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Importance of Schizophrenia Story on Grey's Anatomy

The Important Thing Grey's Anatomy Left Out About Being a Child of Mental Illness

I never saw anyone like me in media; in fact, I often still don't see my situation portrayed. I'm the daughter of a parent with schizophrenia, which is a weird and confusing disease. It's a disease that can be scary as a child and forces one to grow up quite quickly.

So when I watched Grey's Anatomy last week, I was shocked to see the episode take a focus on someone we all love, Alex, and his experience with his schizophrenic/psychotic mom.

I love an episode that shows more of Alex as much as the next person, but this episode is different. I watched things I have experienced happen on the screen in front of me, and I felt the pain of teenage Alex in my heart.

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I watched Alex take care of his mom during her breaks, holding her and hoping for her to come back to reality. I remember doing this at the age of 6, holding my mom's hand in mine and telling her I didn't see or hear what she was experiencing.

It was meaningful to watch this character have to take care of the person who is supposed to take care of him, because this is very common for us children with parents who have mental illness. We often are the ones bringing them back to reality or checking on their medication, and to see that portrayed in a show as large as Grey's is an instrumental way to spread awareness.

People have a hard time relating to the children who at times must act as parents, as well as remembering that oftentimes these kids are made fun of for acting "different." It showed another important part of awareness when Alex lets a girl into his world but is quickly made fun of after she sees his mom's episode.

I often was bullied for my anxiety or telling kids I spent weekends at my mom's house, and I never told anyone at school about my mom's "quirks" (I was too young to really know that they were an illness). Mental illness is so misunderstood that having a parent with schizophrenia or psychosis is basically labeling yourself a freak show and inviting people to think that you might have the same illness. I remember a boy once telling me I was just like my "crazy mom" and crying because that was my biggest fear.

Though the episode did bring awareness and new perspective, I do wish it would have touched on the anger we sometimes feel. Whether it be for our parents specifically or the illness or the people at school or just the overall world for letting this happen to us, it's really common to feel angry. It's common to feel a ton of emotions honestly: sadness, joy, anger, hopelessness, hope. But anger is something not often touched on, because anger is scary. We are taught to hide our anger, to be sad instead of angry, but it's OK to be angry. It's OK to be hurt and upset with the world for wronging you and your parent like this.

I'm excited to see how this story progresses and to see how Grey's continues to show schizophrenia/psychosis. I'm excited to see how Alex copes with everything and to see more awareness being brought to an often passed-over subject.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, visit MH.gov.

Image Source: ABC
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