This past weekend, I went to a party at the home of a friend. I couldn’t wait to leave because her “normal” kids were there. Was I jealous? Yes. Did I feel sorry for myself? Yes. While part of me accepts my situation, a big chunk obsessives over the what-ifs and ifs-only–my life before and after everything changed.
And while I’m on the subject of before and after, I just finished an excellent novel not surprisingly named Before and After by Rosellen Brown. It deals with a murder committed by a teenager told through the voices of family members. The book was written in1992, the same time my son began showing serious symptoms of mental illness. Therefore that year is also a watershed for me, the point when nothing seemed worth it anymore. I’ve tried meds, therapy, religion, self-help groups, but it’s not enough. I’m still searching for that special something to dull the pain.
Of course, I realize everyone faces challenges and that self-pity leads nowhere, but the head and the heart are not always in synch. To deal with my inability to fully appreciate the good in life, I do advocacy work, mostly through NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness). I’ve also learned that just doing something—anything—is helpful, and I have my special secret weapon. I call it my little bag of tricks. Inside this “bag” is a list of things to try on those particularly bad days. It’s a good tool, one which I’ve recommended to others who are also struggling. Music, prayer, exercise, petting my cat, they’re just a few of the things on my list. What’s on yours?