I just wanted to take a minute and remind people of the importance of being kind. My family has several members living with mental illness, but none of them are treated quite like my Grandaddy.
Since I was little I’ve always known he was different. He was very noise sensitive, he didn’t talk too much—or very loudly—and he needed things to be done in a pretty straight forward and scheduled way. But I never treated him different from my Poppe, who doesn’t struggle with anything mentally. Grandaddy was—and is—one of the best, kindest gentlest people in my life.
But the rest of his family on my dad’s side have always treated him like a crazy child. They hide information from him, lie and pretend like he doesn’t understand what they’re saying. They constantly call him crazy behind his back and tell myself and the kids to “baby” him and ignore his “outbursts.” These “outbursts” they’re so concerned about happen when he becomes overwhelmed with social situations, causing his anxiety to make him snap and sound angry. I have never seen him be out-rightly mean, or violent, with anyone in my life.
Currently my grandma is dealing with lung cancer, and no one is being honest with him about her condition. They think that he “can’t handle” the stress. That he will “shut down” and “hide” from the situation. He has no idea that she has 3-12 months left on this earth with him. He thinks that the chemo will be helpful because he doesn’t know the entire situation.
Today, I came over to visit them and I had a moment to talk to Grandaddy alone. As he stood staring out the front window, I waited patiently for him to collect his thoughts and be ready to speak, as I have always done. Very quietly, in his softest voice, he said,
“I don’t mean to make them think I’m crazy. The bipolar makes it hard. They tell me that I’m crazy and that I’m angry, but I’m not. It’s not anger that I feel, I just get too overwhelmed. But I don’t hate the world. I don’t hate it. I love this world. And I wish I could talk to people, but I just can’t. I wish that I could be normal to them, but I can’t do that either.”
I said, “You’re pretty normal to me, Grandaddy.”
And he smiled, still looking out the window. And he said, still quietly, “Thank you.”
My Grandaddy is not crazy. He is not mean, or violent or stupid. He’s a gentle man who has lived a very long life. He’s a man who loves his wife, children and grandchildren. He’s a man who still remembers the glow in the dark stars from my childhood bedroom, and the dog that died when I was five. He’s a man that smiles when he sees flowers, birds and the sunshine on the grass. He’s a man that loves this world, and his life, more than most people on this earth.
So I’m asking, as kindly as I can, that people remember to be kind to each other. Don’t use your words to hurt, even when the situation frustrates you or makes you angry.
Just be kind. Be kind. Be kind.
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