No One Talks About It
Fear. Judgement. Discrimination. This is the short list associated with the the stigma of mental illness and the effects are devastating to not only those who live with it, but the family members who love them. Please welcome Leah who simply wants you to hear her message when it comes to perpetuating the stigma of mental illness. No one should suffer in silence. – Sandy
No one talks about it. Not a sound is heard. Not as the dark limbs grow and stretch, their gnarly claws inching ever closer, until you are sure they will grip you in a viselike hold and never let you go. Still, while the fear seeps into layer after layer until it chills you to the bone, no one talks about it.
The illness is discussed, the diagnosis, prognosis, medication plan, the therapy sessions, hospital stays and endless prayers. Those words easily find a voice through the parted lips of doctors, nurses, family members, therapists and those who believe imparting their personal experience provides comfort though whom is the lucky recipient of that comfort isn’t always crystal clear.
No one talks about the dreams shattered and the bright future once taken for granted that can take a turn, winding down rocky roads, climbing up the steepest of hills, reaching an all time high only to suddenly and inexplicably take a twisting and fateful spiral, crashing to the ground, a cloud of dust the only evidence of the journey.
No one talks about the invincible mentality of those with front row seats to the most heart wrenching story ever told, that of a family member in the throes of a lifelong battle with mental illness. No one talks about the view from here, as we settle in yet again to follow a performance whose ending hasn’t yet been written.
No one talks about the fear that sneaks up seemingly out of nowhere, that the one in the audience can one day take center stage because the illness while not of a contagious nature inexplicably can lie dormant, waiting for it’s cue to enter stage left, taking its rightful place under the scorching lights waiting to burn its imprint into an unsuspecting psyche.
No one talks about the burden of guilt carried by those on the outside looking in, the thought “why not me?” like a broken record, stuck, waiting for someone to lift the needle that should have graced the air with high notes and yes, low notes too because those are to be expected. Yet, the harmony is silent, the only lyrics, “why not me?”
No one talks about the concern when your child shows any signs of stress or anxiety, an emotional outburst that a parent with no exposure to mental illness would disregard as normal behavior. Yet, “normal” at times seems to make a mother stop and catch her breath, wonder if someone left a door or window open, inviting the mental demons that have spent years silently hovering over a family, generation after generation. The question buried deep in her heart, choosing just that moment to surface for an instant before she tamps it down where it belongs. “How do the demons choose a home?”
No one talks about the slightest of hesitations only the person holding the pen is aware of, invisible to the naked eye, as a standard application is completed. The family medical history section stirring things within only felt by the applicant. Words string together, creating thoughts, generating guilt, forming questions…”Do I check the box that let’s them know mental illness runs in the family? Will they look at me differently if I do? Will judgment be made? Will my words and actions be misinterpreted or given greater weight? Will “normal” no longer be viewed as normal? Does everyone experience this slightest of pauses when looking at the empty box, begging for a check mark? What does it feel like to view that box as weightless as it looks, white space remaining as indifferent as the unchecked box for high blood pressure or diabetes?”
No one talks about it…but we should.
Leah Vidal is the author of Red Circle Days, contributor to My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends, and writer at Little Miss Wordy. Her writing explores BIG lessons from life’s little moments…those that plant the thought provoking seed of self discovery.
Leah is a 2014 BlogHer Voice Of The Year and Huffington Post contributor. Her writing has been syndicated on BlogHer, featured on the Erma Bombeck site, Freshly Pressed on WordPress and highlighted on Fitness and Parenting sites. She has been featured on PubSlush Women Of Wednesday and is currently working on her second book.
Leah paused her career in Public Relations to raise her two children and has never looked back, except on the days when it would be nice to have an office to escape to or at least a desk to hide under. Her family recently moved to PA, where she is a fitness focused (physical, spiritual and mental health), mom of two and wife of one, who spends her time avoiding the kitchen, and making words come to life.