This is a hard blog to write. I’ve worked in mental health for a long time now. I’ve learned a lot about it and met a lot of really good people. This week a very close member of my own family was admitted to a secure psychiatric ward.
I wondered whether to write about this here and I also wondered whether to mention which family member it was who was admitted. I decided that I should write something about it here because it might, in some tiny way, help other people to realise that this is just a thing that happens and that there is no need to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about it. I decided not to specify which family member was admitted only because I wanted to respect the person’s privacy.
I can’t pretend that it wasn’t traumatic. Watching someone deteriorate over a period of weeks, months, years is hard if you care about them. It’s hard to hear someone say they’re trying to starve themselves to death. It’s hard when mental illness is the cause of it because it seems the make so little sense. There’s no visual evidence. The person hasn’t broken a leg; the person hasn’t got big, purple, weeping boils on their face and neck area; the person hasn’t got one of those weird, white neck braces or a leg in plaster… This ailment is invisible.
Invisible except that it turns the person you love into a person you don’t even recognise.
I wanted to write something here but I didn’t want it to be depressing or mawkish or negative. Illness, physical or mental, is a challenge. But with the right treatment and support people do recover. I went to visit my ill family member tonight and this person asked me to leave within 30 seconds of me arriving. It seems like there’s a long way to go yet. But broken legs heal, purple boils disappear (after about 9 years) and neck muscles repair. Mental illness will pass, just the same.