Nobody is too good for mental illness. Or too rich or too young.
Then why was I surprised when this wealthy and good man’s eyes teared up?
As he told me about how suicide intruded in on his family’s life, tears began to fall. And because it was too much to bare, he shifted his gaze away from me, leaving me with the words, “thank you.”
And I was not glad for this encounter. I did not wish for him to know about this particular kind of pain. Yet no one, not the tall or the thin, not the Christian or the Muslim, is protected from being touched by mental illness.
I’m seeing a pattern here. Often during or after I’ve broken the silence about mental illness, the tears begin to fall. And I want to believe that this is part of the recovery, that feeling strong emotions connected to mental illness is part of how we begin to feel whole. For too long we have kept silent.
It’s not really polite to bring up suicide in casual conversation at the soccer game. And when I talked about my dad’s bipolar disorder on a first date during seminary, well that was a mistake. The topic of my family’s history of mental illness didn’t go over very well at Mommy and me play dates either.
It’s as if mental illness is seen as contagious social disease instead of a brain disease. And so, we learn to keep silent about such things.
Until we can’t. And the tears flow.
And we give thanks for the release, for the emptying of secrets and the company of strangers who know. For a brief moment we are truly seen and heard.
These touches in time, these moments of clarity, these glimpses into the soul are sacred. And they are blessed.