This morning I saw the first television commercial for the annual Radio City Music Hall Rockette Show. The Rockettes are all things perfect. Tall. Thin. Lovely faces and long legs. They dance in precision. But instead of seeing them I experienced a flashback of the Christmas scene in Covering the Sun with My Hand my first novel. Julia Acevedo is trying to tempt her brother René to go to see the Rockettes. He is aghast that she would suggest it. René is paranoid and becomes increasingly agitated. Julia eventually becomes terrified and calls the police who storm the apartment. Mami is in denial of the severity of her son’s illness and clutches at her curlers. Papi is nowhere to be found. Actually, he is in the social club around the corner having a few beers- quite a few. This is the picture of a family in chaos.
A chill went through me when this scene flashed in my mind. This is a true scenario for many families. For René it began with the stress of his first year of college with exams scheduled during the holiday. He couldn’t handle the tension building and the increasing demands of his life. The symptoms of his Schizophrenia were exploding. Young adults are frequently afflicted with the early symptoms of this particular mental illness in college.
These are difficult dynamics to negotiate. Some of us are truly powerless against the ills that befall us. But we can ask for help. I think about the years that I worked on a mobile crisis team going to people’s homes and doing my best to provide tools for families that would decrease stress, diminish or eradicate symptoms, and provide support. Sometimes sitting around a table drinking coffee helped the clients, the families, and most certainly me.
My novel is merely a story but a story is a life told. If you know someone who is in need of mental health care, reach out. Everyone can make choices in various types of treatment options. They may choose to take medication or not. They may choose to have individual therapy or not. They may choose to isolate or to be part of a group. One of the most important things we can do is to provide support. Be there. Decrease the pressure in the pressure cooker.
If you are experiencing an emergency dial 911.
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