My parents were the true heroes in the fight for mental wellness. And I am trying to carry on. Looking back I did not give either of them the credit they deserved. My father, living with bipolar 2 disorder, for being a successful business man, able to put two children through university and live to welcome 5 grandchildren. My mother, for being able to stand by him all those years; never letting on that there was something wrong with my dad. Holding him up when he was so down. And never saying a word.
Mental illness was greeted with silence back then because mental illness was more often seen as a moral failure than a brain disease, which it most certainly is. Sadly, too many still believe that all one has to do is pull up one’s socks.
I am third generation, on my father’s side, with a mental illness. I wasn’t diagnosed until my fifties. I have chronic recurrent depression with anxiety. My psychiatrist told me I was one check mark away from being diagnosed with bipolar 2. That means some days I am just fine. But others, the depression grabs me without warning and I never know how long it will be my companion. I will get up in the morning surrounded by a darkness that cannot be seen; only felt. A need to cry; all for no reason. A sense of hopelessness and helplessness. It is a sadness so deep and wide there are times when I can’t believe I will find my way out. It takes all my energy to function. And that is exhausting. I think about people dealing with obsessive compulsive disorders-thoughts or actions- the amount of energy they exert fighting frightening thoughts or trying not to repeat actions over and over, actions that have no purpose.
Most people I meet have no idea that I have depression. I have become quite a good actor as have so many others living with mental illness. We smile, we laugh, we participate in conversations when we really want to go home and curl up and cry or pull up the blankets and sleep. And far too many live in silence for fear of being feared.
We fear being feared because too many people attribute evil events to the mentally ill. I have lost track of the number of times I have heard politically correct arrogant pundits and politicians declare when a terror attack occurs that the person must be mentally ill-I mean only someone mentally ill would do such a thing. Well, no. Terrorists are evil and evil must never be conflated with mental illness. Most of us self-harm. Many cut themselves. How dare these “journalists” cast aspersions on millions of us who fight the enemy within on a regular basis?It is enough that we fight the battle within; to do battle with others is overwhelming.
And then there was the kerfuffle regarding President Trump when the left wing media tried to paint him as a “madman.”
On MSNBC, Ms. Brzezinski read this from a New York Daily News editorial:
“Only those completely under his spell can deny what growing numbers of Americans have long suspected: The president of the United States is profoundly unstable,” the editorial said. “He is mad. He is, by any honest layman’s definition, mentally unwell.”
And once again we witnessed the horrific failure of others to help the mentally ill. Parkland, Florida.
Here are some statistics from the Canadian Mental Health Association. American statistics will be similar.
Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness..
Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).
By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
Schizophrenia affects 1% of the Canadian population.
Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women
I have a coffee cup that says
“Pretending to be a normal person every day is exhausting.”
On the inside lip it says
“This above all else, to thine own self be true.”
From the Ethics of the Fathers: “Rabbi Tarfon used to say, it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but you are not exempt from undertaking it.”