The day that we awoke to find my mother’s lifeless body will always be etched in my memory. After rushing to the neighbor’s house to call 911, I returned to our apartment near the corner of Wabada and Arlington in the City of St. Louis with the emptiest of feelings. She had overdosed. She was gone after a long battle with depression and addiction. I couldn’t quite comprehend all that was taking place—what eight-year-old could? But I somehow knew that life would be different.
Different, though often difficult, as it was with the loss of my mother, can give birth to new perspectives and new paths. Different can bring new friends into our lives who challenge us to not accept an average, mediocre existence. Different can challenge us to stretch beyond what we think is possible because it generates for us renewed energy and focus. Different did all of these things for me and more, but I still miss my mom and sometimes struggle mightily with the fact that I made it.
I stand amazed, perhaps more often than the average person, at the powerful forces that shape lives. Different can split families in two or more…some being saved, while others are not. I struggle with the fact that she and so many like her never knew the different that I know. My private cup runneth over with tears.
My mom was part of the 1 in 5 people who experience mental illness each year in the United States. Mental illness is disruptive in many ways. Symptoms vary from person to person and hold the power to affect one’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, mood and physical health. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. I invite you to take some time this month to learn more about mental illness and encourage others to do the same. Together, we can build awareness and help save lives.
If you believe you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health concern, please call 2-1-1 (1-800-427-4626) to find resources in your area that can help.