Mentally ill. Sick in the brain. Crazy. Loony toons. Wacko. Mental. Nuts. Fruit loop. Insane. Psycho. Bonkers.
So many one line words to try to explain a condition that affects every single cell of who a person is.
Before my brother got sick, really sick, I had started taking masters level psychology classes. Interestingly enough, I wanted to focus my efforts on the seriously mentally ill, the clinical stuff, particularly the psychotic disorders – bipolar and schizophrenia.
By the time planning for practicum rolled around, I couldn’t afford to live in a big city and work for free (which is essentially what practicum is). I also had a law degree to finish, one that I felt would help me secure a better financial future, so I abandoned the psychology thinking I could revisit it later, if ever.
As a result, I was left with a mound of debt so high it was, is, a very large obstacle, a very expensive reminder of what I never finished. I’ve had moments where I”ve curse myself – why did I amass so much debt studying something so seemingly useless! No one talks to shrinks anymore – they just take meds! Ugh, why is school so expensive! And so on…
But it turns out, that while I didn’t finish, what I did learn has come in handy over the past few years.
Even when he hasn’t wanted it, I’ve been able to kind-of-sort-of help my sick brother. I’ve been able to help my sick family navigate the confusing, frightening, and very tumultuous seas that are mental illness.
That’s something I’ve realized, just now in this moment: mental illness doesn’t just effect the person who’s sick, but it effects, infects, those closest to that sick person, making them sick too, in a very real way.
Mental illness makes mothers cry.
It makes siblings fight.
It makes fathers afraid in their own homes, afraid of love ones who refuse to keep psychiatrist appointments, who refuse to take meds (I may vilify them above, but for the psychotic disorders, they’re absolutely necessary in most cases).
Mental illness leaves pits in the stomachs of those who aren’t ill – those who listen to the delusions; who watch the abnormal behavior; those who care; those who want to heal every part of the broken brain that turns water into poison, that twists memories into horrible misrepresentations of the truth.
Mental illness sucks.
It sucks the color and order from this beautiful intricate life of ours and replaces it with a black and white jigsaw puzzle missing dozens of very important pieces.
My family member is very sick right now.
My parents are with him in his college town 10-hours away, taking turns in the E.R. while they wait for a bed in the psych unit. Thank God this is happening in Nevada, where I’m happy to say that the laws are more balanced in allowing family members and concerned doctors to attempt to enforce holds on those who need them. Not like California, Northern California to be specific, where you have to commit a crime before they’ll take your mental illness seriously. My poor parents are exhausted. My poor brother is chasing his tale around a cage of paranoia and anger and fear. And all I can do from here, hundreds of miles away is research treatment centers and blog and pray.
You know how we all want to cure cancer? Parkinsons? Lou Gehrig disease? Clearly there are lots of things we all want to cure. Well, I’d like to add one more to the list: can we please find a cure for mental illness too? Please.