Talking about Schizophrenia
Writing about mental health is not easy for anybody. My upcoming book Then Things I Learned From A Schizophrenic Mechanic Is now at the editor for final revisions.
For years, I had the book in my heart and in my head but my emotions would not let me share it with the world. I had years of therapy before I was able to actually sit down and share what it was like growing up with a schizophrenic parent and some of the beautiful things my father taught me.
I used to dread the question, “So… what does your father do?” As if him being home, disabled from his time as an Army Mechanic due to mental illness made him somehow less. It didn’t, of course, but I knew other people would get a certain look on their faces after finding out. Mouths would turn down at the corners in an “Oh, poor you,” fashion. I disliked their pity, both for me and for him.
That’s one of the reasons I put the labels “Schizophrenic and mechanic” right there on the cover page for everybody to see. I’m leaning into it. I’m proud of my father- all the aspects of him. Not just the aspects that make society comfortable. Everybody feels good about him being an Army Mechanic. They feel much less comfortable about his schizophrenia.
Labels are only a small facet of who we are, but we need to be able to talk about some things. We need to be able to name some things without shame. As a child, I should have been able to say, “My dad draws disability.”
And when the inevitable, “Oh? What for?” question came, I should have been able to reply, “For a mental illness,” without blushing and looking at my shoes in shame.
So this is why I’m getting the conversation started from the very first second somebody sees my book cover. I want the generation who comes after me to be much more free in discussing mental health issues than the one that came before.
I'm proud of the daddy I was blessed with. I know despite all the issues he had, and there were many, he loved me with all his heart.