Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This Could Get Awkward

Okay. Like I said, this could get awkward. I'm already awkward in this first paragraph. But I need to get this off my chest.

Why does everyone feel so uncomfortable talking about mental illness?

For example, there are entire websites that exist for the sole purpose of following cancer diagnoses. And gobs of people read them. They keep family and friends informed of the good news, the sad news, and how to help in between. And they're an incredible tool, I'm a huge fan. But never do people subscribe to blog updates when brothers and mothers and fathers and friends are delusional, psychotic, dangerous to themselves, falling apart. Nevernevernever does some company put a ribbon on a water bottle to support schizophrenia research.

It makes me really sad to know that someone in my life suffers from this hideous disease and is also subjected to so much judgment and misunderstanding. It is just not fair. I want a Fun Run. I want to hear Bill Gates announce a billion dollars in funding. I want to salute a Peace Prize winner who unlocks the key to relief for my loved one.

One way I'm trying to advocate for the mentally ill is to pay attention to my language. We have gotten really good at using inclusive, respectful language in so many circumstances, but the way people throw around terms like... nutcase, wacko, psycho, lunatic...it's cruel. I have listened to my sweet brother sob because the pain of being ostracized for his illness was infinitely more miserable than his hallucinations, his paranoia. For the record, that was shitty.

As I've learned more about mental illness, and schizophrenia especially, I'm realizing that nobody is going to change attitudes, shift judgment, unless people who have suffered tell their stories. My brother cannot tell his story right now, so I'm here in his place. Telling his story, in all my awkward glory. Without his permission, abandoning my sense of ethical blogging for the sake of following my gut.

I may never write about this again, but I just needed to say, "WE ARE HERE. There are people here who are in pain, who are in pain and who deserve compassion, just like anybody else who is sick and suffering." Thanks for humoring me. And stop calling your neighbors "nut jobs."


Maryann said...

thank you for writing this. I hope you write about your story and your brother's story again, but even if you don't, this post changed me. thank you, Holly.

Britt@artbybritt said...

Holly, I just love you. You are a very good and thoughtful advocate for your brother, and you certainly make me think before I speak!

loverstreet said...

i work in mental health right now, at the veterans hospital so most of the patients i see have been ostracized because of mental illness. i am happy to know you are your brothers advocate and that you can tell his story (and your story too). family is his biggest safety net.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. Learning about mental illness is something that I never anticipated, and never gave a second thought until having experienced what you described so well.

It sucks to hear about misdiagnoses, the inconsistency from one doctor to another, and all of the unknowns that come along with mental illness.

Holly said...

You guys are the best encouragers. Thanks for letting me have that sad moment.