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!


About waywardweed

I am a consumer and parent of two sons, one with a mental illness and the other a third-year law student.
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6 Responses to Family-To-Family

  1. Sarah @ bi[polar] curious says:

    I’ve heard great things about the family-to-family program, here in Seattle it fills up months and months and months in advance.

    I can definitely empathize with those living with someone with mental illness (I was raised in a household with a mother with mental illness), but also as someone who is bipolar I can tell you that being on the other side of that coin is not only distressing episodically, but the guilt that comes with having to see family or loved ones suffer because of OUR illness is extremely excruciating. In my own life, the guilt I feel from seeing my family suffering is often a major catalyst for my suicidality.

    Though this may sound a little cruel, a person without mental illness can always remove themselves from the person with mental illness to get a “break”. Unfortunately, someone with mental illness gets no such relief, so -as I said, I can absolutely empathize, but I have trouble when friends and family act victimized.

    Sorry I know that is an intense comment, I was just really moved by what you said. And I love the bit about the casserole, by the way! 🙂

  2. waywardweed says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I also have a MI. If you still have NAMI’s fall 2011 issue of the Advocate you can read my story, “From Both Siides” in the person-first column. Thanks for replying.
    Nancy (Waywardweed)

  3. Justine-Paula Robilliard says:

    Hi Nancy..
    Mental Illness is no joke, what I do not understand is how little about this illness the medical unprofessionals know.. A pinch of this, a spoon of that…

    My mental illness is not a 24 hour 7 days a week, 365 days a year illness, and that I think is the bigger problem, and maybe why the MD’s [Make Dummies] have yet to fully understand what happens..

    My MI affects everyone and everything I do, it colors what I write, what I say, how I act! People tell me to “think my way out of my depression”.. Hello.. a depression is a small hole.. I am in a mine-shaft 20miles deep here. this is no depression…

    The tragedy here is I am screaming I am in trouble and no one hears me.. “Weeping in the wind…” Some days I am bedridden from it, to the point it feels like my head is going to explode, so off to the idiots with degree’s in medicine [hahahaha] meet.. yippers hospitals, and in order to be seen it takes many hours to get a psych doctor.. Bloody idiots only work bankers hours.. By the time the idiots see me, I am sane as a drunk judge..grrrh!!!!

    “You are fine…nothing wrong with you.. discharge her..”Yet 12 hours before I was about to drive headlong into a semi-truck at 80miles an hour… I would like to drive every idiot in a white coat that decided psychiatry was their specialty into the nearest ocean and drown the morons…

    No one understands me… Nothing I say matters.. “Just the rant of the village idiot..”

  4. waywardweed says:

    Hi Justune,
    I don’t blame the professionals. We are just at the beginning … the brain is the last organ that is being given its due, which is funny, in a way, since it’s so vital. For years many blamed poor parenting if something went wrong. In some cases it is, of course, but in many the root cause is biology. Why shouldn’t there be a physical defect in the brain? Every other organ is subject to one. I don’t think this generation will benefit from discoveries that will appear down the pike. At a class I am attending, the speaker said that there will be a major discovery, maybe soon, maybe later. It may be in Parkenson’s disease, Huntington’s, autism, etc., but unlocking the secret to one will cross over to many others. I agree with her premise. In the meantime the best you can do, is chose your providers wisely, continue to advocate for yourself and others with MI so that $$$ will be allocated to research, and look for a community of peers for support for yourself. The latter is where I got the most help.
    Hugs, Nancy

  5. Justine-Paula Robilliard says:

    Hi Nancy…
    The title of this post was Family-to-Family.. which in my case is not.. I do not have a family anymore..

    For the last 30+years, since my parents divorce, the family has been split down the middle, I was the only one that supported my mom, the rest supported my dad, and even though he is/was a bastard, a wife beater etc, child beater.. and after the divorce would refuse to pay child support etc, I was seen as the evil one… Maybe I was/am the evil one..

    I am the idiot in the family, the failure, the black sheep, the freakshow.. in the end everyone in my life that has known me has walked away, my dad, my mom, and lately my brother, the other siblings, they do not want to know me, even though they are in daily contact with my brother..

    As I wind down my life, everything is now in place for the day.. 26th May 2012.. My big and final day.. I am sure that the final act will be a painful affair… I have tried, to tell people, and well there is just nothing that can be done.. I was never someone that came to much.. I am just useless, and my suicide will be the final act in my tortured life… Sorry to have bothered you…bye…

  6. “Such a cruel illness”

    My grandmother’s neighbour and life-time friend (they live across from each other for about 40 years and used to get together almost every day for coffee in the afternoon) was killed by her own son -who suffers from Schizophrenia. He was diagnosed at a very young and spent most of his life at a mental institution. He was in a program where he could spend time with his mother (I think a week a month or something like that). Unfortunately, in one of those visits, he became psychotic, grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed his mother. Such a sad story.

    And I saw my marriage of 15 end because of my own mental issues. It is a very cruel illness indeed!

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