Hello world, before I ever saw this image on google, I knew about that fact!!! I have therefore been conscious of the above and try to be honest with my boys. I show and tell them about the good, the bad and the ugly of me and especially tell them I am a work in progress – hoping they model above all my coping skills – my resilence – my faith!!!
An incident this afternoon right infront of our gate, made me seize the opportunity to teach them closer up about Mental Illness. They know I am a passionate mental health advocate, they have copies of all my books waiting for them when they can read and understand, they have heard from others and myself and even seen my media campaigns, and above all they know about my brother Gaby and his difficult journey with epilepsy and bipolar disorder. I equally told them and showed they images of my 5 days visit with Pammy in Vermont. Indeed, my precious portrait from Pammy hangs high above my office and anyone who admires same, is sure to hear about mental illness.
The incident of this afternoon as I was saying, was one very sad one – I was almost moved to tears. According to our nanny who identified this old granny, the latter had just moved in a few days ago with her kid brother who was their neighbour. She maybe came hoping he’ll offer some care or maybe take her to the hospital, or was she just wandering like my Gaby once did? So this morning, she probably fell out with her brother and left his house in real anger. She settled on the lawn infront of our gate, and babbled ceaselessly about her woes and worries. As the day progressed and it got warmer, she felt the need to take off her clothes. God forbid I take a picture of her right? I was so full of empathy and wondered what I could do. To begin with, I drove the kids away who had gathered to giggle.
When I saw was a neighbour stop by to give her oranges which she took with both hands, I got the sign. I took some food I had just bought to her, and yes she was full of gratitude and said I’ll be blessed hundrefold. My boys watched me doing that and were full of questions which I patiently answered. I told them it could befall any of us and am sure someone somewhere had helped their uncle too like that. My daring Gaby stayed around and soon came in to tell me the granny was asking for water. I gave him a bottle to take to her. He was scared of course, and I offered to accompany him. He threaded so carefully, and almost ran back when he saw the kids who had gathered once more gigling. I urged gently, and oh you needed to see how he almost threw the bottle of water at her feet instead of putting it in her open hands. He almost fainted because there was a slight touch of fingers or so. Yes granny was scary, probably hadn’t slept for at least 48 hours seeing her eyes and demeanour. She was so restless, anxious, near paranoid in her assertions.
I am happy for this real life scenario to teach my boys about mental illness, and the dignity with which mental health sufferers should be treated. I told them she was just sick in her mind, and her illness could be put on the same scale with someone suffering from a cancer. If they could show sympathy and emapthy towards such a sufferer, why not to such a granny or any other mentally ill. This incident truly made remember Princess Diana taking her boys to those hospices and teaching them all she did.
Helas that is probably the onset of terrible days to come for that granny. Before she got the food, I had watched her mold and eat mud from the lawn, and cover her near naked body with some. By the time I left with the boys, she was lying down on the lawn, seemingly calmer, but only with her pants (underwears as called out in the west).
Dear all, in my country, stigma is still so prevalent for mental illness. Indeed, it is alluded to witchcraft, greed, or maybe a crazy lineage. What will become of that granny I don’t know. I am currently travelling and will be away for a week. I just hope her family takes her in and keep trying to help the most they can. As for me, writing about this is another way of advocacy right? I guess just as daring like my most recently finished memoir.
And you peeps, what, if at all, do you teach your children about mental illness? Is it worth it or maybe it’s too early up to a certain age?