Mental illness in families

Thank you so very much for “My mom is mentally ill. There, I said it,” [Feb. 4].

As a mental health counselor I can’t tell you how important the author’s voice, and honesty, is in the recovery movement and for society at large.

Where I work, we focus on relationships as the healing process to any mental health issue, and far too often in our culture we jump to medication or hospitalizations. Sometimes these are needed, but most people just need to feel respected and supported.

I really appreciated how you highlighted relationships helping you on your path, and I will reference your story with my clients to give them hope.

Lauren Walsh, San Diego

I could relate to one paragraph in the story so strongly: “A therapist later would give me a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. I was numb, detached from the war that raised me yet vibrating with anxiety, and I had no idea it didn’t have to be that way.”

I never thought I had a type of PTSD until I was close to 50 and dealing with a husband who had a terminal illness. Yet I was 29 when I realized I had anxiety, just like my father, and I, too, kept busy, busy, busy so I would not have time to feel.

I didn’t have the same worry about friends knowing about the “crazy” that the author experienced because my family was quite isolated and no one came to our home, so no one saw the dynamics.

However, I too felt that the pain might swallow me and so I became extremely high-functioning and kept going at a pace that didn’t let me feel. Until my husband died, 11 years ago. Then I took time to explore my motivations and my anxiety and how it related to my background as a child.

I just wanted to say the author’s words touched me and I recognized common ground (unfortunately, for both of us). Good writing.

Carol Bishop, Portland, Ore.

My mother was a paranoid schizophrenic, and like the author of “My mom is mentally ill,” I couldn’t tell anyone. I wasn’t allowed to watch TV or listen to the radio because “they” could listen to us through these devices.

We used to ride around in the car in the middle of the night, singing folk songs and looking for the cars with big antennas that were trying to listen to us. People often physically recoiled when I revealed that my mother killed herself when I was nearly 13. Even now, I believe people sometimes eye me with suspicion, horror and fear. I often wondered if it would have been different if it had been my father instead. I believe we’re more closely associated with/tainted by the mother connection.

Thank you for sharing your story. It’s the loneliness and secrecy of the situation that continues the damage during the many years since the trauma. It creates shame, and the shame creates the anxiety. Shout it from the rooftops. You’re bringing peace when you tell the truth.

Darilyn Gould, Alexandria, Va.

My mother suffered from mental health issues, finally successfully committing suicide in 1968 when I was 11 years old. For years I made up how she died. Once I was able to tell the truth, it was amazing how many people came out of the woodwork with their own stories. Most of the time, I think it was a relief to both parties to know they were not alone.

Clare Herington, Chevy Chase, Md.

Waiting to see a doctor

I am concerned over how folks interpret the data covered in “Getting in to see a doctor can take weeks,” [Feb. 4]. The values you cited are an average of practices’ wait times, not the average wait time for patients. Patients looking for care will likely go to the doctor they can see soonest or who has a time open that is convenient. Thus, the wait times for patients are likely to be toward the shortest times reported.

The average wait times as reported are an indicator of how many practices are “full” but also of whether there are practices that are open. The data are likely skewed toward longer reported times as new practices might be harder to find for the survey.

Also, many practices will take a patient referred from another practice, physician or referring mechanism — social workers, for example, on an expedited basis.

Thomas C. Ricketts, Chapel Hill, N.C.

It takes me six weeks to see an orthopedist with whom I have an established relationship (no relevant insurance issues). So I go to my primary-care physician or the ER for anything that’s acute or an emergency.

I typically get started after that with a treatment such as physical therapy. By the time I get to see the orthopedist, due to delays in getting an appointment, I’m usually symptom-free.

Don Lewy, Fairfax Station, Va.