Doctors told me if my loved one had cancer, the doorbell would ring and we would receive casseroles. With mental illness, we will hear crickets. Indeed we did and still do to a degree. The loneliness of feeling deserted on an island with no life raft can be paralyzing. My daughter has schizoaffective disorder and I’ve watched and experienced the mechanical turn from family and close friends. I come from a genetically predisposed line of mental illness; my grandmother lived in an institution to my mothers numerous suicide attempts since I was 8, until she succeeded when I was 22. I struggled heavily with major depression, being told to shake it off, no excuses. I felt isolated and didn’t know how to ask for help. I saw my moms isolation, crying saying she was so depressed yet couldn’t ask for help. Those days we didn’t talk about it.
Today, we’ve changed our course with the history of our family. My daughter is active with her peers in support groups and old friends who see her and not the illness. I have a huge support of friends in my recovery and most importantly, we help others. Sharing our experience, strength and hope by living an altruistic life. We both have our days in the valleys and finding the strength to take contrary action when the cinder blocks of depression make easy lifting seem impossible – like picking up the phone. We remember the feeling we receive when we do take action. We climb out of the valley to the mountaintop.
Acceptance within a family to our loved ones mental illness is vital. When the family is in acceptance, our loved ones have a better chance of willingness to find recovery and outside help. I’ve slept on hospital chairs, fearing I didn’t have enough money to pay the overnight charge for parking at the hospital while my daughter was in full psychosis. The feeling of zero emotional support during those times was haunting. We’ve been hungry, when medication and Dr’s bills were mounting up. Until the family was in acceptance by seeing the action we took over a period of time, things changed. We had to change with action in recovery for others to see something significantly different in us.
NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness has been a game changer for us. I took the Family-to-Family 12 week program where I learned about the brain mapping, to a session on empathy and understanding – the list continues. It gave me a deeper insight to what I saw, but the magical part was connecting with families whose loved ones have severe mental illness, felt isolated and heard crickets. Friendships were formed, solution shared with laughs and tears with our stories. Utilizing resources that offer support such as Peer to Peer groups and getting involved to be a voice and advocate for mental health today, has given me a new and meaningful purpose. The ripple effect to my daughter, seeing we can speak up with our experience by connecting and helping others has gone from the dreadful loneliness of crickets to hearing the phone ring and the beauty in life we remembered. The doorbell still doesn’t ring with casseroles; we don’t sit in self-pity and have loving support from the two who matter most, her dad and brother.
Speak up, reach out, join the cause – we can find solutions and help each other! Join us on the mountaintop and hear the echo of support for mental health.
Sober mom, advocate for mental health (daughter with schizoaffective) advocate for son, volunteer and passion to help others being a voice for the voiceless. Twitter handle: @RachelRoeMallon