My grandmother Lilah passed away about a year ago. From that loss came a blog post I wrote which changed my life. You can read the piece here; it was featured this week in a new online magazine called Side by Side Mental Health. The piece is about my grandmother’s Bipolar Disorder, an illness we shared but never really talked about.
My grandmother’s passing threw into sharp relief the way our society has changed its views on mental health over the last eighty years. Her struggle was an unnamed failing, in her own eyes and those of her family. My struggle is a legitimate illness, and I know no one in my life views it as failure.
Publishing that post put me on a path I did not expect. I now write here for Healthy Minds Canada twice a month, a connection made through the blog about Lilah. I also give seminars through the Mood Disorders Society of Canada on anti-stigma initiatives. I have made friends and strengthened relationships both online and in the real world with people who identified with Lilah’s story and in turn my own.
Without ever knowing she did so, my grandmother has made a profound impact on my life – she has given me a purpose. That is, to change people’s minds about mental illness. Writing a eulogy of sorts for her, selfishly drawing parallels between her life and mine I realized that I never want people to view mental illness as a failing again. I want anyone who will listen to hear that mood disorders do not make you weak but in fact they can strengthen you in ways you’d never expect.
Lilah and I rarely saw eye to eye. We never had an honest conversation about Bipolar Disorder. She probably wouldn’t be happy to know I’ve told everyone all about both her illness and then my own. She was of course a conservative Irish housewife and we just shouldn’t talk about such things. But Lilah got me talking all right, and I’m not going to stop now.
In my post last year I said I hope she has found peace. Now I also hope she hears that I want to thank her for opening my eyes to a whole community of people who can relate to the daily struggle of mental illness. No one should suffer alone as Lilah did. And thanks to Lilah, if you’re reading this, you’re no longer alone.
About Sarah Lindsay
Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com