Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sorrows of a Mother's Heart

I just returned from an emotionally draining trip out west, taking my 21-year old son from one treatment program in Utah to a new one in Texas.  My son suffers from the double whammy of Aspergers Syndrome and Bipolar Illness.  This particular combination puts him in a no-mans land in the mental health world.  There are treatment programs for one or the other of those conditions, but not for someone with both together.   I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that having a family member with mental illness -- and this combination in particular -- is just heartbreaking.  Despite the stigma our society seems to attach to mental disorders, they are illnesses, just like cancer or diabetes!  The only difference is that the sufferer behaves strangely (and thereby makes us "uncomfortable"), but they are still human beings, with hopes and dreams.....

I meant to show these photos from my trip to Bologna earlier this month.  They are some of the most raw images of grief I've ever seen.  What's more impressive is that they were sculpted in 1462 (by artist Nicccolo dell'Arca), before the Renaissance allowed artists to represent emotions more naturally.   (See here for more details on the compianti, or sculptural representations of the death of Christ)
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These images resonate because I know these emotions.  I live them daily.  But there is one thing that I never forget.  You can never know great joy unless you also know its opposite.

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It's not about what happens in your life, but rather how you deal with what happens in your life that matters.  I am so grateful that my son has been a part of my life -- despite all his difficulties -- because through him, I have learned some incredible lessons.  I know what it is to love unconditionally, and I find myself completely unable to judge other people for any reason whatsoever.  These are gifts I would never trade -- even for a healthy child.

Sometimes I feel as though my heart will burst from the love I feel for my children....
The pain and the joy mix together to make something so beautiful that I tremble with the rawness of it all, and I thank God I am alive.
journal2 17 apr

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...couldn't have said it better myself.

4 comments:

Arty Em, Creativity Traveler said...

Hi Kathleen - what a story. I, too, have children with mental health challenges and I know it is the most wrenching painful thing on this earth, I feel so deeply for you and hope there is some sort of gold at the end of your journey. . . .
and for blog settings, lots of folks seem to be able to follow me without being blocked, so I think it might be something in your own google settings. sorry to not be able to shed more insight, these things are sometimes so hard to conquer.
all the best, Emily

Arty Em, Creativity Traveler said...

p.s. not many artists list Hundertwasser as a favorite!!! you are awesome! (I love him, too.)

Rosie said...

thanks for your post Kathleen, its definitely worth the while of loving. Having art to walk thru it helps too!

Barbara England said...

I have had this amazing week of "meeting" so many thoughtful, creative, sensitive, kind women. And I've not left home. After joining Cathy Johnson's Artist's Journal Workshop I went on a search spree for hand lettering. It led me to Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's site and then to yours. I am deeply touched by this posting and your honesty and tenderness. I know you find solace and peace in art; your work shows it.