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Too many people hide mental illnesses and suffer needlessly. Unlike the past when my mother suffered from Bipolar Illness it is now talked about openly. I know the prejudice of having a mentally ill family member. I have skipped many parts of applications for employment or outright lied when there were questions about mental illness in the family. Went to my first year of college during the day and on my way home visited my mother in the mental ward of a hospital. Starting when I was about eleven years old until I left home at 19 I lived with it constantly.
The fights, strange behavior, not being able to have friends to my house ever in fear of what would be there. Trying to help raise my younger brother and sister to have a more normal life than I did and failing miserably. Watching a ten year old boy cry when the police car came to take her to the hospital once again and trying to get him to go to the library or anywhere he wouldn’t have to see it. Not knowing that as an adult he would resent it deeply. I tried my best in my young mind but left him scars he still has in his later years. I am so sorry. I didn’t know how much you knew I should have included you and explained. I really didn’t know any better.
Recently a lovely woman who was not treated for her illness died of cancer. She never told her family and was very secretive about her life. By the time they knew it was too late. She was the strong one, the older sister they looked up to. They didn’t dare interfere even though they were all past forty. They knew she needed treatment for her mental problems but she was a functioning adult and there is very little you can do to make people seek therapy. Such a sad tragic loss. Do we blame the family?
It is very easy on the outside to look at the family of a person with mental illness and say why don’t you do something? This is the same with alcoholism. You cannot force a person into therapy, they have to want it and in the throes of such a condition they cannot see they need it.
Bipolar people even with therapy and medication still suffer. They take the meds, they feel better. When they feel better they stop taking the meds thinking they can handle it. A lot of these medications have side effects. They can dull life. The person stops the meds and starts on the downward spiral of depression or the giddy heights of Mania. It is a roller coaster that the family is strapped into and has no control over.
The conundrum of mental illness is how much can we do? An adult has rights and among those rights is to suffer from mental illness. We cannot force a person with a cardiac condition into treatment why should we be able to force someone that has a disease that is not that easy to diagnose.
Some of these people are sociopaths and are very skilled at being normal. You only have to look at the past to see really mentally ill people like Jeffrey Daumer that so many people perceived as intelligent and charming yet did the most horrific things. This is an extreme case.
Most mentally ill people are good people haunted by a terrible illness. A lot are afraid of seeking treatment as it affects their ability to get and maintain a job. Mentally ill people have difficulty with personal relations as well and are left alone so suffer in silence.
I hope to see a day when mentally ill people are treated like people with physical illness. When they are treated with kindness and respect. A world where families are not destroyed. Mine scattered to the wind all of us trying to escape in our own way.
I am grateful that this illness was not passed to me. I do however retain the scars of growing up in that reality.
Thanks for listening and the next time someone judges a mentally ill person or their family I hope you speak up for them. They all need support so lacking in today’s society. We have come a very long way but not long enough.