Sunday, May 29, 2016

The death of a mentally ill person is a loss.....

Not a blessing.  In an article on the website xo jane recently, the friend of a mentally ill woman wrote an essay saying that it was a 'blessing' that her friend died because of how she had changed as a result of mental illness.  The Washington Post published an excellent response.  (I can't put a link to the article at the bottom of this post due to equipment issues.  I will post the name of the author and title.) Now, I'm going to talk about how I feel about the observation of the essayist in the xo jane article.

Yes, Maxine changed greatly over time. I remember my ambivalence about Maxine. She was at once loved and hated. Trusted and feared. Sought after and avoided. She was Mom. And she was my abuser.  Her words could cut through me like a knife through warm butter. And I craved her hug and touch. I knew the confusion of dealing with a mentally ill loved one. And I know I wished sometimes that she would disappear.  I didn't wish for her death.  There were times I wished my Dad would find us someone 'better'  to be his wife and my Mom.  But those thoughts were very fleeting. And made me feel guilty.  Rightfully so.  Maxine was a human being.  Underneath the illness...she was Maxine.

Mental illness changed me.  In recovery, I've found parts of myself I didn't remember. Would my daughter wish for my release through death because of that? No.  We have always had an awesome bond. Maxine had some 'peaceful' times with my Dad before he died. Would it have been better if Maxine had died before she got so sick?  No.  She had worth.  And don't believe for a second her death would have lessened my trauma. She was my Mom.

The blessing comes with hope. Possibility. Treatment.  It comes with the promise of good health. And the resumption of a relationship. That is the blessing.  I'm not judging that essayist. I'm relatively sure that she sees that thought as loving.  I think it reflects a problematic attitude about mental illness.  And the mentally ill. What do you think?  Sending much love...

*"An essay calling a mentally ill person's death a 'blessing' inspired a powerful response.".   Colby Itkowitz 5/25/16

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