“Had I known but yesterday what I know today, I’d have taken out your two grey eyes and put in eyes of clay. And had I known but yesterday you’d be no more my own, I’d have taken out your heart of flesh and put in one of stone.”
I first encountered this quote when I was reading Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Dogs of Babel where the main character, Paul, searches for the explanation behind his wife, Lexy’s suspicious death. As the story progresses, Paul puts together pieces that uncover the truth: his beloved wife was facing mental illness. The quote above was a message from Lexy that Paul received after her death.
Those who are fighting mental illness don’t intentionally hurt others, and those who love them would do whatever they can to help those who are hurting and suffering from mental illness.
I remember a friend who meant the world to me; who would call me just to see how I was doing, who would offer to do anything under the sun for me — and actually do it.He knew me like no one else did. But what I didn’t know was that he was struggling with mental illness. I searched and searched for reasons and explanations for what happened to him, and I never wanted to put mental illness on the list of options. But it was the only logical explanation. I think back sometimes and wonder “If only…If only I knew, if only I had paid closer attention and asked the right questions, maybe he would still be here today. I am reminded of something his dad said, “I would have gladly taken his place.”
In The Dogs of Babel, Paul convinces the reader that it’s possible to teach his dog, Lorelei, how to talk, a goal that he hopes to reach so that Lorelei can tell him what happened to Lexy. In trying to give Lorelei a voice, he actually gives a voice to those who struggle with grief and depression. He shows us the raw wounds that result from mental illness, both in those who suffer from it and those who love the suffering.
This is what I want people who struggle with mental illness to know right now. People are willing to help you. They are willing to share in your suffering. They would gladly take your place. You are not alone. You have a voice. We are listening.