Mental illness slapped me upside the head several weeks after the birth of my third son (in 2009). Postpartum Depression (PPD) grabbed me from behind and blinded my vision for over a year. When the symptoms didn't dissipate, my psychiatrist made the tough decision to revise my diagnosis.
From Postpartum Depression to Bipolar Type II.
My heart sank.
I stepped over the line from a curable illness to one that is merely manageable day to day. My world crumbled.
Over the last three years, I've been hospitalized twice voluntarily and once involuntarily (for suicidal ideations). I've tried over twenty medications since then, and even went as far as undergoing six rounds of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) treatment.
It has been the bumpiest traveled road I've ever driven. Some days are level and others cycle from rage to uncontrollable fits of crying to thoughts of ending my life. Bipolar Disorder has taken away my ability to be creative. Mostly I am blank...a black hole.
Suffering from a mental illness has also enlightened my perspective on the behavior of others. I guess you can say I'm more sympathetic.
I used to be quick to judge the outbursts of people in public-that whole stigma thing-but now, I'm able to take a deep breath and silently nod in the direction of that behavior. A quiet understanding. It reads, "You will overcome this obstacle."
I also correct others with word choice. I don't use words like "psycho" or "retard" loosely. I often define words such as this to others so they too can make appropriate choices.
People look at me oddly when I explain how I can relate to someone who snaps or goes on a rampage (acting out). On the other hand, I am strongly against the blame others direct onto the parents, as if it must be their fault their child turned out in such a way. Of course not every situation applies to mental illness, but I strongly believe it is present more often than not.
I was introduced to the world of January Schofield at the exact time I was diagnosed with PPD. I have followed her story through the words of her father, Michael Schofield, on his blog; and now through his book January First. Her story continues to move me everyday.
I fully support Michael Schofield's attempt to end the stigma that is attached to all mental illnesses, not just schizophrenia.
So, how far would you go to advocate for your child? In January First, father Michael Schofield and his family struggle to find the right treatment for their daughter Jani, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at six years of age. Join the From Left to Write book club as we discuss the Schofield's memoir.
Disclosure: As a member, I received a copy of January First for reviewing purposes.