Yesterday, I compared the discussion about mental illness to the elephant that’s in the room. It’s a subject we all know about, but no one talks about it. Always there, it lingers in the corners of our lives.
Today, I want to expand on elephants.
I had the great privilege to spend three weeks in the African nation of Zimbabwe. It was my dream trip of a lifetime. While there, I stepped out of my comfort zone – big time! I spent three nights in a wild game park, in a designated campsite – in a sleeping bag – in a tent! On the way to the site, I saw elephants, zebra, giraffes, monkeys, baboons, plus others such as kudu and wildebeest. I’d also walked down to the riverbank, just below our campsite, and watched the hippos and the crocodiles swim and stare at me.
With a great case of the nerves, I climbed into my sleeping bag to attempt a night’s sleep. I fell asleep to the sound of the hippos in the river, who by the way sound like a Harley, and the sound of my companions strumming their guitars around the campfire.
During the middle of the night, after I finally feel asleep, a ginormous CRASH woke me with a start. Neither my husband, Roy or myself felt brave enough to investigate so we stayed in our tent until we heard the rattle of pans as our companions cooked breakfast.
“Did you hear the elephant?” was the first question posed to us.
“That’s what made that terrible racket?” I asked.
“Yeah, it was in our campsite!”
We went to investigate and discovered an elephant had ripped down a large branch of the Mopane tree to eat the leaves and small twigs. I guess it wanted a midnight snack.
So why share this story. Because I learned something about elephants that night. It entered in silence. I thought something that large would make a lot of noise as it entered and exited our campsite. It came all three nights, but the only time I knew it was near was when I heard the crash.
So much like mental illness – it entered our life in silence and the only way I knew it had arrived was when I heard the “crash.” My crash? A co-worker called me to let me know she suspected something was terribly wrong with our child. I rushed to my daughter’s side and brought her home with me. I could no longer ignore the “elephant in the room.” I had to face mental illness.