Friday, July 3, 2009

Rerun - Making Peace With Our Families and Loved Ones

Taking a brief break from work. Following is a rerun of a piece I posted in Jan:

At least half of the correspondence I get from readers comes from loved ones, including family members and sweethearts. Without exception, they are at a loss and their stories are heart-breaking. They are the innocent bystanders of our illness.

I've also had ample opportunity to listen to loved ones at various mental health venues, plus I am forever engaging them (or, rather, they are engaging me) in conversations in coffee shops, on public transport, everywhere. More recently, by virtue of a broken marriage to a woman with bipolar, I've have had an opportunity to sit in with a DBSA-run friends and family support group.

Believe me, our loved ones see our illness far differently than we do. We may complain that they don't understand us, but far too many of us fail to recognize the horrible abuse we have put them through.

Believe me, to live with a person with a mental illness is to live in an abusive relationship. Until we own up to this hard cold truth, we will never make peace with ourselves and our loved ones. We will always be stuck in our recovery, perpetual victims, always finding fault in the people who love us, always blaming our outrageous behavior - illness-related or not - on our illness.

I cannot disclose what takes place in our friends and families group, but I can mention this much: A father was in tears, at the end of his rope. I felt I needed to jump in, but as a patient. We put you through hell, I said, or words to that effect. But you are the best thing we have going for us. We can't do it without you ...

I noticed the look on his face. I noticed the others in the room were listening intently. No doubt, they had heard this before, but from fellow family members. What made my little homily significant was that this time the words were coming out of the mouth of a patient.

At last, came the thought, someone who understands.

Understanding. Isn't that what we are all looking for?

Much more in future blogs, including what loved ones need to know about us ...


Anonymous said...

I only have had glimpses of compassion from my bi-polar wife. I receive verbal abuse daily. It so hard for me to help & care for her without sacrificing myself. It's a struggle that seems to have no end in site. I know I am helping her, but it's a very long hard winding road.

Anonymous said...

Talk to her. Approach this like any other illness - these symtoms are a lot tougher to deal with, but communication is the key to a better relationship. Communicate your feelings, try and understand hers. Good luck!