Last week I had the good fortune to reconnect with a high school classmate whom I had not seen in 54 years! She had read A Beautiful Here and got in touch. She said that she had had no idea that my home life was troubled. And . . . of course, I had no idea that hers was also. We were together a lot – working on our HS newspaper and taking the same classes. But that was only seven or eight hours a day. At the end of the school day, we each returned to a much less happy environment. If only we had known about the other’s pain, we could have commiserated. At the time, I was sure that I was the only one in my all-girls’ Catholic high school with an alcoholic father and divorced parents. I was ashamed to reveal anything about my home life.
When we met for lunch, my friend and I talked about what kept us sane through those difficult days. It seems that books and school were escapes for both of us. Although we wanted to go to college, neither of us could afford it. Years later, after nursing school for me and work for my friend, we both graduated from college, married and became parents. She went on to become a teacher and then principal of a high school. We both agreed on the saving grace of having one person in our lives who identified and encouraged a potential in each of us. For me, it was Sister Gratia who convinced me that I had a talent for writing and I should pursue it. She gave me hope. Not a small thing.
All these years later, I think that if I had been open and not so secretive about my home life, I would have uncovered a whole community of support. I know that there were other classmates who hoarded such secrets. We needed one person to open up and give permission to share our pain. As a young teenager, I didn’t understand that the pain I was hiding was actually part of the human condition. Each of us in varying degrees has things we think we need to hide. Secrets. I wasn’t the “only one.”
At any given time, any one of us can be afflicted with unbearable pain for ourselves or for someone we love. I’m an adult now and I have no secrets, no shame. As you know, I use my family and our experiences to speak out loudly to dispel the stigma which so unfairly clings to brain illnesses. We’ve never kept it a secret that our son and brother suffered from depression and took his own life. It’s secrecy regarding these illnesses and suicide that contributes to the stigma. There is no shame in being depressed. The only shame is in not being able to get treatment.
I urge you at this special time of the year to hug those you love. Throw open those doors and let the winter wind whisk away all those secrets which threaten to keep us apart. We need each other.
As some of you may remember, this Thanksgiving will be our 21st without Nuçi. Yes, we still miss him terribly. We always will. So . . . in his memory and in the memory of everyone we lost this year, as you sit down to that big turkey dinner, please raise a glass and toast the love we have for one another and the love we have for those we’ve lost. May it be perpetuated.
I cannot close this letter without thanking you for supporting Nuçi’s Space over the years. It is your kindness and generosity that allows us to keep our doors open and we are most appreciative. We know the value of your hard-earned money and we take seriously the trust you extend us to spend it wisely. I can assure you that your donations have literally helped to save lives. With your help, we will continue our mission. Because . . . without you, there is no us, no Nuçi’s Space.
Nuçi’s mom, Founder of Nuçi’s Space and Author of “A Beautiful Here”
You can send an email directly to Linda Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org