I have just finished writing the second chapter of my book on mental illness in my family. The first two chapters are about my maternal grandmother and my mother up to my birth. Doing this research and actually writing about their lives has helped me to internally resolve some issues I still had with my mother. Knowing what she had as an example for a mother helps me to understand why she did some of the things she did in her life. As the old saying goes, “she did the best she knew how to do.” My question for now is –does that excuse still hold today? Is doing the best we know how to do enough in today’s society? My answer is a firm NO!
My whole reason for writing the book is to help people, both young and old, to come to resolution over the trauma they may have experienced as the child of a parent with mental illness. Does that give the children of the mentally ill a pass to abuse their children in the same way they were abused? This is something that I have had to deal with everyday that I have been a mother. Sometimes it is not easy. Some days it has been nearly impossible. But I offer no excuses. I can and must do better as a mother, wife and human being than my mother did. Why? Because I have resources that were not available during my grandmother and mother’s lives. I have knowledge and the ability to get help, when they did not. I made the CHOICE to get help, not just for my daughter, but also for my marriage and myself. Kevin and Molly will tease me about things I used to do, and I always say,” That was before medication!” We laugh about it now, but it was no laughing matter at the time. Depression and anxiety takes away a piece of your soul that makes you the person you want to be. It leaves you with a shell of yourself and unable to show the emotions you need to show. Especially the emotions of empathy, sympathy, understanding and reason. My grandmother and mother lived most of their lives as shells of the people they really were because of mental illness and the lack of effective treatments. I am so very blessed to have received the help and care over the years that I needed. I am blessed to have a husband who stood by me, and a daughter who was able to forgive me during my awful moments.
I want to take this lesson and apply it to race relations in our nation. I will never know what it is like to be black in our country, but I do know what it is like to be a woman with mental illness. I know what it is like to see your mother quietly suffer with actions she doesn’t even understand why she does them. We all have something in our lives that make us “less than” a whole person in the eyes of others, but skin color? You can’t pick your skin color any more than I could pick my parents. It is what it is. How we react is what matters.
Why are black people seen as less than white people in the United States? It all goes back to one horrible thing-slavery. Some of our white ancestors decided to kidnap black people from their home nations and make them slaves. Why? My only thought is that they wanted to feel “more than” someone else. They wanted free labor. They wanted to rule over someone else to feel “good” about themselves. One of my favorite books/movies is Gone With the Wind”. I love it for the romance and the drama, but I also love it because the slaves get freed and the rich people end up miserable. Even as an adolescent I knew that slavery was a horrible thing.I also love the movie The Ten Commandments for the same reason. God blesses the slaves and brings them out of Egypt and curses the Pharaoh.
I was not raised to be aware of racism. I don’t think my parents even knew any black people. Fort Wayne Community schools started busing inner-city kids out to the suburbs in seventh grade. Until that grade, there had been just two black kids in my school. Unbelievable! But that is what Systemic Racism is-unbelievable. But is happens everyday in this country and it has since the days of slavery.
Why does Systemic Racism continue? Because there are still white people who want to feel “more than” someone else. Instead of doing research and understanding the Black community, they go about their lives doing “the best they can” to accept black people into society. Guess what folks, your “best you can” isn’t working anymore than my mother’s “best she could” worked on me. It is time to DO BETTER! It is time to accept you have failed and need “treatment”. It is time to realize than NO ONE is better than someone else in God’s eye and in the end, isn’t that all that really matters? If you aren’t religious, you are still human and you need to treat your black neighbors as you would your white.
There isn’t enough time or space for me to write about how the mentally ill have been abused in our country. Nor is there enough time or space for me to write how the Black community has been abused. My message is this-we all matter. Black lives, brown lives, white lives, mentally ill lives, handicapped lives, homeless lives, and unemployed lives. WE ALL MATTER! DIG DEEP people and find that part of your existence that isn’t just a shell, but your true soul. Then live your life, your full life and BE BETTER!