Mental illness is scary. It's scary for the person going through it and it's scary for those who love them, watching and struggling to understand what is happening. This presumes, of course, that the person with the illness has loved ones around them at all. Too often they don't and cope with a devastating illness all by themselves. Even if they do have support around them, though, it can be hard (if not impossible) to really open up and talk about it. To share that burden. Instead, people often get pushed away. In the case of a parent with mental illness, husbands, wives and children that "pushing" can be devastating.
My mom was diagnosed schizophrenic when I was still pretty young, I think around 11 years old or so. It's funny; you'd think I'd remember this with crystal clear clarity but I actually don't. Probably because I didn't really understand it and probably because no one around both my mom and I were ever able to really explain it to me. Looking back on it, this is far more clear to me than it ever was at the time. That confusion (knowing something is wrong with my mom but not knowing what it is or why it's happening) creates some odd feelings of guilt, too. “Did I do something wrong? Did I somehow cause this?” Uncertainty, shame, embarrassment all go hand in hand with this. I certainly never talked with people all that much about my mom and I have no memory of talking with adults about it at all. I don't think my school teachers ever knew that there were any problems at home, but I doubt they'd have been able to do all that much even if they did know. What kid is going to sit down with a guidance councilor or some such and really open up? Some might, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have.
That's a challenge, I think, to health care providers. Even if the mentally ill person is getting help, it's not enough to stop there. The people closest to them also need help and support. Communication and understanding goes a long, long way to deal with feeling of isolation, guilt and confusion.
All of this explains why I wrote and drew this book. I wanted to shed some light on a very hush-hush topic and hopefully help others, especially kids but really people of all ages, realize that they aren't alone and that they haven't done anything wrong. Mental illness is often lonely. It doesn't have to be, but it often is. And until our society gets far more empathic about those who suffer from it, I don't think that loneliness will go away. the road to god knows... is my attempt to change that, at least a little.
And maybe get people talking.