When people ask how Nora is doing, I reply that she’s not ‘better’, but she’s ‘getting better’. I suspect she will be ‘getting better’ for the rest of her life. Why? Because mental illness isn’t something that goes away and never comes back.
For Nora, and for those who love her, the threat of another depressive episode will be ever-present. Because she was so ill, at such a young age, my daughter will always be vulnerable to mental health problems.
That’s not to say her recovery hasn’t been remarkable. Less than five months ago, I described the symptoms of her illness under the Nora’s story section of this site. When I think back to those terrible months, I know we’re lucky that she has progressed so far in such a short time.
I remember the stages of Nora’s recovery as a series of first. The first time she spoke again. The first time she was able to get out of bed and come down stairs without help. The first time she wanted to listen to music (something she has always loved and which stopped completely during the worst of her illness). The first time she smiled.
So many of these moments brought tears of joy. None more so than the afternoon Nora decided to go into school to visit her friends.
Before her illness, Nora had been a popular, fun loving girl with a wide circle of friends. When she became ill, she isolated herself from all her friends. She felt so terrible, she simply didn’t want to be with anyone.
That afternoon, we drove to the school, got out of the car and waited at the gates for Nora’s friends to emerge. Nora was nervous. I was petrified, worrying what it would do to her if she found this all too much and it had a negative impact on her recovery.
As it turned out, neither of us needed to worry. A few minutes after the final bell rang, Nora’s friends started coming out. One or two of them saw Nora waiting for them and screamed her name. The others looked around to see what the fuss was about and, within seconds, Nora disappeared into a group of girls who were all hugging her, shouting over each other to tell her their news, and bringing her right back into their midst.
Nora still has bad moments and days that are worse than others. When things are tough, I remember that afternoon in the sunshine – watching Nora surrounded by her friends, laughing and smiling and enjoying the simple pleasure of catching up with people she loves.
And I tell myself there are many more of those moments to come.