“If you’re happy and you know it flap your hands.” Anybody else flap their hands like a little chicken when they are really happy or get startled / surprised? Until I learned what…
I spoke last night to a wonderful group of people at an area library. My topic was R.A.I.S.E. Awareness and Hope. I presented the topic: mental illness, stigma, and how it feels to be the family of someone suffering from schizophrenia. I dwell on the message of hope, for I see hope all around me. I know researchers work diligently to discover the causes of brain disorders, new treatment options and programs to help those affected.
All who came were a surprise, especially one couple who had taken the NAMI Family to Family class I taught several years ago. It was a happy reunion for us both.
Of course, the first questions we each asked, “How’s your child?” For it is the bond we will forever share. Both of our children suffered from the symptoms of schizophrenia. Both of them went through such horrendous times. And a result, we parents shared the heartache that comes from watching your child suffer.
We both had good news to share. Both their son and our daughter were employed full-time and living on their own, managing their own finances and affairs. I feel our children both hit a homerun. (Yes, I’m a baseball fan to some degree and this IS baseball season. If you’re a football fan, call it a touchdown; if soccer they scored a goal, etc. etc.etc.) To witness someone overcome nasty symptoms and return to the life they envisioned for themselves is something to celebrate!
And today I celebrate and applaud all who have gone on to be a successful, in spite of circumstances in their life that knocked them down. It’s a sign of character, of strength, of bravery, and of determination. And for that, I say, “I’m so happy for you and wish you continued success!”
I recently finished the book, A Single Bead by Stephanie Engleman.
I received this book as a gift A Single Bead during theCatholic Writers Guild Live Conference in 2016. I’m grateful to have the chance to read this unique coming of age book. I think it’s a good read for young people and plan to donate this book to a local Catholic high school.
I thought Stephanie captured the thought processes of a young girl. I liked how the adults in the main character’s life helped her work her way through the difficulties in her life, to understand the events that happened around her, and through that process, she deepened her faith. I wish every young person had such people to turn to during their times of confusion.
This morning I visited the website for NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health). This branch of the National Institute of Mental Health conducts studies, does research, along with provides information for consumers.
Our entire family went there in 2008 to take part in a schizophrenia study . Over the course of two days, researchers ran all kinds of tests comparing the brain of our daughter, affected by paranoid schizophrenia, to her three healthy brothers. Several of the tests included brain imaging. These important tests give scientists and doctors a vivid picture of the brain.
The picture above was downloaded (with permission) from the NIMH website. It illustrates the brain of a twelve healthy teens on the left with that of 12 teens with childhood onset schizophrenia on the right. The red and yellow areas indicate the loss of gray matter over a five-year period.
It’s a sobering picture to me. I’m saddened for the children and adults whose illness goes untreated. I know they didn’t ask for their illness, any more than someone asks for cancer or diabetes. I also am saddened that lack of treatment makes it almost impossible to stop the freight train of destruction happening in their brains.
I understand many, many with this devastating illness believe they are not ill. That the rest of the world is wrong. How does one go about getting their loved one to get treatment? In our case, we had to force it. We went to the court system and had her committed for court-ordered medication. And then we stood beside her and assisted her as she began to claw her way back to health. It took four years before she could manage life again on her own, but she did it. She eventually came to the understanding her body needed help with medication to live a life similar to those around her. She took charge of her own health.And I am so proud.
I only need to look at the above photograph to be filled with gratitude that the destruction of the gray matter in her brain was halted.