It is a difficult thing to articulate just how critical a support system is for people living with a mental illness. More often than not, our rescue begins with a single person. Just one soul whose unconditional love and support is so pervasive that to call them a support system is NOT a misnomer.
When Elizabeth Andersen was first diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1995, her husband Wade’s initial reaction was “I don’t know if I can stay in this relationship.”
In Schizophrenia: A Love Story Wade recalls how Elizabeth’s diagnosis challenged his commitment to their marriage with the unsettling realization that he wasn’t sure if he was “ready for this.” So, Wade returned to his marriage vows where he found the affirmation he was looking for.
Wade Andersen, will you have this women then to be your wife?
Through sickness and in health, through anguish and affection, through tears and laughter?
Elizabeth would be the first person to acknowledge the critical role her husband Wade played in her diagnosis, acceptance and eventual recovery from the symptoms of her mental illness. In her book Being Mentally Healthy (in spite of a mental illness) Elizabeth writes of her husband, “He has been my sounding board, my pill monitor, my reason to be well and the love of my life. He is the strongest and most compassionate person I will ever know. He has been there for me every step of the way and continues to be.”
Elizabeth has dedicated her adult life to educating the public on issues related to mental illness and eliminating the stigma associated with depression and schizophrenia in particular. An international public speaker, published author and a Lt. Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction, True Grit Award recipient, Elizabeth passionately shares her story, offering hope and support to those who believe they have precious little of both.
When I look at this photograph of Elizabeth and Wade, I can’t help but notice the diagonal boards behind and above them. It suggests to me the outline of a roof, a sanctuary created whenever they are in each others company.
This is what a support system feels like!
Silver gelatin print
Hasselblad 80mm f2.8 lens
Ilford HP5, ISO 400
Lightrein 400ws strobe with translucent umbrella