As most of you know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but some of you may not know that Schizophrenia Awareness Week kicked off on May seventeenth. I’m going to be completely honest and tell you that while I consider myself to be a mental health advocate, I have never acknowledged this particular week, until now. It’s not that I didn’t believe that schizophrenia wasn’t important. It’s not that I didn’t believe that schizophrenia didn’t need more awareness. It’s not that I didn’t understand the gravity of what people endure. I just didn’t take the time to actually acknowledge it separately from the blanket of mental health awareness, and why didn’t I? It’s because I was ignorant. Yes, as much as that pains me to say it, I was fucking ignorant.
I have always had a storyteller’s mind. It’s always whirling, taking things in, processing, rephrasing, rewriting. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories – via by page, by pen to paper or finger to keyboard to screen.
My friends in grade school used to call me The Weaver, for I’d spend sleepovers and slumber parties weaving stories of gore and horror, terrifying the socks off my friends better than any B-grade horror flick could. I’d have them deeply believing that the ghost of a little boy who died from the measles in the 1800s truly does wander my back deck, where the old farm house used to be. Despite the fact that we’d bulldozed the old farm house to build our new, modern home, the ghost remained, unable to find peace because he was gone too young and missed his mother. He wants revenge for us destroying the only home he’d ever known.
I glimpse her hiding in the shadows, between a heartbeat and the next faltering breath. Her alabaster skin gives stark contrast to the black satin corset over her flowing black dress. Dark lace and gossamer wings accentuate her onyx eyes. The pale beauty of her thin face, high cheekbones, and stringent jawline frame her luscious lips. She smiles, a smile that would shame the full moon of October, and I forget to breathe.
I finally dragged myself out of bed. Depression had stolen over two years of my life. Two years I wouldn’t get back. Two years where I lived in my bed, in my room, in my cave. I liked my cave. It was a safe place. It had all the necessities of life—it had a big, soft bed with lots of covers to hide under; it had a large, flat-screen T.V. that I never watched; it had a phone that I never answered; and oodles of books I never read; but it also had music, Sirius music. I could listen to whatever type of music suited my mood. And usually that was sad music. But that’s okay, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I escaped into the music. I spent hours poring over music lists I had made—songs that I had heard, that I wanted my husband to put on my cell phone. The lists were never-ending. The music could be heard deep in my soul.
I came to writing books late in life after a twenty year career as a successful exhibiting painter living in Belgium. When my maternal grandmother turned ninety, I was forty-nine years old and had just celebrated my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. My daughter was a freshman at an American university and my son was a senior in high school. And I’d written a novel, my first.