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Embracing the Moment

Last week I attended a party for the son of a good friend. He was turning 30. In fact, I’ve been to several of these parties lately and realize three decades is a milestone. But whenever I’ve go to an event such as one of these, I often think of my son. He hasn’t had any parties since his college graduation. It was beautiful that May and I gave him a big backyard BBQ with family, music and friends. A short time later, however, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. What followed was 10 years of heartache. Due to his anosognosia- (cognitive lack of insight)-he refused medications. The result was two arrests, several involuntary hospitalizations, and finally assisted outpatient treatment court orders, (AOT) mandating medication.

Over those years some friends and even family disappeared. I had a difficult time accepting his serious mental illness. Like all of us I had many hopes for my son. He would get a good job after college, marry a wonderful girl and have children. But the disease was cruel and wreaked havoc on our lives. I decided that if he was going to suffer, I would suffer with him. And trust me, I did. I couldn’t bear to hear about the weddings and new babies of my friends’ children. I wasn’t interested in their milestones. Facebook, especially, was a reminder that everyone’s children were moving forward through life. It just wasn’t fair. I was angry at God, family, doctors, and our broken mental health system. I was sad. I wanted to post pictures for others to see, but my son seldom smiled.

It wasn’t until I took NAMI’s Family to Family course that I began to heal. I realized my son was dealing with a disease that he could not even understand nor believe was real. I began to look at him differently. I stopped wishing he would wear shorts and go to the beach again. I developed a new respect for his struggle.

If he could get up every day and face the world, then I surely would have to also. If he could find a sense of happiness within his own life, it was time for me to embrace his joy, despite the fact his life was not as I envisioned. His life, as is, was enough.

Yesterday we celebrated my son’s birthday. He turned 35 and for the first time in 15 years I had a sense of peace. There was no big party, just some family, one of my friends, and my mom. He arrived late but after a few minutes began to enjoy it. The day was good, there was laughter, cake, music and people who loved him.

We celebrated a milestone in his life and the best part was that he smiled for the pictures that I proudly posted on Facebook.

By Linda Barone Manzo

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