Where were you when the lights went out?
In reading Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison has really opened my eyes to mental illness. It amazes me how much I have learned and come to understand about bipolar and manic depression. This book made me think about the people in my life who suffer from this illness. How they have been misunderstood by people like me. I had to ask myself this question of how dare you judge them? I have family members and friends who go through this alone because most of us don’t understand why they just don’t take their meds and be done with it. It’s so hard for me to write about the people that I love who went through this illness and is still going through it today. When I see them I have never saw the illness because they were doing well. When I was told how they had spent a year long period where the lights were out, it makes me wonder where I was when they really needed me. I just slipped into the background of their lives. Never called them to find out how they were doing or how I could help.
About two years ago a friend of mine whom I have known for twenty years called me up and said to me that she had retired a little early because she had just spent the last year at her apartment in New York in a state of deep depression., didn’t eat or wash for weeks at a time. She didn’t want to see or speak to anyone. A mutual friend of ours called me up and said to me that I should check on my friend. I kept promising to call but the few times I did call, I there was no answer. It never occurred to me that she might have disconnected her phones. Finally she contacted me and the first thing she said to me where were you? Why didn’t you come and check on me. I felt a little taken back because, I felt well if you needed me why didn’t you call for me. You see in my mind I only saw the smart and funny person and so it was hard for me to see her as this person who didn’t bathe or take care of herself. She always dress well and very stylist. Reading Jamison book I now realize that she couldn’t call me because she was in a very dark place at that time. When I think about her today it breaks my heart because I didn’t understand those 3 am and 5am calls when she would call just to talk. I listened but not with any understanding as to why they were up in the wee hours I now know to be a support system for her it is so important for me to understand the illness and the effect that it has on them and those around them. It is so easy to dismiss what you don’t know or understand. We need to take the time and get informed.
One of the things that stuck out to me the most is that those who suffer from mental illness are brilliant in their own rights. They are extreme smart and talented and for this reason alone its makes their family and friends wonder why they can’t get well. There is a thin line between sane and insanity. What I have come away with in the reading of an unquiet mind is those who have this illness can overcome it with a good support system, the right medicine. In her lecture she made it very clear that it is a combination of finding the right med and therapy for the individual that will heal them. She shared with the students at UMBC and answered some very interesting questions concerning mental illness.