Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mental Illness and Why We’re Celebrating

pixie.c.d. - Mental Illness and Why We're Celebrating

 You enter that place where the house grows quieter, the days move slower and the adventures become a little more tame. The people who were once the main characters in your personal story request their names are now left out of things. They refuse to let you take pictures of them wearing a cat as a neckwarmer, tape their impression of Christopher Walken singing I Like Big Butts, or film them performing the theme song they wrote for their brother. (Ahhh-hhhh…Moist!) (Sometimes it’s best not to ask too many questions. This? Is probably one of them.)

 More and more the only time you hear from them is when they need roadside assistance. So you begin the letting go, the casual smiles in passing, and the days without really having much conversation. Until that moment you realize that, while you were busy working on letting go, one of them has been silently asking for your arm to help hold their heads above water.

 There are both dangers and advantages to knowing your Offspring so well that you become aware of the small shifts in demeanor or personality. The advantages are obvious, but the downside of familiarity is you can mistakenly assume the early stages of mental illness are just normal teenage angst and the push for freedom.

 Yesterday we finally got an answer in the form of a diagnosis for Unnamed Offspring. Now we have a foothold for our first steps on the path to mental health.

 And so we celebrated. Which might sound weird to those who deal with things in a slightly more serious and mature way. But neither of those words holds much meaning in a house where we prefer celebrating the surprise bumps in the road, over mourning the things we think we’ve lost.

 So, we laughed and we hugged.

 Then I cried and said, “Thank you,” over and over.

 “Why are you thanking me?”

 “Because you were brave enough to ask for help.”

 That’s what we were really celebrating. The fact that someone in pain, who knew something had become “not right,” had the guts to push past the stigma – stigma they’ve witnessed first hand from living with a Mom who openly speaks about mental illness – and asked for the help they needed.

 Now that we have a name for the Dragon, we can begin the journey of learning how to tame it and live the fullest life possible despite it. We can gather tools for keeping the small crack in the windshield from becoming so much broken glass. (That fine line between psychosis and a psychotic break.) Now we have a goal to focus our fear of the unknown into determination to become whole.

 And that’s a damn fine reason to celebrate.  

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