World Mental Health day yesterday, ironic that yesterday I once again stepped inside the confines of a mental hospital. A space which seems to me to operate within and yet entirely separately, to all other existence.
I brace myself to enter, smile especially hard and greet each patient I pass, become overly eloquent, articulate, middle class to address the staff, for they must know my family member is to be cared for well. He is not a statistic, he is not an NHS Number, he is a son, a brother, a nephew, a grandson, a human-being and most importantly he is loved.
We had prayed that the last time, two years ago, that the weekly visits to the mental hospital were a part of the family routine we juggled, had come to an end.
He, no WE, emerged hopeful, gaze upward to the light, the promise of every last semblance of normality that you and I take for granted, that we despise and bemoan, that we neglect so unconsciously, without realising that responsibility and commitment are the signs of a purpose filled life.
That's what I feel when I step inside the hospital, the emptiness of purposelessness. Where the line between depression and psychotic mental health diagnoses start and stop is unknown to me, I'm not a doctor, yet I know that to see someone you love lose the light in their eyes, and watch every last drop of optimism and reason drip away until they are a shell of their former self, hurts.
I try to reason and explain that he needs to take a hold of his rehabilitation, he needs to care enough for himself to just do the basics. Just leave the bed and rise in the morning, just toy with the idea that there can be more than this cycle of mental sickness and hospitals. He can do this, there can be more for him. I hug him tightly. The thought that his young life has been empty of the intimacy and warmth that an embrace between a man and woman provides, troubles me greatly. He hasn't known that love, yet I can't imagine an existence without it.
It's still all there for him, on the other side of the black hole in his mind, the opportunity to build a life and create a reason to get up each morning. I think back to my journey and 18 years ago when some version of that same darkness enveloped me, I thank the universe for granting me with the strength to crawl out of it and build a life. There but for the grace of God go I. Go we all.
I share what I hope will be an uplifting story, a video clip of my crazy four year old in a banana suit and explain the apple crumble is homemade. Hold him extra tight, then leave.
As I am exiting I remind his nurse of my father's recent death and explain that grief is likely to figure in this latest breakdown. He responds that three months is long enough to grieve, and he must continue with his life. I want to punch him.
Where to start with World Mental Health day. It's a broad spectrum. Perhaps we could start by addressing the empathy deficit and superficiality of our society, perhaps caring a little more for each other. Connecting, touching, reaching out offline. Being brave enough to share our experiences however major or mild, so that nobody feels entirely alone with what they might be quietly managing in their own mind. Just being honest #nofilter.