It is hard to believe it has been twenty years today since you passed away. There were many times during the past 20 years that I could have used a mom to help me figure things out. There were many times when I was growing up and your illness was at its peak that I longed for the loving touch of a mother. I don’t hold it against you. It wasn’t your fault that you had such a devastating illness with no real options for treatment. I always felt empathetic towards you, even when your illness made you say and do things that were hurtful to me.
I hope that someday soon people will not have to go through what you and our family went through because of some stupid disease. Researchers are getting closer to figuring it all out, and studies are confirming that schizophrenia is a neurological condition like Parkinson’s and epilepsy, not something that can be controlled by human willpower. I hope this knowledge will help to identify ways to relieve the symptoms and possibly even cure this disease that has ruined many people’s lives.
It is sad that you passed away at such a young age, only 3 years older than I am now. I can’t imagine leaving this world behind when I have so much to celebrate; a beautiful new grandchild, my two daughters who have grown up to be such wonderful women, family and friends that I treasure, and the successes I have had in my career and personal life because of you. Yes, you didn’t know it, but all of the tough times you and our family went through made me stronger and more determined. I want future generations of our family to continue to grow and be better than the generation before, and to this end I vow to lead the kind of life your illness prevented you from living.
I’ll never forget the last time I saw you and how we said good-bye. We shared few words but I felt a pull between us. The bond of a mother and child, no matter how tumultuous the relationship, is something that cannot be broken easily and in the end it was palpable through all of the regrets that were left unspoken between us. I want to restore what was lost because of an illness that was out of our control. I can best do this by focusing on finding ways to enlighten people about mental illness and contributing my time, effort, and resources to advocate for effective treatments for illnesses like yours, that have been so difficult to treat.
This blog was created not to dwell on the past but to honor your memory. In this, the fifth decade of my life, I realize that our stories are told whether we say them out loud or live them. I am no longer ashamed of where I came from and want to tell my story in order to help others with similar experiences. My mission is to shatter the prejudice and ignorance that led to the mistreatment of the mentally ill throughout time. I can’t help but to feel angry about the people who have gone before you that were ostracized, isolated, institutionalized, tortured, exorcised, and killed due to people’s fear and ignorance about mental illness. Society has made a lot of progress thank goodness, but the misconceptions remain and the answers that will lead to a better quality of life for people with schizophrenia and similar illnesses are not quite within our grasp.
Under the care of a loving father, your children were able to lead a relatively normal, happy childhood, in the comfort of the home he provided for us, nestled on a quiet street in the suburbs. In that community you were protected from some of the dangers that many with mental illness face, and we were able to thrive and find healthy outlets when things got challenging. Because of this, I am now in a position to try to make things better through my advocacy efforts.
Hardship is a part of life that we all encounter at times. You showed incredible resilience despite the daily hardships you faced. I do not regret being your daughter and being a part of that experience.
With Love from Your Daughter,
“And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see — or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.” — Alice Walker
This fact sheet was posted on the NAMI’S website and shows the far-reaching impact of mental illness.