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Thoughts on Mental Illness

Thoughts of Robin Williams keep entering my head partly because the media has made it today's focus but mostly because it brought out personal emotions of my mother and the living hell she endured.  My mother would have serious bouts of depression and treatment in the 50's and 60's was largely ineffective or counterproductive.  Mom went into residential treatment centers in Iowa twice that I recall.  While she was there, she was overmedicated and given shock treatments that she hated.
She attempted suicide several times and finally her life ended when her car ran off the road and hit a culvert.  There was half a fifth of whisky in the back seat.

I remember feeling anger and guilt at the same time when she died.  I couldn't understand why she would do what she did to herself and leave us.  I was eighteen at the time.  I felt guilt because I thought if I had just been a better person she might have gotten better.  I am sure these are stages of grief that survivors of these kinds of tragedies go through. 

It took me years to process my feelings toward mom and her death.  I remember many years later having a dream.  In the dream mom was a short distance away from me.  We walked toward each other, looked in each others eyes and hugged.  No words were shared.  No words were needed.

We were at peace.

I know that our world has a better understanding of mental illness.  I would like to think that we are more accepting of those who struggle with it every day.  I hope and pray that someday we can save people like Robin Williams and my mother.

Fr. Fred

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