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Mental illness is a debilitaring disease

Dear Editor,

Our holidays. Whether in a particular season or on a given day, asking people with mental illness to give thanks for our lot in life is likely to elicit a barrage of curses at whatever gods you pray. Alone, scorned by family, deserted by friends, I can assure you that there are no visions of a Southern Living Thanksgiving dancing in our nightmares.

Some of us wake up every day disappointed at not dying in our sleep. Others must make the decision to live or die that day. Facing another holiday season, some of us can only look forward to shorter days and longer nights when Seasonal Affective Disorder doubles the suicide rates.

At this time of year, I can only remember a time several years ago when I was completing employment papers for yet another of an unending string of dead end jobs that I would probably not get or unable to keep if I did. A questionnaire that I assumed would determine my aptitude for the job asked “If you had to be someone else, who would you be?”

Oh, the opportunities to free the demons in my mind. To shed the stigma. To not be alone. To be accepted as I am. Oh, who would I be?
Janice Joplin. From isolation to adoration. To have the talent. To perform before thousands. The fame. The fortune.
Ernest Hemmingway. From hearing voices to my voice being heard. The wisdom. The oration.
Vincent Foster. White House Counsel. From my silent screams of desperation to having the right ear of the President of the United States of America. Oh, the things I could say.

Janice Joplin dies of a self-induced drug overdose.
Ernest Hemmingway ended his life with a shotgun.
Vincent Foster committed suicide with a handgun.
Oh, who would I be if I had to be someone else?
With a steady hand I wrote, the person who would get to be me if I had to be someone else.

I fight demons in my sleep and I awaken with buzzards on my headboard. But they’re my demons and they’re my buzzards.

Through faith and proper medical care, I will arrest the demons. I will be useful. I will contribute. I will be successful, and the buzzards can go straight to the devil.
I am.
I don’t have to be.
Thank you, Lord, I’m me.

Donald W. Wilson
(a resident of Mountain City)