For my mother, having a mental illness was something we never spoke about at home. I grew up in a strong catholic home, in which my grandparents always avoided talking about any problems. Nobody asked me how I felt, nobody explained to me what my mother had. All I knew was that people were scared of my mother. My childhood memories are of me and my sisters visiting my mother at the mental hospitals every now and then. While kids made wishes of toys they wanted on their birthdays, my wish was always the same - for my mother to be well again.
I grew up being very shy and quiet, I didn't want anyone to know what I was dealing with at home. I didn't want to be made fun of or teased so I avoided any conversation. I had no friends, and no social life. I never thought what I went through really affected me until I started going to college. It wasn't until then I decided to make a change. I took an abnormal psychology class to better understand what schizophrenia was all about and began going to therapy in which I spoke up for the first time. It was the greatest feeling to just talk about what I had been holding onto for so long and let out a lot of suppressed feelings. Although I've always loved her, talking about it gave me a better appreciation for my mother and I felt as though I had finally accepted her for who she was.
Just talking about it changed my life in so many ways. In college, I went on to make a short film on her illness in which the family described what it was like for them to go through seeing a loved one be affected by a mental disorder. I'm currently training for the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10 which I'm dedicating to my mother and raising money for Thresholds, an organization dedicated to helping patients with mental disorders get their life back.
Oddly enough, I'm thankful for how my life turned out - it's made me who I am today. I look forward to continue spreading the word on mental illness and encourage others to speak up. Trust me, it will change your life.