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To Bubbles With Love

I had a friend called "Bubbles". When we were together, her tall frame offset my midget. She dressed to the nines and was gentle and engaging. Bubbles had great interest in the lives of everyone around her. She had the remarkable gift even as a young girl to focus on her friends and not just on herself. I found out today that we lost Bubbles to suicide. She fought against many odds to become an independent and professional woman. She was blessed to have found the love of her life who stood by her through thick and thin. In the end, she chose a decision impossible to comprehend. She was there for me when we were young; I was not there for her when she needed friends the most. I am confident that she would have listened only if she had spoken and we were there to help. Only if.

46M Americans, amounting to 1 in 5 adults, experience symptoms of mental illness. Yet, we do not treat mental illness in the same way as we do a fever, an infection, or a chronic disease. For these we are willing to pop any pill that is recommended. For mental health, on one hand, the stigma is hard to overcome for someone frail. On the other, we think we can "will" ourselves to being mentally healthy, to being in a good emotional place. The fact is that we are the sum of millions of cellular interactions fueled by biology and chemistry. To think that we can always rely on our will to relieve our mental anguish is like conjuring a delicious dish without the ingredients. I don't know why Bubbles did not seek help but I suspect that stigma was a significant contributor.

May is Mental Health Awareness month. I am all for breaking the stigma and treating mental illness like the insidious family of diseases it is, not like the thing that needs to be shoved under the rug. We cannot force someone to seek treatment but we can do our part to treat it like any other ailment.

My mother became her surrogate mother when Bubbles lost her parents at a young age. Mom made sure Bubbles had gifts during the festive season and she always made time for her. She leaves Mom and us befuddled and sad and we cannot fathom her husband's despair. If only we could have talked to her. If only she would have talked to us. If only. Bubbles, with all my love, I bid you adieu with these gentle words from the Cherokee.

May the Warm Winds of Heaven Blow softly upon your house May the Great Spirit Bless all who enter there May your Mocassins Make happy tracks in many snows, and may the Rainbow Always touch your shoulder

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