Per Anna’s suggestion, I just began reading Elyn Sak’s book Center Cannot Hold. Elyn is a successful author, lawyer and advocate for mental illness. Elyn was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia and has shared her story in the aforementioned book. I’m currently only a couple of chapters in but found one excerpt particularly interesting to share with you all.
Elyn discusses the onset of delusions and paranoia as a young girl and the attempts to change said behavior that followed. This excerpt reminded me of my own brother’s attempt to control or change what was going on in his mind by manipulating his diet, schedule and the people he interacted with. I understood what he was doing – simply trying to change the terrible thoughts in his mind by discovering what exactly it was that was doing this to him. Unfortunately, those affected by mental illness cannot do anything to prevent the onset of the illness. Studies have proven aspirin can prevent heart failure, dark chocolate can prevent cancer and a healthy diet of greens and lean meats can prevent obesity. Wouldn’t life be easier if preventing mental illness was as easy as a bowl of peas a day?
As a family member of someone suffering from schizophrenia I know how easy it is to blame yourself or your loved one for the disease. As a parent you may say you could’ve done something different. As a sibling you may think something you said made their delusion worsen. As a significant other you may feel that they just ‘need some space.’ I want to reiterate that mental illness is a chemical imbalance. Unfortunately at this time, there is no way to prevent or anticipate the onset. How can you help? Advocate. Educate yourself. Speak out! Talking about the illness can be therapeutic for you and can do more to help raise money and increase research in the world of mental health.
If you’d like to tell your story, let us know! We here at SOS would love to hear your story and be there to support you and your loved one.
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Until next time, keep advocating!