Ever since I was born my great grandmother was in a nursing home. When I was little I would go visit her with my grandmother but I always thought that her living there was normal because she was older. Many people lived in nursing homes when they could no longer live their life without assistance, so I figured she lived there just because of her old age. But she was always getting kicked out of nursing homes and my grandmother would have to find another one for her. I never fully understood why this kept happening, I just figured she was a feisty old woman and these homes couldn’t handle her. But when she died on April 5, 2008 I found out that she wasn’t trapped in these homes, she was really trapped within herself.
My great grandmother had her first nervous breakdown at 16 years old and she continued having them for years. The doctors just brushed these nervous breakdowns off as stress related to her husband being in the service and pregnancy. She continued to have multiple nervous breakdowns and was in and out of Butler hospital along with many others. Back then doctors didn’t have as much knowledge about mental illnesses as they do today, so they just kept “sticking labels” on her. They said she suffered from depression, which was true. Doctors later diagnosed her as schizophrenic, but she really wasn’t. They treated her with shock treatment, which helped for short periods of time, but as she got older her “breakdowns” became more frequent. There was something worse than depression taking over her life. She had many different physical and emotional symptoms and they didn’t know what was wrong so they labeled her as bipolar. The doctors where never certain with their diagnosis and they gave her many medications for multiple symptoms. She was given medicines for disorders that she didn’t have and the side effects of all those drugs were continuing to make her worse. She couldn’t live her life; she couldn’t take care of herself let alone take care of her daughter when she was younger. My great grandmother had to live in a nursing home for 27 years because of many un-diagnosed problems and she was trapped within herself most of her life.
I can’t imagine spending half my life in a nursing home because of problems that weren’t treated correctly. I can’t imagine spending a week trapped somewhere, it’s a week out of a lifetime; a week not truly lived. I’ve learned this lesson now and as unfortunate as it is that my great grandmother didn’t totally get to lead a normal life, her experience has taught me so much. Still, from time to time I complain about something insignificant and then I think back to my great grandmother. Thinking about her reminds me to appreciate my life and not to waste time complaining about things that don’t matter or things that don’t affect my life. Not a single day should be wasted, which is why I believe in holding life to the highest value; life is truly the most valuable thing that someone can have.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.