In past years, mental illness has been nearly as taboo to talk about as death, dying and the like. How about a person with mental illness who is dying simultaneously? Jane has had a hand full of DSM-IV labels tagged on her for a number of years, and spent time in institutions to try to normalize and repair what is broken inside her. She has an unmistakable look in her face that tells you she struggles being in this world with the rest of us. She often gazes with a blank stare that makes you wonder, where does she go in her mind?
But not today. She’s been outside in her wheelchair and has loved ones at her side, and she is participating in their visit.
I had to laugh when her husband told her that he was really glad she wasn’t talking so crazy, and her quick come-back was, “Maybe you thought it was crazy talk but it made perfect sense to me”.
How much of “crazy” is in the eye of the beholder? I asked myself.
I am relieved and pleased that both her pain and mental anguish have lessened and she is having some good days; she tells me so with a smile that doesn’t completely light up her eyes, but I have grown accustomed to that blunted look she has. I wonder, when she rambles on and doesn’t make sense to the rest of us, does she live in Jane’s world and prefer to be there, because being here in this world causes much pain?
She calls out at times for her twin sister, who has been dead for a number of years. She suffers within, in ways we don’t fully understand. She sometimes cries inconsolably, and other times, appears to have a total absence of feeling, as though she has catatonia.
But she is present today, and able to reminisce and consider the sunshine that has made the flowers bloom outside, and she says with a sigh of gratefulness, “It is such a beautiful day.”
Yes. Thank you for reminding the rest of us, Jane.
I wonder these things with patient’s who have dementia, also. We have so much to learn to help both of these groups…