A Greasy News Clipping Touched His Life: Why We Need To Speak Out


 From My Files Friday (4-15-16)

A reader wrote to me about her adult son, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but didn’t believe he was ill. I wrote her an encouraging note.  More than a year later, she sent me this note and gave me permission to share it with you.
 Dear Pete 
     I just want to tell you how, I believe, that you helped to get my son into treatment that he has steadfastly resisted for these many years. I think I told you of the difficult time I have had to get him to cooperate and to take his medicine correctly for his bi-polar. Even after he became diabetic, he was just as much in denial and un-cooperative.
      I was paying for his apartment and knew he was not taking care of himself. However, he would refuse all of my offers to help him wash his clothes, clean his apartment or any other assistance. His siblings were, also, turned down. He withdrew from all of us.    

      Finally, I came to the conclusion that it would only be when he hit “rock bottom” that he MIGHT want help. One day, he called and …I’m happy to report that he is now 100% better. His diabetes is under control and he is very stable with the bi-polar.  I don’t know where we go from here but I am happy, for now, that he is clean and well cared for.

     In cleaning his extremely dirty apartment, I came across a little cache of newspaper clippings and papers  that he had been carrying in his pockets for some time. All these years, he had avoided reading anything that I had suggested to learn more about his illness. He didn’t even want to hear the words “mental illness” and would get mad at me anytime I mentioned it.
     I discovered while cleaning that he had been carrying an article that you had written concerning a doughnut business somewhere that was stigmatizing to the mentally ill. The news article was so greasy and worn that I could barely read it, but I could see you had written it and you told of your son’s illness and your struggle to get help for him. The main thing I think that caught his attention was that you wrote that a mental illness should be accepted as being the same as any other illness of the body without the shame and stigma surrounding it.
     I don’t  know what brought him to his senses but I really think your article helped to get him to where he is now.
While it is flattering to believe that something I wrote helped her son, that is not why I am sharing this story. I had no idea who this man was when I wrote the article that she mentioned.  The thought that a man in his 60s with a mental illness might read the article and he might react by seeking treatment never entered my mind.
 And that’s the point.
 We often don’t know the full impact of our words when we tell our stories. We don’t know who might be impacted by what we have to say and if it might help them. This is why we need to continue to talk and write about these issues even when it seems that no one may be listening. You may never know who you might help. However,  you will never help anyone if you stay silent.
(A variation of this blog was first published in 2010.) 
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.