Why Won’t Anyone Talk to Me?

By Anonymous

“None of us are entirely well, and none of us are irrecoverably sick.” – Mark Vonnegut

Late at night there is a man who sometimes walks the street of Route 66. He talks to himself and I can recognize his voice as he walks past my loft below. Last year I awoke one night to hearing him weeping and screaming, “Why won’t anyone talk to me?” I curled up in a ball and cried myself back to sleep. This was only months after my son lost his dad to death by suicide. My sadness that night came from many places deep within. It came from fearing my son would lose himself and not want to hold on any longer, like his dad did. It came from my worry that if I were no longer around how he would move forward. Would he continue to persevere, regardless of so much loss? It came from the realization that so many people struggling with their mental health have little access to valuable resources and usually have no support system.

I have put this piece off for some time, trying to decide how personal to get. How real to be. To what level of honesty to share. I sorted through previous writings, both my personal pieces and those of my son’s, thinking about how to best start this blog. Then, as I read some of my son’s poems from when he was just a young boy, I was reminded how dark things have been for him off and on throughout the years. I was also reminded of the stigma that surrounds mental illness and how even thinking of sharing one of his pieces made me feel the impending judgement of me as a parent that has come by others so many times before. The judgement that made me feel that I was somehow the cause of the mental health condition my son deals with.

I have heard the man who sometimes walks the street of Route 66 late at night several times since. It makes me wonder if he is the brother of a friend I met through NAMI. For some reason, I think of her brother often, though I never met him. She had shared his struggles with Schizophrenia and how he lived on the streets of Albuquerque. At times she searched the streets to check on him, but was usually not able to find him. I think about the longing she might feel to be with him, along with the sorrow of what has been lost from who he is when he was well. I guess I see my loved ones who struggle with their mental health in many others around me. Sometimes it is in one’s deep strength and survival that I see them. At times it is in the writing of the best authors or in the most creative artists. Other times, I see them in the struggle of those individuals around me. The best way I can describe this is the feeling I believe Hans Christian Andersen tried to evoke in his book, The Little Match Girl. It has become impossible for me to not find my loved ones in others, both those displaying their beauty and strength and those displaying their sadness, loss, fear, and anger.

Brain disorders or mental illness are NOT a choice. They are NOT a personal weakness or lack of willpower. There are over 400 brain disorder diagnoses, including epilepsy, stroke, brain injury, PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, Asperger’s, and Alzheimer’s to name a few. They are physical, neurological conditions. Although they are usually not curable, they are both treatable and manageable. An average of 1 in 5 individuals struggle with a mental illness in the United States. Good mental health is essential, especially when we consider statistics like that. Our own state of New Mexico has consistently been more than 50% higher than the US national average in regards to death by suicide.

We are each affected in one way or another.

Day-to-day has been a challenge for many of those I love who have a mental health condition. I have observed many individuals around us not understand the impact of mental illness and the needs of individuals during points of crisis. For many years, I didn’t understand it myself and couldn’t provide support needed to help those in my life who struggle with their mental health.

To say NAMI has added great value to my life is an understatement. The learning and resources I’ve gained from NAMI Family-to Family has saved my life, teaching me strategies and giving me opportunities to better learn how to support my loved ones who have to deal with their mental health condition daily.