A SUPPORT GROUP, OR NOT A SUPPORT GROUP. THAT IS THE QUESTION.
At last I found a place where I could talk to people who understood what I was saying and feeling. It surprised me to hear that some parents had come to terms with the illnesses of their loved ones. Others blundered along exhausted and afraid, waiting for miracles, always on the verge of tears or a depression.
My husband was one of four men present. ‘Where are your husbands?’ he asked the assembled group. And this is what we heard.
‘My husband cannot cope with schizophrenia,’ a defeated-looking woman said. ‘He works nights.’
‘My husband goes to his parents’ house after work every day,’ said another.
‘My husband has a girlfriend,’ a said woman said, crying softly. ‘He can’t bear coming home to mental illness day after day.’
We heard about other husbands who had fled, blaming the termination of their marriages on the tension generated by mental illness in the family.
Each of us mourned a young person whose life had changed drastically. Shock, loss, grief, fear, confusion, ambivalence, guilt, helplessness, despair and sadness were common reactions. I learned from that group that my problems in coping with my feelings came from doing so without the added comfort of extended family and close friends. Maybe I had failed to let them in when they had tried to break through the barrier I had constructed around myself.