Mental Health: Judge Not Lest We Be Judged Ourselves by Nadia Campbell
I will never forget the day.
I was nine years old sitting on the three-seated sofa when my Mum said,
“Hurry and tidy up, your cousin is coming to visit!”
The door knocked. In strolled my cousin Michael. He was tall, dark and accompanied by a short Caucasian lady. She introduced herself as Michelle, Michael’s Social Worker.
We greeted each other I noticed his piercing brown eyes, his straight nose and crooked yellow teeth. He held out his hand for me to shake. I spotted an angry burn on the back of his right hand which had blistered and exuding puss. I wearily shook it then rushed upstairs mumbling,
“I need the toilet”.
I then proceeded to scrub my hands vigorously.
I jogged back down. As well as thinking how disdainful my actions may have appeared, I recoiled in shock from the odor of his size ten training shoes as he lifted them off, placing them by the front door. We meander into the lounge…
A discussion between Michael, Michelle, my mother pursued. I listened. The introduction was for Michael to learn of his background and acquire information about his childhood and family. And the time had come for Michael to be reintegrated into society after twenty something years of being ‘institutionalized’. Michelle wanted the family and relatives to assist with this.
“All human beings have a history, and an essential part of restoring the humanity of the patient was to create a picture of who they were before they emerged out of the fog to find themselves on a hospital ward.” (Mayer. A 2008)
Michael’s story was a sad one. His life was described as ‘normal’ up until the age of five. Then unexplained seizures started to afflict him. His Mother dealt with them well. However his father did not. And when his mother sadly passed away two years later, Michael was at the mercy of his father who promptly and unceremoniously dumped in a home for the young and ‘mentally challenged’.
I felt for my new found cousin. The unfair treatment he received within institutions. Denial of a proper education and support (he could neither read nor write). The negative treatment he received from his siblings and friends. I felt an urge to welcome this man into our family as well as set him a hot bath so he could have a good old scrub up. Michael was not concerned with personal hygiene. He didn’t use deodorant, a decision I respected, though I did tell him he ‘stunk’ on countless occasions.
Michael began to visit us often, quizzing my mum more and more about his past. Sure, she didn’t have all the answers to his questions but she did her best. Over the passing years we developed a good relationship. It transpired that Michael didn’t have learning difficulties to begin with – just epilepsy.
“Before God we are all equally wise – and equally foolish.” (Albert Einstein).
I have become a parent. Let us explain to the children that beauty is found under the surface of the skin and to “judge others not, lest we be judged ourselves’.
Michael Campbell 1968-2010 (R.I.P.)