Even though I have my Cracker Jack PhD in psych, making me an expert in all things mental illness, I am taking NAMI’s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) twelve-week course. I figured there is always something new to learn, and at the very least be with people who share the same sorrows, who understand where I’m coming from without explaining myself, ad nauseam.
What’s most valuable is the support from my fellow members, and while I hate to admit it, “misery loves company.” There are people in my group with stories that make your head turn 360 degrees. A woman mentioned that her son almost killed a police officer this year. Thank goodness he didn’t or he’d be spending his life behind bars (probably in solitary confinement), despite his MI. Another man is suffering because his wife is “no longer the person he married.” He still loves her, or tries to, even though she is a stranger and put their child at risk. He can barely get the words out with the misery etched on his face. And the rest of us–one by one the stories continue, each sadder than the next.
MI is not of your “casserole” variety illness where neighbors drop by bringing dinner, desserts, and needed support. You are left on your own to pick up the residue, the enigmatic remains in search for a new normal, which lands you in alien territory, often hostile.
In addition, having a loved one with a mental illness results in universal depression where others in the family suffer, too. I can attest to that, and all members in my group are struggling with grief whether it’s been one year or twenty since they began this unwelcome, disheartening journey. Such a cruel illness!