answer is no.
I guess he knew the answer was no because he showed up at the house. He was there sitting in my dad’s chair when I got home. Dad gave me the stink eye. Mom screamed how could I do this. I probably should have taken my meds. Mom runs away and blames me for being crazy and dad shakes his head and leaves the room too. Is this how it’s always going to be? I ask Dr. Edwards. Maybe, but most family members come around he says. He leaves. I take my meds.
Back on meds for a couple of weeks. I don’t want to keep my mental illness a secret anymore. I told my parents it was time for us face it. Together. With of Dr. Edwards help. We went to see him today. Mom doesn’t want to accept that I’m ‘defective’. That was her word. Not defective, mentally ill I say. Dr. Edwards goes into his lecture about the negative stigma associated with mental illness and that we know so much more now, but yet the stigma still exists. He tells them the only way to move beyond it is to learn about it and talk about it. I feel good. Mom is crying and dad is shaking his head, but I think they’ll eventually come around.
My parents are slowly coming around, but I can’t help wonder why mental illness is taboo. In this day and time have we come far enough in our discussions? Why do we as society still try to ignore mental illness? Why do we stigmatize it?