Coping with mental illness in a family


computer and meThis is the story of one family, my family, the story of millions of families all over the world.

This is the way we learned to cope with mental illness in our family,  but it took a long time.

  • We learned that mental illness cannot be cured.
  • Despite our best efforts, symptoms got worse but of course, they could improve.
  • I knew that when I felt resentful, I was giving too much of myself.
  • I learned that it was harder for our son to accept his disorder as it was for the rest of us.
  • Acceptance of mental illness was very hard.
  • It took us a long time to learn that a delusion would not go away so it was better for us all not to get into a discussion with our son on that subject.
  • I learned a lot about myself as I learned about David’s psychiatric disorder.
  • I tried my hardest to separate David from his illness but did not always succeed. I loved him even while I hated schizophrenia.
  • I also found it difficult to separate the side effects of his medication from him.
  • I knew that it was not okay when I neglected myself because I had needs and wants like the rest of the people out there.
  • We  knew that no one could be blamed for causing schizophrenia and that it was nothing to be ashamed of but at first, it took me a long time before I could talk about it.
  • I had to learn to talk about it because my anger was destroying me.
  • While my husband always used a sense of humor when dealing with our son, I lost mine. I never saw anything amusing.
  • I realized that I had to renegotiate my emotional relationships.
  • I had to revise my expectations. Success for each of our family members was different.
  • As a survival orientated response to the things that were occurring in our house, I shut down my emotional life instinctively. Maybe I should have resisted this.
  • My inability to talk about my feelings at the beginning, left me stuck, frozen.
  • Our family relationships were in disarray in the confusion of schizophrenia.
  • Our family became emotionally enmeshed while other people became estranged, not wanting to be part of the ‘madness’ in the family, afraid that our son would call too often or visit too often. He called but never visited without an invitation.
  • After sadness and a whole lot of anger, I reached the acceptance stage.
  • I reminded myself continuously that mental illness is a biological brain disease. This helped a lot.
  • I learned from the members of the support group that we joined, to look at the half full cup.
  • I learned from these wonderful, supportive people to do something I liked every single day. I walked along the beach and watched the sun set. I became more appreciative of nature.
  • It was soothing to visit a good friend and then, I joined a creative writing group. I think that’s what changed my life dramatically as I could tap on the keys of my computer and escape from my real life into one of fantasy, writing stories about anything I wanted. This helped me a great deal and over the years, when my husband passed away, it was my writing that was the best therapy. Once again I attended a support group and the widows helped one another. Belonging to a support group was for me the best thing I could have done.
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