You and I have never met but I know you quite well through the relationship I’ve been fortunate to establish with your remarkable family.
I know that you were an incredibly gifted teen. I know that you were elected president of your class at Leominster High School. I know that you were a valuable member of the Blue Devils Super Bowl football team. I know that you excelled academically.
Your sister, Kim, constantly boasts of your brilliant mind, your charm, and how people were drawn to you. I’ve seen photos of you in pose, flashing an amazing smile. You could have graced the cover of GQ.
I know that you went on to play football at Harvard University and later graduated cum laude majoring in Organizational Psychology.
Your loving sister says you must have been the envy of every boy in your high school, and that so many girls must have wanted to date you. Man, is there anything at which you didn’t excel?
If I could talk to you today – or any day for that matter – I’d want to know more about what it was like growing up as Michael Jay Amico Wallace. I’d want to know what lured you into a career in technology. I’d want to know what motivated you to succeed in academics and athletics. I’d want to know what were your favorite foods, movies, TV shows and music. I’d want to know what you most enjoyed doing as a teen? I’d ask if you had a favorite hangout in Cambridge, and if you ever went to the Cantab Lounge?
I’d also ask what you felt as something was happening to you that was different and not easy to understand. I’d ask what was your first emotion when you were diagnosed with mental illness?
I know that what ensued wasn’t easy. Your family says that perhaps your biggest frustration was getting people to understand and wishing to cure mental illness for yourself and everyone, but not knowing how.
I know that after living through periods of hospitalization, recovery, and recurrent episodes of illness, that in February, 2003, you called your family in Leominster from your home in Menlo Park, California, indicating you’d tired of being a burden and of the frustration of not knowing or finding a cure for your illness.
^^Hospitalized just once… reoccurring bouts of depression. Mentioned disappearing and being a burden in the months previous to his’ leaving’. Thinking it would be easier on us if he weren’t around.
Your loved ones have not heard from you since. Theories abound as to your fate.
My wish, Michael is that you reconnect with your mother and sister and brother.
I also want you (and all the Michael’s of the world), to know that attitudes about mental illness are changing –for the better.
Borrowing from poet Robert Frost, we still have “miles to go before I (we) sleep” and that dreaded “S” word still haunts many. But so much progress has been and continues to be made. And if you are still searching for a role to help others who have suffered with mental illness, I’d like to invite you to come home. Join with Kim and Gary and your mother Angela, and the SHINE Initiative and so many other courageous and determined people in our community – your community – who are speaking openly to raise awareness of mental illness and to making it a mainstream issue.
Michael, I hope this message finds you well.
Executive Director of The SHINE Initiative