Dear person suffering through mental illness, we need you to know these things. We are your mother, brother, sister, best friend, significant other. We are the ones in your world fighting in the trenches with you.
1. Blame – We don’t blame you. Mostly. We don’t blame you that you have somehow fallen ill and our life together has irrevocably changed. We don’t blame you for the things you’ve done or said when you were mid-zig. We know that you weren’t entirely in control and we understand that these zigs can blindside you. In the main we don’t blame you but there are exceptions.
2. Take your bloody medicine!
When you make yourself vulnerable to a zig by not taking your medicine (on time!) or you don’t exercise or get enough sleep or shower or eat properly, then we sometimes do blame you. We can’t really help it. Because we’re human too, and often times because you’re suffering from a mental illness we likely have one too. We find it hard to understand why you won’t just follow the rules and keep yourself well. And by rules we mean the green prescription rules too – the eating, the drinking, the sleep hygiene, the exercise the getting out of the house and sharing your problems and asking for help rules. For the love of God and all that is holy can you please, please just follow the rules. Watching you not follow them or having to harangue you to get out of bed before midday or go to bed early is not only wearying but it puts us in the caregiver role, when we don’t want to be there. We’re here to help you but not to take over. Especially for a significant other, it’s not a sexy place to be. Who wants to make love with their mother?
3. We get angry
We don’t want to and we probably shouldn’t, but we do. Sadly we reach camel’s back broken point, and we dissolve. Some people are yellers, others are withdrawers – neither way is better. Though admittedly the latter is quieter and easier on the neighbours. We don’t want to get angry with you but we are human (and sometimes we’re depressed too – see above!) and we break. Please don’t pile on the guilt when we break. We’re sorry but we’re broken. We need a damn good vent on Facebook a cry and some semaphore praying to God (who appears right now to be deaf) and we’ll be OK. Being angry doesn’t mean we’re weak or bad. It means we’re human. The human you once fell in love with or befriended.
4. We get flak
It’s a hard thing for you to swallow I know, but you need to hear this – when you’re not treating us well because you’re ill, we get flak from those who love us. We get kind-hearted souls who love us dearly telling us that we should leave you, or kick you out of the house and make you stand on your own two feet. It’s not that those people are agin you, they love us and they see our weariness and our pain. They can’t help wondering if things would be easier for us if we weren’t going through this hell, and right now going through hell appears to be irrevocably linked with living with you. So on top of the pain of the experience and the hateful words and the guilt that we’ve buckled we also get to feel shame that our life/marriage/family isn’t the perfect picture we’ve tried to present it as being. For a Mum and wife in particular this really hurts. On top of everything we feel we have failed. Even sharing our hurt with our friends, counsellors or family feels like we are being disloyal. But we need that support because sometimes having a family member or friend who is mentally ill is one of the loneliest places in the world. Truth.
5. Believe us
I know it’s hard to do but we need you to believe us when we say that we’re on your side. We need you to understand that even though we are angry, hurting, crying, venting we really do still believe in you, and we need you to return that trust. We believe that you can be well and stay well. We believe that we can be happy and that good will triumph over bad. We believe in Star Wars and The Force and Good Will Hunting coming good. Some of us believe in unicorns but that’s a whole other blog post. We need you to believe that we want the best for you. That we’re not about to dupe you, steal from you, purposefully hurt you or mistreat you. We know that sometimes the best for you might not be living with us, but we will wait till you’re well for you to make that decision for yourself. Sometimes our actions might hurt – ringing Mental Health, sending you to hospital, seeking help from an intermediary – and we’re sorry that they do but please believe me when I say, we are trying to help. Honestly.
Most of all we follow this mantra. We tattoo it on our subconscious and read it again and again and again when things are tough and you stomp out the door.
We will keep going, please take our hand and come with us.