Below is an excerpt from my book, Mommy I'm Still in Here: One family's journey with bipolar disorder
. As you will see, this occurred five and a half years ago, but in some ways feels like yesterday. I share it now to encourage others to maintain patience, love, appreciation and hope. Time is not the best measure of progress or success. Often, we must look deeper, into our hearts and into the hearts of others.
"Learning how to appreciate both pleasant and even seemingly unpleasant experiences is a key to increased fulfillment." --Mother Theresa
Not long after Michael got out of the hospital, I watched through our family room window as a metalworker, who did several jobs on our new house, spent a few minutes chatting with him. I took Michael to school, and then returned home. When I went out to see how the work was going, this kind man turned off his welder and asked if he could sit in the shade and talk to me for a few minutes. Having seen Michael occasionally during the preceding twelve months, he seemed to understand what we were going through.
"I hope you don't think me too bold, but I need to share my thoughts with you. I want you to know how glad I am that you continued to love and support Michael even though he continued to defy you and disrespect himself. My family is rife with addiction and mental illness and I know how hard it is to keep working toward a solution with someone who doesn't even think there's a problem. It's a lot easier to give up and tell them to get out. I've seen that happen too many times.
"Every Saturday my wife makes sandwiches and I take my boys downtown and we feed the homeless. I try to spend time with the youth, and I'm always saddened and surprised by how many there are. Nearly all of them tell a similar story. They went through the same distress your family has gone through and their parents were either unwilling or unable to continue to care for them. Some of them were beaten and abused, and fled the violence. Some were stubborn, refused to live by the rules, and left. Others just drifted away and no one tried to reel them back in. No matter how it happened, they're on the street, where their addictions grow, their health deteriorates, and they feel alone and unloved.
"As hard as it's been for you, I have no doubt that you saved your son's life. I know people see the surface of things and judge harshly, and you and Mark have probably gotten more than your share of that. I want you to know that people recognize and value what you've done. I'm glad you continued to love and support Michael, and when some time has passed, he'll be glad too."
Grateful, I thanked him, went back into the house, and wept. I wept for what we'd lost, as well as what we'd gained. I wept with joy for what we had, and with gratitude that we'd learned to appreciate it.