By Emily Metcalf
Special to the Journal
We have an epidemic in our country. This epidemic is preventable. We must rise in awareness and compassion to confront it. We must see ourselves and our friends, loved ones and community members through different eyes. Mental health is the term we currently use, and I wish to change awareness of the nature within; the essence of what is being discussed.
We have had many deaths in our community on Lopez. My friend’s son was sent to prison and did not receive the mental health assistance necessary. (Read more on page 8.) He died of dehydration at the age of 25. He was a gifted writer and a young philosopher. A friend was suffering from alcoholism to treat her Post Traumatic Stress. It killed her and her body and spirit gave up. She was a nurse and a healer, again, a sensitive. A highly penetrating man in his mid-forties, who loved nature, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head into a diving tank, which resulted in a great explosion and the burning of his home and body. It was discovered that this was suicide. My friend’s husband died in a terrible car crash, seeking thrill and escape, leaving behind his baby and wife who are missing him greatly, and a chasm in their hearts unimaginable. A young lad in his early twenties suffering with mental illness drowned himself into a coma by drinking too much water. Later he passed away. Another young man died of hypothermia in a vehicle.
I speak of all of these folks in familiarity, and they were gifted sufferers. I suffer from schizoaffective disorder, a.k.a bipolar disorder with psychosis, and I have a personal relationship with chemical imbalance and the life journey one must embark upon to fit into a world that seems to refuse to understand.
Hope lies in our children; children grow up to be adults. All of our addicts, homeless, and schizophrenics are the children of somebody. When one is suffering from mental illness and/or addiction, what they need first and foremost is hope. The synchronicity of this truth is that they are our hope as well. Seen as a burden on society, some are unable to work and some are on disability. Many are homeless, and most are in prisons. We refuse to accept and look at the truth of what is happening to us, to our children. All of these folks have a gift.
There are countless moments throughout our day when we can make a difference. We may be down, but there is always someone more down and out than we are. We are so focused on looking up, on stepping to the next rung, on reaching the person ahead of us. We are going the wrong direction. What if we started looking down? What if we made it our one very largest desire to step down a rung and help the person underneath us?
There is a post, covered in caterpillars. All of the little green wormish creatures crawl on and over each other, centered on reaching the top of the post. The caterpillar on the top of the post has nowhere to crawl, but that doesn’t matter, he defends his position. One day, a single caterpillar becomes tired. He thinks ‘what if I just walked away?’ He climbs down the post and finds a bush, curls up into a cocoon and becomes a butterfly. If every person on the planet, stopped and changed their direction, made it their sole purpose to help out the person below them, or simply walked away from the rat race, where do you think we would be? It could take a matter of days to see a major global turn around.
I am that caterpillar. I was forced to walk away from my life and deal with my mental illness. What I would have given to be climbing on that post once again. Little did I know, my change in course would result in complete transformation. Our autistic children, our schizophrenic adults, our homeless and our addicts are just examples of little caterpillars that have walked away. All are simply are awaiting transformation. Fed the right ingredients, God only knows what is possible.