Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Someone DOES Bring Dinner, as a matter of fact

A couple of weeks ago on Facebook, I shared Larry M. Lake's article in Slate, "Comfort Food: No one brings dinner when your daughter is an addict."  In his post, Mr. Lake discussed the disparity in their family's experience between when his wife had a long term medical health crisis, and when his daughter soon after needed long term intensive mental health care.  While his circle of friends and relatives was extremely supportive of his wife's illness's impact on the family, no one seemed to want to acknowledge that his daughter's illness was just as much real, significant, draining, and deserving of support.  Only when his daughter eventually died (in an accident related to receiving treatment, but not directly due to her mental illness) did anyone step forward to extend compassion again; then the Lakes were deluged once more as during Mr. Lake's wife's initial illness.

To their great credit, many of my friends read this article.  To their greater credit, several of them discussed it.  To my amazement and to their greatest credit, my friends set out to show how this does not have to be true in communities willing to discuss and open the door to the medical nature of mental illness.  Mental illness (including addictions) is not a moral failing nor should it be a source of shame any more than  is heart disease.  Mental illness is caused by neurologic, endocrinological, and possibly other systemic body dysfunctions (much research is showing that depression may be not a primary disease in some cases, but actually may be caused by primary inflammation in the body; other research is pointing amazingly to gut and skin flora as a causative element in endocrine-influenced brain dysfunction).  Mental illness is by its very nature isolating, while the sufferer and those close to him most need community.

And as I said, my multiple circles of community are showing us how wrong the No-one-brings-dinner model CAN be.  A family member has suffered a severe mental health crisis, and we are not alone.  One friend has stepped in and brought over dinner already (not only did she bring dinner, she brought dinner in the form of a meat lasagna so big even Feivel, my 17 year old son with a developmental disability and a weight-lifter's body, left over a good 9x9" section; along with rice, corn, salad and chicken--presumably using they Jewish mother's rule that if someone in the household doesn't like the main food served, there has to be an alternative they will like and can eat in substantial portions).  Another friend is sending over pizza for Wednesday night.  The one who sent over the first dinner has volunteered to coordinate meals for the family next week when things become even more complicated due to the needs of both the family member in the hospital and another family member.  A fellow member of knitting web-world-site Ravelry with whom I co-moderate a group there has organized others from across the country (and possibly around the world, I don't know) to send food for next weekend and a gift as well for the stricken family member.

I'd like to claim I've revolutionized community understanding of mental health as a medical crisis as much as other diseases, but obviously this has little or nothing to do with me.  It has to do with changes in community, changes in communication, and having incredibly wonderful people in our world.  It has to do with understanding, acceptance, giving, supporting, and general goodness.  And we are thankful for it as we approach this American Thanksgiving day, and we cannot tell you how important this is to us and how much it means for our family.

From us to everyone, thank you.  I hope we will thank all who are giving to us so generously and helpfully directly, but meanwhile, please know that you have made a real difference for us.

1 comment:

florapie said...

Leesy, it makes me happy to see your community coming together for you when we all know how much you do for your community!