A conversation with a friend about this post brought up an interesting point. If you recall, I had some surprising reactions from old classmates at my high school reunion.
She said, quite wisely, “Did it occur to you that they simply didn’t know what to say? I mean, the last time they saw you, your mother had just died.”
Huh. An interesting thought. I have to say this possibility did not occur to me. Were they just uncomfortable? Maybe. Since I left for college soon after graduation, I hadn’t seen most of these people for more than 20 years. I’ve had those 20 years to recover, but their memories of me may be stuck back in 1989.
The concept of other people being uncomfortable around me simply because of my mother’s suicide is not new. Unfortunately, it is also not confined to old high school classmates. Even new friends, ones who did not know me at age 17, find it difficult to relate to me after learning about my mother’s illness and death.
I’m thinking of one in particular — who is otherwise a wonderful and compassionate person — making awkward conversation about my experiences with a mentally ill parent after I shared some details with her. Soon afterwards, our friendship simply started slipping away. It might be too much to say that she now avoids me, but we are not as close as we once were.
I do believe, if you come from a family without mental illness, that it might be hard to relate to someone who shares the disturbing and painful experiences with you. I find it sad, though, that the result may be more feelings of isolation and rejection for those of us who do.