CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: "THERE IS A REASON WHY I'M ON THIS SPECIFIC PATH."
On reflecting back over the course of her life and some of the painful experiences she had had, Judy shared a sentiment that she had learned in AA about not having regrets. She said, “I can say that if I had a- a chance to do my life all over again and would I change anything? . . . No.” She explained,
There is a reason why I’m on this specific path this specific journey that I’m on. And, uhm . . . I still have . . . the rest of this journey to complete. There’s a lot more lessons to be learned. Uhm . . . nobody nobody nobody has a perfect childhood. Everybody every family has secrets. If if it’s talked about or not. Some families have it worse than others. But I’m I am not in your shoes, you are not in mine. I cannot judge you, you cannot judge me.
In this, Judy seemed to find a state of acceptance. She could recognize the obstacles she faced, the pain she had endured, and the difficulties in her familial relationships. But she articulated a perspective that indicated that she could find meaning in it all; her purpose was to learn what she could from her life and experience whatever was in store for her. Judy’s experience with her family was unique, but she knew that she was not alone in having suffered. I perceived a sense of freedom in her statement that every family has secrets and therefore no one is in a position to judge another person. Judy continued,
One thing that I’m learnin’ uhm, because my husband’s Jewish I’m trying to learn more about his faith. It’s just to try to lead a good moral life, and and that . . . and that god gives us challenges and lessons each day and and for us to try to . . . learn what he’s trying to teach us. And and the disabilities that I have try to use it to the best of our ability.
Throughout the course of our interview, Judy was highly reflective and insightful about the sources of her difficulties. She had a strong voice and firm opinions, and she was adamant about her role as a spokesperson for individuals with mental illness. Her goal was to share her story and her husband’s story so as to dispel inaccuracies in the public’s perception of mental illness and to eliminate unnecessary stigma. I sensed that in addition to her personal narrative, Judy had a message she wanted to convey. The following exchange took place toward the end of our interview:
M: If you had one message, that you wanted made clear about about depression, about mental illness, your experiences that you’ve had, what would that be?
J: Get rid of the stereotypes and open up your eyes and listen to people. Even the media . . . ment- mentally ill people—No! Wrong terminology. People with mental illness. (Longpause) . .. Use the correct description. The media knows— excuse my language—knows sshhit! about mental illness. And that makes the stigma and the discrimination worse. God’s honest truth. . . . They make it worse. . . . Not better. Not better at all. Because they don’t have facts. And it makes me so mad, about it. I live with addiction and the illness every single day.
I know what it’s about. . . . They just send some reporters and some cameramen to the scene and go on hearsay. Why don’t you do your research first?
In conclusion, Judy then reassured me that she has “a big mouth,” and that “everybody will hear me (laughing). You know. And I won’t stop until the day I die.”