So you may have been wondering why I don’t use our real names (or if not you are now). After all, it’s not like we’re doing anything illegal or immoral. It’s not even mildly scandalous. Certainly nothing to gossip about.
Or is it?
Mental illness has long been viewed as the step-child of the medical family, often seen as a moral or ethical failing, rather than a real physical ailment. So much so that many people with depression, bipolar, ADHD, schizophrenia, and other brain-based ailments have the additional burden of being made to feel guilty for not being able to “snap out of it” or “just try harder” or “pull yourself together”.
It’s a sad commentary on our society that mental illness is regularly treated differently by health insurers than any other medical problem. People that go to a counselor or take psychiatric medicines are often seen as “crazy”. Even if no one says it to your face, there are those in your social circle who see you as “that” friend. You know, the one with “problems”.
And that is why I don’t use real names in my blog. Not only to protect myself, but also Marty and Bella. They have enough burdens in their lives without people telling them that their mother is nuts. After all, in their short lives they have seen death, divorce, chronic illness, disability, injury, and a severe reduction in their quality of life. Marty has a severe chronic immune system disorder, and Bella has had to grow up and become responsible much too early. (At 11 years old, she could give Marty his injections.) They don’t need anything else eating away at what is left of their security.
I hope that by the time they are parents, public opinion will have evolved to the point that they don’t need to worry about how and when to tell their children about grandma’s “issues”. If not, they will have to do as I do…carefully weigh their words, be cautious about how much they divulge, and to whom, and hope that no one finds the skeletons in their closets. Oh, and hope that they are able to find the mental health care they need and can afford it.
Until then, we take one day at a time, knowing some will be better than others. We attend regular meetings of our secret society, and commiserate with each other when things look glum. We care for each other, cover for each other, lift each other up, laugh together, cry together, and try to find little things in life to enjoy.
Some days that’s all you have.