Mental Illness. Shhh, don't say that!
That's the philosophy I grew up with, anyway.
When my brother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia I was in college and thrown into a world of questions, questions and more questions. Unfortunately, figuring out who to ask was another big question. The most common feeling I experienced was helplessness because I was only his sister and had no authority to do anything for him. My parents had no knowledge about mental illness, were faced with a language barrier, and were too afraid to talk about what was going on with their son.
Thankfully, times are changing and it's finally okay to talk about mental illness so we talk and talk and talk - still trying to find the answers to the plethora of questions. The biggest change is there are finally sources of information and people who care and want to help, so when my teenage daughter developed an anxiety disorder called trichotillomania we reached out to everyone we could think of to get help and advice.
Now my daughter is in college, and while we still search for our answers, we have learned so many things about communicating about mental illness and how every little accomplishment is a huge deal. My daughter Gabby is the Director of Programs + Outreach, Editor-In-Chief, and co-founder of Project LETS, and through LETS we have been able to forge so many connections, and they even provided her with the resources to get another wig. We celebrate what other people may think of as regular daily tasks because they make her stronger one small step at a time.
As a parent of a child dealing with mental illness I still face some feelings of helplessness, but I now know there will be answers, ideas, and new avenues to explore. It has become clear that we are not alone in this fight and that gives us the strength to keep on fighting.
Carmelina Hickey is a mother of 2 girls: Gabrielle (Director of Programs + Outreach, Editor-In-Chief, and Co-Founder) and Regina (CEO of CrystallizedWaves) - lending her hand to LETS as the Director of Parent/Guardian Outreach. Above all, she's a giver - she puts others before herself in every situation and is always up for a good laugh, good coffee, and good movies. Carm is a very understanding woman and is a mental health advocate always looking to celebrate the small victories and make new friends.