The Voice of Ability Series

Schuckman - Parishioner living with mental illness thankful for support at St. Francis

Editor’s note: All people have the same needs and desires for relationships and for spiritual growth – persons with disabilities are no different. This series, written by persons with disabilities, allows us to learn about each other, to pray together, and to understand we are one flock under one shepherd.
My name is Lawrence Joseph Edward Schuckman. I’m bipolar, manic depressive. I experienced mental problems at a very young age. I had symptoms of bipolar in grade school, and it really came on full force in my adolescent years of high school.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 19 and was put on medication. I also started individual and group therapy. When I was 25 years old, I came home from time spent at the Topeka State Mental Hospital.
That was my last hospital stay. It was the worst of the worst, yet the best thing that ever happened to me. Why? Because for the first time in my life, I accepted being bipolar and needed to take my medication. From that time forward, I started a plan to quit blaming others for my illness.
I have lived with this disease for many years now – I live one day at a time. I choose to help others, showing them how to overcome the day-to-day struggles. I’m proud to say that we have started a Mental Health Awareness Group at St. Francis of Assisi. My wife attends the meetings with me.
This group has been a dream come true for me. You see, I want people to understand me, to listen to me. I feel that this is finally happening for me and for others in our Catholic parishes. Listening is the main ingredient to helping someone who has mental illness. We just want to be heard.
There is no cure for mental illness, but there is a place for it in the Catholic Church. Mental illness has always been there, and it’s not going anywhere. People are diagnosed every day with this disease, and many do not know where to go for help.
Personally, the adoration chapel is my favorite place. What better place for me to be with my mental illness. God is the one who created me. God is my best friend.

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