When I was little my family and I would go camping and each night we'd gather together around the warmth of the fire and we'd tell stories and make s'mores. We'd stare across the flames and rising embers into the darkness and talk about life.
Now, here I am, gathered around the proverbial campfire with all of you and all of my new friends with family members with schizophrenia that I've made since my son got sick and I started talking openly about it. Here we all are, each of us with our stories to tell, staring across the open flames that warm us and gather us close to each other and we stare into the darkness of this illness and the unknowns that are our future.
That you are all here with me, that we can sit together in our circle, that each of our stories are so different yet so very much the same, makes me feel like I'm not alone in the darkness. Every day, even in daylight, it surrounds us all but just knowing you're out there, just seeing your names on my friends list, just reading about your days and the ordinariness of them, just seeing that life goes on even while this illness wraps it's tendrils around and throughout our loved ones minds and our hearts, makes me feel like I'm not alone.
Often there is silence as the fire crackles and turns to glowing coals and it is in that silence that we speak our loudest words. The silence of a shared knowledge, a shared camaraderie, and a shared despair. We make eye contact across the fire and nod slightly and say a thousand things while tears well in our eyes.
I am not alone. WE ARE NOT ALONE. We have this fire, its warmth, and we have each other. Our sons, our daughters, our husbands, our wives, our loved ones with schizophrenia are not alone because we are all here together with one goal and that is to better understand, to find love in the unfairness of our fate, to learn and most importantly to sometimes find laughter in between.
What brought us together in the first place is this illness but what keeps us together is that in the end we found friends we can depend on, even if all we do is sit in silence together around the campfire.