In 2005, my son, Nick, a brilliant artist, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I found myself alone in a frightening world, in the dark, and required, as Mother, to figure it out. It takes fierce and unbridled love. But it also takes INFORMATION. There is a lot of help available.
At first I felt isolated, ashamed, in the dirty horrible world I had to keep this from outsiders. I have since found that the only way out of the hole to to allow others to help. Seek information. IGNORE stigma. I've been doing this for over ten years now...it is possible. Possible to move through the days with understanding. I'm not saying it's easy—you go ass over teakettle for sure. But you can do it. I have come through this journey, with my family, still feeling lucky. Still in love with this life. Still pissed. Changed, but still standing.
Here are some of the things I suggest you do, Mothers.
Knowledge is Power:
"Surviving Schizophrenia" by E. Torrey Fuller, M.D. (Harper Perennial, 1983)
"Out of the Shadows: Confronting America’s Mental Illness Crisis" by E. Torrey Fuller, M.D. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997)
"Schizophrenia and Civilization" by E. Torrey Fuller, M.D. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1998)
"No One Cares About Crazy People: My Family and the Heartbreak of Mental Illness in America" by Ron Powers (Hachette Book Group, 2017)
"Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness” by Pete Earley (Putnam, 2006)
"72 Hour Hold" by Bebe Moore Campbell (Alfred a. Knopf, 2005)
"A Beautiful Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness" by Patty Duke and Gloria Hochman (Vintage Books, 1997)
"An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness" by Kay Redfield Jamison (Vintage Books, 1992)
"Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America" by Elizabeth Wurtzel (Riverhead Trade, 1994)
"The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath (Harper & Row, 1971)
"Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness" by William Styron (Vintage Books, 1992)
"I Am Not Sick I Don’t Need Help!: How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment" by Dr. Xavier Amador (Vida Press, 2000)
"Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things" by Jenny Larson (MacMillan Publishers, 2015)
"Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety" by David Smith (Simon and Shuster, 2012
"Madness in the Streets: How Psychiatry and the Law Abandoned the Mentally Ill" by Rael Jean Isaac and Virginia C. Armat (The Freedom Press, 1990)
"I Know This Much Is True" by Wally Lamb (Harper Collins, 1998)
"The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tails" by Oliver Saks (Gerald Duckworth, 1985)
"The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression" by Andrew Solomon (Schriber, 2001)
"The Mad Among Us: A History of the Care of America’s Mentally Ill" by Gerald N. Grob (The Free Press, 1994)
"He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter's Quest to Know Him" by Mimi Baird (Penguin Random House, 2015)
A HAND UP
I was always a person who didn't need anyone's help. I could handle it. Until this. Take it from me: SEEK HELP.
NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness
Main: (703) 524-7600
Helpline: (800) 950-6264
3803 No. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100
Arlington, VA 22203
NAMI is a grass-roots, national organization with local chapters in every state. Their slogan is "You are not alone" and they mean it. NAMI educates, advocates and fights stigma. They offer support for consumers (that is the term used for the person with mental illness in the vernacular), families and loved ones. When my son was first diagnosed, I was lucky to stumble on the Family to Family program. It is a 12 week, free, educational seminar that covers every aspect of dealing with mental illness.
National Institute of Mental Health
6001 Executive Blvd.
Bethesda, MD 20892
National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression
60 Cutter Mill Road, Suite 404
Great Neck, NY 11021
The Stanley Medical Research Institute
10605 Concord Street, Suite 206
Kensington, MD 20895
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
1101 15th Street NW, Suite 1212
Washington, DC 20005
Treatment Advocacy Center
200 No. Glebe Road, Suite 730
Arlington, VA 22203
Bring Change 2 Mind
"Bring Change to Mind is a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging dialogue about mental health, and to raising awareness, understanding, and empathy.
Actress and activist Glenn Close co-founded Bring Change to Mind in 2010 after her sister, Jessie Close, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and her nephew, Calen Pick, with schizoaffective disorder.
Every individual who speaks out inspires another. And another. That’s how we’ll end the stigma around mental illness. That’s how we’ll Bring Change to Mind."
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
55 E. Jackson Blvd, Suite 490
Chicago, Illinois 60604
American Psychiatric Association
1000 Wilson Blvd, Suite 1825
Arlington, VA 22209
Mental Health America
500 Montgomery Street, Suite 820
Alexandria, VA 22314
Here are some other things I suggest you do:
Don't waste precious time pretending. This isn't going to go away. For the first couple of years I hid everything. Isolated and scared, I thought everyone else had these normal, happy lives while I lived in Crazytown. The surprise is this: once I started being more open I discovered everybody has something going on in the mental health department. Everyone. Every family. Maybe not the extravaganza I had, but I was not alone.
STIGMA IS YOUR ENEMY.
Society has a real problem with mental illness. There is such stigma and shame attached that many don't even seek help. I say THE HELL WITH STIGMA. We have been dealt this really crappy hand, and then we are supposed to feel ashamed? No way. If we talk about it, openly, we will help others as well.
Also, one nice side effect of the whole thing: I am now officially EMBARRASSMENT-PROOF. Once you've had the police at the door of your nice house, in your nIce neighborhood, handcuffing your bellowing son and taking him away, well, all bets are off. The helicopters were helpful, just in case any of the neighbors missed what was going on. Being embarrassment-proof is a good thing, though, now you can be brazen in your fight to help your loved one. Who cares if your shirt is on inside out?
LET YOUR FRIENDS IN.
I would never, ever, have gotten through this without my friends. The other mothers. They will have your back. It's like that game we used to play at sleepiovers (if you are old enough to remember this). One girl would lie on her back on the floor in a dark room. All the other girls knelt around her and put two fingers under her body. Quietly, effortlessly, magically, we were able to lift her upUP off the ground. Let your women surround you.
Clinical trials are a great resource. Each one is different, and it is important to do your research, but this can be a way to coerce a reluctant child to get some help. Most trials offer payment, and some are residential, which could be a deciding factor in getting them off the streets.
KEEP YOURSELF STRONG
Take care of yourself. You have to be healthy and capable to help your family. I think we all know: the buck's going to stop with you. So. After you drink a bottle of wine, howl at the moon, or cry on the bathroom floor: take your vitamins and get a good night's sleep. Because it all starts over again tomorrow. You are a fighter now, a boxer in the ring.
THE NEW YIN AND YANG
Forget everything you thought you knew about parenting. All bets are off. You can now lie, manipulate, bribe...ANYTHING that works to get them help. It's true. I have a note from my doctor.