Separating My Mother From The Disease - When You Love Somone With Mental Illness
When You Love Someone With Mental Illness - How Do Separate Your Loved One From The Disease?
When I think back to my early years of life, and my mother, there are so many bittersweet moments of thought! When my mom was on point and feeling ok, she would laugh and be creative, as she loved to draw and sing. We did have rare moments with her and I try to focus on those memories.
After my brother’s passing, my mom never regained her moments of happiness, as it was all replaced with sorrow and pain. As a child I always studied her, as I wanted so desperately to understand where my mom went. I used to think, is she still in there?
As I grew up and all of the anger got in the way, I had a very hard time even wanting to understand her, but something inside of my always drew me back to working at it. That draw “Love”. I loved her, and I wanted to understand who she was as a person. I also needed to understand this disease that was robbing me of my mom!
It was hard work, but I took the time to educate myself on all levels of what mental illness was about and how it affects everyone differently. I learned about different medications and how many people in society were over medicated.
I learned how to be an advocate for my mother, and to use my voice to help her express her desires and wishes. Trying to give her as much respect and dignity as possible and finding balance with her care/treatment. What a fine line when the daughter becomes the caregiver.
Along the way, I had to learn how to overcome the stigmas placed upon my mother and other people just like her, plus put aside my own personal pain of the past to get to know who Joann really was! It took a lot of work, and patience. Many times, I was awful at it, as I would be infuriated by her behaviors, and mean words that she would throw in my direction. I could have easily walked away countless times, but I never did. I put in the work and learned who my mother really was a human being. In her candid moments we had some great conversation, and her heart truly was caring and loving.
Along the way, I had to come to terms with my past abuse, and my “not so normal” childhood. I had to accept it, work through healing and understand her all at the same time, plus balance my own growing family. This was very hard, and at times extremely over-whelming, but I did it. The more I educated myself about her illness it helped me wrap my head around her behavior, and how I could best relate to her. Trust me there was a lot of give and take. Her taking and me giving, as she would physically and emotionally drain me during her times of mania/depression. We traveled a long and winding road together that is for sure.
The best advice I can give to anyone who is going through this is to first offer kindness and compassion even when you might not fully understand what is truly going on. Then educate yourself from fact and fiction. There is a lot of misguided thoughts and opinions about Mental Health issues, so dig deep and get the true answers. Also, when you need to take space, remind yourself it is OK. NO guilt!!
We all need a moment to breathe, and if you need that moment take it, your loved one may not be happy about it, but you need that for your own benefit. It is ok to set limits and have boundaries, and still love and care for someone.
The hardest part of this in a nutshell, is finding balance in unbalanced emotions and feelings on both sides of the fence. Walking into the unknown never feels good.
Find what works best for you and the relationship, as it will be different for everyone, but the common theme here is “understanding” “educating” “compassion” “boundaries”. It all takes dedication, work, and commitment.
My mother’s worst fear was that everyone would leave her, and as she watched people slowly drop out of her life because of her personal struggles it became harder for her to trust in anyone. Family, Doctors, Friends she always had her guard up! I cannot blame her for feeling that way, as she struggled tremendously.
In closing today, I would just like to say that when you love someone who is struggling do not let yourself get lost in the mania/chaos. You still need to protect yourself along this journey. Take your space when you need it. Do not allow anyone to treat you so poorly that you feel you deserve it, and most of all do not feel guilt. When you are committed and there being present and consistent, feel good about it, even when it may not feel good in the hard moments. You are learning how to care for someone who needs love, help and support. I commend you on “Embracing The Journey”.