Three years ago, I was determined to bring awareness to the complete lack of understanding/concern towards the mentally ill. Three years ago, I watched my mother suffer from Bipolar I disorder for the third time in my life.
I witnessed a psychiatrists P.A. tell my mother that it was her fault after prescribing her with Chatrix to help her stop smoking (this should not be under the scope of a psychiatrist’s office in the first place) which specifically warns against using in conjunction with even less serious mental illnesses, not to mention a history of psychosis.
I witnessed a hospital kick her out, claiming she was better just before her insurance ran out. She was not better.
I witnessed police men completely ignore our questions about what we were to do. I heard that there was nothing to do “unless she is a harm to herself or other,” after burning many of our possessions, wrecking a car, trying to beat my dad, and buying a ticket to Egypt.
I listened to my mother crying, frantic with the belief that there were unknown forces that were going to take me away from her, or her away from me.
I was told by a lawyer who worked for the justice of the peace that we would need to “exaggerate” our claims in order to get my mother the help she needed.
I heard the psychiatrist at the state hospital tell me that my mother was going to be kicked out because she refused to take her meds, even though she was in a state of complete psychosis.
I saw a car salesman give my mother a car, knowing that she was mentally ill. I saw her crash that same car into a pole because a voice told her to. I saw the police look away as I begged them to take that as proof of her illness.
I learned that in my city, the only place the mentally ill have to go if they have no families is a salvation army from 8PM-6AM.
I learned that families can turn on those they love. That this is a far more complicated and difficult illness than what most have experienced. It is an illness that offers no peace, no love, only fear and hatred from all who encounter it.
I learned that mental illness is an unspoken illness. Among the closest friends, relationships, and loved ones—there is a fear that borders on hysteria once the topic is mentioned. It is best not to mention it at all.
I learned to ignore the flighty glances and whispers that surrounded me when passing by the society that we used to frequent.
I see my mother now, sink into depression. I see the stigma that is placed not onto the illness, but onto individuals. I see the sympathy people give her, seeing her not as a human being, but as a damaged person, an incomplete person—someone unable to function. Someone unable to be fully human.
I see her face flush with embarrassment every time we see former friends. I’ve seen her confidence be crushed under the whispers and distance that surround her everywhere we go.
What people don’t understand is that she is a strong, and extraordinary person. I would not have the capabilities that I possess towards empathy, knowledge, and peace if it were not for my mother. I am sick of the pity people give my mother, give me, and give my family as if we are permanently tainted. My mother is a talented writer, a fantastic pianist, a published anthropologist, and a mother. She was ill, three times in her life, and now society has discarded her out of fear.
Would I choose for my mother to be mentally ill? No. But I would choose my mother every time, mentally ill or not. What people don’t seem to understand is that the individual is not wiped out with the illness. My mother is still a person. She is not an illness.