Mary

Mental illness is prevalent in my family, as it is in many. Since before I was born, my Dad battled schizophrenia. But the disease goes much deeper than just my father. His mother was involuntarily committed to a mental institution when she was in her thirties and he was only four-years-old. And his older brother lived in a state mental hospital from the time he was 20 until he died in his 80’s—over 60 years.

While I was growing up, my dad was in and out of mental institutions. At first, I was too young to understand why my daddy would “go away” for months at a time. Then as a teenager, I was so embarrassed that I lied to my friends about where he was. At times I even lied to myself. It was so hard for me to understand why my father was not like the dad next door or the one I saw on weekly sitcoms.

Throughout his life, he took a variety of medications, but none of them seemed to help. He underwent “shock treatments” which erased wide swaths of his memory. He’d come home from a stay at the hospital having forgotten key parts of his life.

After my children were born, I longed for them to have a close relationship with their grandfather, but his unpredictable actions made him unsafe for them to be around, and I could never leave the room when he was there.

This was my relationship with my father until he reached his 70s. Then a new drug was introduced to the market that made all the difference in him. Suddenly, I was able to have conversations with him. He was interested in reading the newspaper. He talked about being proud of what my children and I had accomplished in life. For five years or so, I knew what it was to have a father.

And this is why I walk. So that researchers at UNC will have the opportunity to discover a new medication that will give people like me the chance to have a real relationship with their family members. So that individuals who struggle with mental illness will have a shot at a “normal” life. So that grandchildren can know their grandfathers.

BACK TO STORIES

Will You Join Us?

Walk for treatment. Walk for life. Walk for Hope.

Sign up to receive updates on our annual event, as well as the
Foundation of Hope. Follow our stories and see your impact.