“It ain’t my problem once she /he doesn’t come around me, she/he mad, she/he not playing with a full deck of cards, she/he has a couple of screws loose”.
Do any of these statements sound familiar to you? I’m also guilty of making these insensitive statements– but life has a funny way of throwing things in your garden when you least expect it. I learned the hard way that “laugh and cry does live in the same house”. I have now found myself surrounded by friends and family members who either have been diagnosed with depression or they are in need of support to come to terms with their diagnosis.
My sister, Nessa, suffers from depression due to bipolar disorder.
It was and still is the most devastating thing that happened in my life that I didn’t see this coming or as I like to say it was staring me in the face masking itself as different things. I am the oldest of four and I pride myself on looking out and taking care of the little ones.
“Nessa was constantly misdiagnosed from being lazy, being possessed”
Nessa was constantly misdiagnosed from being lazy, being possessed, having thyroid problems, being anorexic and sickle cell anemia before a psychiatrist officially diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. Another angel among women, Mrs Brown, was instrumental in helping her cope with the daily triggers that caused her highs and lows. What is it? How do you get that? Is it genetic? Can I get it? All of these questions we as a family had to get answered and quickly. She was diagnosed at 19 and now she is 38. She was a victim of bullying in school but she was always bright and driven to succeed throughout all her struggles.
How do we support her?
We as a family have supported her achievements along the way with great joy and happiness. But it hasn’t been easy. She has her high and low days and we are there to comfort and support her by being her cheerleading squad when stressful situations arise, cooking gourmet meals for the family, going to the movies and partying hard just to name a few.
In addition, one of the ways that we help her to understand that she is not alone is by telling her there are many famous people that suffer with depression for example Kanye West, Bebe Rexha, Halsey, Demi Lovato, Catherine Zeta Jones, Mariah Carey , Mel Gibson and Ted Turner just to name a few. They all continue to struggle daily but have the support mechanisms in place from medication, therapy, exercise, music and their families to keep them in balance. One of the most recent pieces of art on screen that recently moved me to tears was the limited series called Modern Love, episode three titled, “ Take me as I am Whoever I am”. Anne Hathaway’s performance as a woman suffering with bipolar disorder will take your breath away. It is a must see for anyone looking to understand a fraction of what happens when people live with bipolar disorder.
Our society needs to change
We as a society can no longer continue to ignore or pretend not to care and that we don’t see.
Some people walk around everyday hidden in plain sight and some we see need to be on medication but there is a stigma attached to being diagnosed with mental illness.
“We as a society can no longer continue to ignore or pretend not to care and that we don’t see.”
This is a cultural thing in this country and we must start a movement no matter how small to let the authorities know that they must wake up and pay attention to the citizens that are suffering in silence as well as aloud. We need more support systems/ support groups in every district in this country, wellness areas for employees that operate in high stress jobs and insurance companies need to fully cover persons suffering with depression. There is an epidemic in the world today. People are not coping well and we need to help and protect our fellow man by making sure that all the resources are available to help them be more productive members of society.
“there is a stigma attached to being diagnosed with mental illness”
My sister’s journey
Like a phoenix my sister rose from the ashes and she still continues to rise every day to go to work, pay her bills but the one thing that escapes her is true friendship and companionship. People don’t understand and are afraid so they keep her at arms length.
This is a journey that truly tests the fabric of your family unit. Take it from me. My mother along with my sister are the true heroes of this story. She kept us together, we prayed and we educated ourselves to become better informed. What I viewed a tragedy has truly brought my family closer together. We check in with each other more and see if we are all okay.
“We check in with each other more and see if we are all okay.”
What can you do?
This is my challenge to you all reading this: ask a simple question, “ Are you okay?” and “ What can I do to help?”
I know some of you are filled with rage and resentment. In these dark times, you and your family need to draw closer to God. Only then, you will come to a place of acceptance. You must go through the cycle of grief. Then what?
Read and educate yourselves as we did on how to help with the highs and lows as well as the medication so if it needs to be adjusted, the professionals can do so. Look for changes in mood and ask questions, only then you will be able to prevent any potentially dangerous situations from happening.
Just be there to support your loved ones; even though it might seem difficult at times, God gives his people strength. For all the families that are still coming to terms with a member being diagnosed, it gets easier I promise you that. As Chris Tambu Herbert said: “ The journey now start and do not give up”.
“Don’t judge. Read and educate yourselves as we did on how to help.”
Written by Charlene C.A Cudjoe