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You Have 2 Open Your Mind to

Posted Oct 29 2009 12:00am
I have one sibling. Just one. A brother less than 13 months my junior. I have known "Irish twins" that have close relationships where they support and care for one another. I've known others that have quite the opposite - two persons so diametrically opposite it's hard to believe they share the same genes. My brother and I, unfortunately, fall into the latter category.

My brother has felt, for much of his adult life, that I am a bossy pain in the ass who's only interaction with him is to mother him or tell him what to do. He repeatedly reminds me that he has a mother and doesn't need another, thank you very much. And I have, from time to time, given him my unsolicited opinion about choices he has made, like the choice to skip our mother's 60th birthday party. I admit that.

My brother and his wife, my sister-in-law, love my kids. Of this I am sure. They don't have any children of their own, and, while they don't see the kids very often because we live on opposite sides of the country, they do care for the kids and remember them at holidays and the like. Since they don't see the kids in person too often, I started copying my brother on links to my blog and my Twitter account (which is Chrisa_Hickey, by the way), specifically so they could get information on what's been going on with Tim.

My brother went, well, ballistic. He started hammering me with email and Twitter messages, asking me how I could detail every event of every blow up and medication and issue Tim was having? Why would I detail his MENTAL PROBLEMS for strangers to see? What kind of mother am I, exposing him like that?

I tell you the same thing I told him.

My son has a disease. It is a disease like cancer and diabetes are diseases. It was not viral nor self-inflicted, and it is not curable. It is called schizoaffective disorder, and it is a mental illness.

My son will be disabled at some level his entire life. Even so, businesses, agencies, doctors, and others can still legally discriminate against him. His condition does not put him in any protected class.

Not only is he not protected by anti-discrimination law, even many of the most intelligent, rational people you know will still visibly cringe at the thought of his illness. Society still discusses mental illness in hushed tones, even in this day and age, when baby daddies, oral sex, and prostate cancer are ok topics for prime time television.

So why do I blog? Why do I twitter? Because I want the world to know - my son has a mental illness, and that does not make him any stupider, any scarier, any more dangerous than any other human being. Mental illness is a medical condition that deserves the same attention and research as autism and breast cancer. Mentally ill children have the right to be educated. Families coping with mental illness should have support - not only doctors and agencies and schools, but walks for the cure and ribbons and bumper stickers.

He still doesn't seem to get it. He still thinks I should be quiet.

I hope he understands someday, and proudly puts the bumper sticker on his car that proclaims to the world that his nephew has schizoaffective disorder. I won't be holding my breath though - I'll keep on shouting from every actual and digital mountain top. Hoping someday, his mind will open.

I asked him to visit I'm pretty sure he won't. I hope you will.
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