Monday, April 21, 2014

An Opportunity Of A Lifetime

Recently an opportunity fell into my lap that I was honored to receive but surprised at too. Through a support group here on Facebook I was approached to do a TV show about schizophrenia with Thomas. This show is a huge deal here in the United States called Dateline and is on NBC. Even as I type that I am still feeling all the same feelings of honor and ...surprise. I am writing about it now because it appears to have fallen through and I didn't want to say anything until it was a sure thing. Now, since it doesn't seem to be, I wanted to write about it and share with you mine and Thomas' experience through the preliminary process.

When I was approached my very first thought was one of anxiety and fear. I wasn't sure this was something that I wanted to do, most especially to Thomas. I wanted desperately to get the positive word out there about schizophrenia but the price I could pay and that Thomas could pay might be more than we could afford emotionally and psychologically.

I wrote my requisite emails to the producer and finally got a chance to actually talk to her. I could hardly believe I was getting to tell mine and Thomas' story to someone so important or that could make such a huge difference in our lives and the lives of others. Her vision for the show was to pick 3 different families and tell their unique stories about how they deal with having a family member with severe mental illness. It really was a dream come true for someone like me who started my blog because I wanted to do that very thing, tell the story of what it's really like.

I spoke to her for almost 2 hours and she listened intently to my story and asked questions along the way. She seemed very interested in all that Thomas and I had been through and my concerns about being exploited slowly fell away. I told her about his hospitalizations, what they had been like, the struggles I had been through to get him into a good hospital and it was these stories that most piqued her interest. I liked this because I felt that where she was going with her news story was to a place that needs light shed on it, our failing healthcare system.

We also talked about including Thomas in the story and having him sit for an interview or two. I felt this would be a challenge in a few ways since, after all, he has schizophrenia and being on TV might increase his paranoia, for one thing. Another thing that concerned me was that this would put him front and center with me in the fight for recognition about the truth about schizophrenia and I wasn't sure that would be a good thing for him. Lastly, I felt he wouldn't be a good interview in general since his memory is so bad and he's a very subdued kid who often looks to me to verbalize his thoughts and feelings. The show would be fraught with potholes that could trip him up and I wasn't sure this would be good for him.

After talking with the producer I went in to talk to Thomas about it. He had previously supported my doing the show when I initially told him about it but I though since I now had more information that I should check back in with him. I told him all about the call and he lit up. He was actually kind of excited about being on TV and talking about his illness. I explained to him that the cameras would follow us for 3 months and someone would talk to him about his illness, his thoughts, his paranoia, his hallucinations, his fears, his successes and much much more. I thought it was a huge undertaking on his part especially since, at least as far as I was concerned, making his paranoia's publicly known might only increase them. Imagine being afraid of the local police and then finding out those very policemen would now know his whole story as would the rest of the world. I feel like this could knock him down a little bit and make him sicker. Still, he supported it and wanted to do it and I commended him for being so brave. I made it abundantly clear that his life would now be public and that there was a price to pay for that. I tried to dream up as many scenarios as possible for his consideration and every one he shot down with an understanding of what it meant and encouragement for me to move forward with telling our story. He really is an amazing young man.

Sadly though it appears that our part in the Dateline story has fallen through and none of this will come to fruition. I am sad that I won't get a chance to tell the world, a much larger audience than I have here, mine and Thomas' story and therefore the stories of so many of you out there but there must be a reason for why we weren't chosen to speak on schizophrenia's behalf. I have to wonder though, given the circumstances, would you have told your story to the world too? Would you have had your loved on TV and sharing their life for everyone to see, the good, the bad and the ugly? I'm curious about this because even as I walked through part of this big plan, a part of me wondered if I was doing right by Thomas. I had no doubt that my voice needed to be heard but I wondered about Thomas and I wonder about all of you. What would you have done?

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