At age 22 I was just getting a formal diagnosis of major depressive disorder. In retrospect, I realize that I experienced my first depressive episode when I was 19 but it was not until age 22, that my ability to function completely broke down. Over the next two years, I became increasingly isolated while a pain that I can only describe as what I imagined it would feel like to be outside in a hail storm with no skin pervaded my entire being. My ability to envision a future ceased and then slowly, slowly entered those early suicidal thoughts. The idea that death would be a relief (from all this pain) became a common refrain.
Lizabeth Schuch is a thoughtful and engaging woman with whom I’ve become acquainted over the past few years. We met just as I was embarking upon my current journey in patient advocacy within the greater Washington, DC community. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17, Lizabeth went on to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor’s Degree in sociology and a minor in psychology. She recently left the storied life of pharmaceutical sales to pursue her passion as an advocate full-time. Her professional and personal experiences make her especially qualified for her new role. I was happy to take the opportunity to talk with Lizabeth about mental illness and her work.
“There is a lot of resiliency with these illnesses, I don’t know that people acknowledge how hard we have to work. We are fighting a battle!” Lizabeth Schuch
Last Monday, it was my distinct honor to become one of the latest members of The Walking Gallery, a patient advocacy movement conceived by Regina Holliday. My story is depicted in painting #159 “No Small Matter.”
Anger is a natural aspect of grief, loss and mourning but when you are a homicide survivor (or someone who has lost a loved one to murder) anger takes on added characteristics. Literature on anger underscores the importance of identifying your anger and then finding healthy ways to channel that anger so that it doesn’t ultimately destroy you—psychologically or physically. Since the death of my brother, I have become intimately familiar with anger. I’ve come to know it in ways I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.