As some of you may know, my 21 year old bipolar son was incarcerated last March during a manic episode where he did something that was, in his words “very stupid.” He was in the midst of denying his illness and he was running with the wrong crowd, and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. I do not excuse his actions, nor does he. Thankfully, he is now facing his illness head on and, though he is in prison, he is in a better place psychologically and emotionally than he has been since his illness presented itself three years ago.
As a form of therapy I began writing a blog last winter, before he was ever arrested. I simply wanted a way to vent my fears and concerns for my self-destructive son. Since Dec. 23, 2012, the date of my first blog post, I've had 23,000+ hits, I've acquired 400+ followers on Twitter, and I've talked with hundreds of readers on Reddit. Basically, Stillhopefulmom has morphed into an outreach to other mental illness sufferers and their loved ones. Without even realizing it, I have become an advocate for the end to the stigma of mental illness. And it was that stigma that led my son down the wrong path and eventually landed him behind bars. Today I am a voice for the parents out there whose afraid of their own children...who don't know where to turn for help...who don't even know that there is help out there. I am “still hopeful” that other parents will get the help their children need before it is too late.
And all this time I have remained anonymous. There have been times when I have considered revealing my name, but in order to protect my loved ones, I have remained anonymous. Does this make me feel like a hypocrite? Yes, sometimes. But those who know me, know that if it were only me—and not my loved ones—know I would gladly state my name, show my face, and shout it from the highest mountain tops. But it isn't only me that this affects. So while I want our story told, the stigma to end, and the people who are suffering to know they are not alone, I also want to maintain my anonymity.
But here lies the rub.
Recently, I was contacted by a very well known national television journalist who would like to conduct an interview with me. After reading my blog and my son's posts, this journalist became very interested in our story.
So, do I do the interview? Do I stand up to end stigma on a national platform? Do I use this opportunity to reach parents of mentally ill children who don't know they can get help? Is it time to step out of the shadows and into the light on national television? Or is there a way to advocate and still protect the ones I love? Does the anonymity perpetuate the stigma? So, basically, I'm asking, am I just another hypocrite?