Now, that Jackie is in a better place, she has begun looking into work possibilities. However, the task is daunting, especially because she fears losing her government benefits, which provide a small but steady income per month and most importantly coverage of her schizophrenia medication, which is essential for her health. Since eligibility for these benefits can be affected by income, Jackie doesn’t want to risk losing those benefits because she knows staying healthy is critical.
No mother is on the lookout for schizophrenia unless it is already in the family. It sneaks up on you. It’s cagey. It changes form, this disease, tricking you. This is the thing: if I made you a list of the red flag signs of serious mental illness, and another list of typical teenage behavior, they would be virtually the same list.
I did not know much about depression a few years ago. I knew it was serious but like many people, I assumed that it could be treated by the right medication. I quickly learned that my thoughts were naive and depression is a lot more complex than I could have imagined.
As much as I liked all of the gifts Jackie gave me, they became so much more meaningful when she was states away, serving seven years in the California state penitentiary system, where she moved back and forth between prison and a mental health facility for treatment of schizophrenia.
Living with bipolar disorder I have a lot of experience in accepting things as they are. I also have a lot of experience in knowing that the more I focus on the things I can change, and accept that I am powerless over other people, places and things, the more good I do for myself.
I see that it is my obligation to speak. To shed light. To dispel fear. That is my clarion call to you: join me in pursuit of a better world for those of us who are different. We have been woefully remiss, we are responsible, they are ours. All of them. All of us.
I knew then that Jackie deserved to feel her best—at least, the best that’s possible. I knew then that it was my place as her friend to always speak up when she sways from her true personality. I knew then that I was in the right to hold onto who Jackie was before she became ill, and to try to always believe she deserves to get back to that place.