Sometimes, situations in life force you to succumb to new beginnings whether you’re prepared or not. For me, this happened as a teenager when my mother, who is my rock, was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I won’t lie, at first it was not easy and eventually I had to come to terms with what was happening in our lives. When my mother was diagnosed, I was confused and I blamed myself because of the lack of knowledge I had about the illness. I was also too young to have an opinion on the matter and all sorts of things were tried including consulting traditional healers. Seeking help for any mental illness, let alone Schizophrenia, is extremely difficult. As a teen, I also felt embarrassed because I did not understand how my mom, a person I knew to be the strongest human alive, could acquire such an illness. For me to live in this new reality, I had to accept that my mother was not the same anymore and for me to help, I had to ensure that I got rid of the overwhelming feelings I had about the whole situation.
Looking back I also realise how difficult this was for everyone. Along with taking care of his wife, my dad also had to be strong for me and my little brother. My little brother had a chunk of his childhood taken away from him and he didn’t even understand why that was happening. He also depended on me as his older brother to be strong for him. I thank God for my mother’s family and our neighbours otherwise I don’t know how my father and I would have coped.
Teaching myself about the illness also made me realise how much my mother needed me and my family more than ever, because if this whole thing was scary for us, can you imagine what she was going through? I see so many people being obsessively drawn to characters we see on the media with mental illnesses and some statuses about mental health from people who don’t really understand or pretend to care for the sake of likes on social media. The truth of the matter is that people are uncomfortable with the mentally-ill, be it people suffering from anxiety, depression, etc. They look with judgment and turn the other way when an ‘unstable’ person asks for help and when it is too late, we see posts of sympathy and all kinds of statuses on social media from those very same people. Meanwhile, for some of us, the whole topic is very close to home.
I had to learn to take care of myself so I could be there for my mother. I realized that I had to allocate time for myself to ensure that I learn or do something new every year. I wanted to make sure by all means that I succeeded with my studies so that I could have a good job and be able to take care of her. It took me a while to accept this reality but when I eventually did, things got much easier and this felt like a new beginning. As I had promised myself, I started learning new things like aerobics when I started university. I learned Ballroom and Latin dancing and took some swimming lessons, just to mention but a few. These helped me not to be constantly consumed with thoughts about my mother’s illness. I think to some degree it put her at ease when I would come home with medals and trophies and we would always celebrate. This made her see that whatever she was going through was nothing we couldn’t handle because it did not stop us from living our lives and achieving our goals.
Finding her a good psychiatrist was the best thing we ever did – this is, unfortunately, a necessity that not everyone can afford. However, it did not only help her but all of us as a family because now her illness is managed. It also made me realise that as much as we wanted her to get better it was something that she also had to want for herself. When she saw us living and doing our best to succeed it also motivated her to want to be better so she can continue to see our achievements and be there to celebrate them with us no matter how small they are.
“Ask questions, we do not know everything.”
I hope whoever is reading this will realise that life is a journey and not an easy one. Ask for help and seek support systems that are available to you. Ask questions, we do not know everything. Life is not a lesson that comes with a manual but that’s what makes it beautiful and meaningful. My mother’s condition has not only taught me resilience, but it has also further given me the courage to be open-minded and keen to learn more about the condition so I can educate others. Worthy of a mention, is how my mother’s condition has motivated me to stay consistent and keep going in the stream of my dreams. You see? Nothing is out of place here and everything is as should be.
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