Although I have branched out into many other topics with my blog these days, one of the main reasons I started it was to help others understand the impact of mental illness on those who are personally affected, as well as on their family members. I recently came across an interview that moved me to tears. I never had the chance to have a conversation with my mom about how it felt to have schizophrenia because she was not able to acknowledge she was ill. Our family didn’t know how to deal with this illness of hers, which resulted in multiple hospitalizations and a constant struggle to balance her personal rights with the need to keep her safe. There was always this sense that we should be doing more to help her, and my father experienced a lot of judgment about how he handled things. The truth is, there weren’t and still aren’t enough treatment options available. The medications have many unsatisfactory side effects, and many people with schizophrenia end up being incarcerated, homeless, or shunned by society. There are not enough programs for people with this illness to help them get on their feet and stay on their feet.
I visited a wonderful blog by Val Resh, whose honest and raw perspective about what it is really like to have schizophrenia is thought-provoking and inspiring. Here is a video she produced called a Drop of Sunshine.
Usually the only media coverage people with schizophrenia receive is when something bad or violent happens. The public never gets the true picture of this approximately 1% of the population whose only real threat to society is being different.
When I watched these videos, they brought back all of those memories of the way my mom’s illness manifested itself through paranoia, delusions, hallucinations and voices in her head. I realized that even today in our society which has more freedoms than in India, people with schizophrenia are still treated like second class citizens and it breaks my heart.
My mom was very lucky that she was married to someone who was willing to provide for her and care for her for the 40 years they were married before she passed away. Despite her illness and dwindling support from many of her siblings after her paranoid episodes caused her to keep pushing them away, she managed to raise four children and maintain an organized household. She never gave up and was a fighter.
My mom was a wonderful gardener and spent a great deal of time in our back yard. I remember one year she grew giant pumpkins just by placing a few seeds in a bag of soil. The year I started this blog, pumpkins started sprouting up in my back yard even though I hadn’t planted any seeds. It probably happened when we put one of our Halloween pumpkins near the garbage cans at the end of fall. Nonetheless, I took this unexpected surprise as a sign from my mom to continue on with my mission to shed light and awareness on the illness that made her so unique.