What’s so remarkable about a man who raised three children? He accomplished that and more, against all odds and in spite of his mental illness (MI).
As a baby, his twin brother died from a rat bite. Several years later, his father died in a war. His grieving mother had an abundance of children, but little money. She unleashed her anger on the man and his siblings.
In desperation, the man’s mother remarried. But soon after, his step-father lost an arm in battle. The great depression fueled his mother’s fury and frustration. As money dwindled, her rage grew. The abuse escalated.
So, in his early teens, the man left home. Farmers took him in. He worked on the farm before and after school to pay for his rent. During the day, he got teased by fellow students. Thick glasses and poverty seemed to give them license to taunt.
His days consisted of farm chores, school attendance, field labor, and homework assignments. Nothing more. No play. No friends. No family. Except the man’s older brother who stayed in touch with him.
The man attended college, financed by his older brother. Upon graduation, he got hired as an electrical engineer. Marriage, children, and a home in the suburbs came soon after. Followed by an earned master’s degree. Which led to depression. Treated successfully by medication.
The man’s children grew up and married. His son earned a Ph. D. from Harvard University. His two daughters became special educators and married. One of his grandsons became a physician. Another grandson is currently working on his advanced degree at Harvard University.
Who is the man? My dad. My hero. My son’s role model. Although cancer took his life years ago, his life is an example of someone who contributed greatly in spite of MI.
What do Abraham Lincoln and Brook Shields have in common? How ‘bout Ludwig van Beethoven and Catherine Zeta-Jones? Or Jesse Jackson Jr. and Herschel Walker? Or Vincent Van Gogh and Princess Diana?
They’re all famous people who contributed richly to society in spite of their MI.
Mental Health Advocacy Inc. has a lengthy list of people with MI living successful lives. Their point: people with MI have something to contribute.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also has a list: “People with Mental Illness Enrich Our Lives” demonstrates that MI impacts people in all walks of life. It affects famous athletes, politicians, actors, artists, musicians, scientists, etc.
We can’t relate to the rich and famous. But, we can relate to the human spirit. The desire and drive to make a difference.
NAMI’s list reminds us that someone with serious MI can live a victorious life. Yes, it’s a struggle.
But, we are not alone:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
We can be more than conquerors:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
We often hear horror stories about MI. Like the mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado. Anxiety can consume us after hearing those stories. Seldom do we hear success stories. How encouraging it is to know many people live fulfilled lives in spite of their MI.