Life.. it’s complicated and messy. No one gets out of here unscathed by the rigors of life. However, not everyone handles life’s obstacles in the same way; largely due to how each of us perceives our life and the lives of the people around us.
I have always traveled down a difficult path, and some bad things have happened as a result. I am not the only one affected by my path because I have a family, and children who love me.
When you are in a family, you love the members unconditionally, but unconditional love comes with a price. The often difficult task of understanding and loving the one with the ill mind.
Love can bring a lot of unpleasantness. The reason love can hurt us so badly, is our close proximity to the ones we love.
I wrote a post about perception several months ago. If you read it, you know I think our beliefs, morals, boundaries, goals, everything in our lives, varies, based on how we perceive events in our lives. It amazes me that because of perception, every member of a family can live through and survive the same tragedies, and yet, end up having completely different experiences.
We are hardest on our families. We have higher expectations of them because we feel being in a family has certain implications.
When family has expectations we can’t live up to, and then degrades our capabilities, we feel like failures.
****When someone in the family has been through a tremendous amount of pain, compounded by addiction and mental illness, it alters their life in a way no one can quite understand, unless you have been there.****
The sad truth is that every single person in my family can read the above paragraph and relate somehow. They either went through something horrific as well, battled addiction, mental illness, or they have been affected by a loved ones’ suffering. For me, I became a victim of my own mind, and felt alone, and felt no one could possibly understand.
The stigma of mental illness and the stigma of addiction often go hand in hand.
The battles are different for everyone. Some go completely off the deep end with addiction. They are the type depicted in films, books, the media, and unfortunately, so much damage occurs for everyone around them. Not everyone fits that category.
Never in my life was I compelled to steal from people (especially family), violate, do physical harm, or sell my body for a “rock”, a bottle, or a shot.
Episodes of mental Illness have not sent me running naked in the streets or caused me to hear voices telling me to chop up my family. People usually don’t know I have issues, until I tell them.
Research suggests that the majority of people hold negative attitudes and stereotypes toward people with mental illness as well as addiction. Hell, I’m guilty of stereotypical views myself, sometimes. I didn’t realize I was being self-deprecating until I just snapped to it one day. My user name for many of my online profiles is, CrazyinOk82: Stigma was rearing its ugly head, and I didn’t even realize it. That’s how powerful stigma is.
Often the negative stereotypes are perceptions that people with mental illness are dangerous. This perception is fueled by the media who usually paint violent perpetrators as “mentally ill” without providing the context of the broad spectrum of mental illness.
What is “crazy”, is that ignorance is not the only thing causing this huge lack of understanding. It’s the damn healthcare professionals themselves. They often hold to the same stereotypes.
This is so frustrating because everyone, especially the mentally ill, look to the professionals for guidance, understanding and support. When their view of you is altered due to rampant stigma, you can’t trust the treatment you receive or stop seeing them. Who is everyone going to listen to anyway? The healthcare professionals, or the “crazy people”. Yeah, you already know.
As long as there is a grain of truth to a stereotype, some people are going to hold it as the gospel truth.
Meanwhile, families are being torn apart. Misunderstanding and lack of effective communication can cause irreparable harm. Change doesn’t happen overnight, I get that. A great place to cultivate a foundation for change, is at home.
It’s easier to give your friend a break, be empathetic and understanding, than it is to extend the same courtesy to someone you have been around your whole life. The issues hit too close to home.
Being mentally ill is incredibly lonely. I feel like no one gets me and never will. In everyones eyes, I am just a fuck up. I make bad choices, I’m selfish, lazy, full of excuses, and those are just a few of the lovely gems I have heard coming from “a loving place” in my lifetime. One of the worst things you can say to me is that drugs, alcohol, or my choice of partner are the cause of my issues. Those things are symptoms of a much bigger problem.
When we misunderstand mental illness — and its gravity — we do damage. Rather than give individuals our understanding, compassion and support when they need it most, we intensify their struggle.
I read an article a college student wrote, likening mental illness to an iceberg. The part everyone can see on the surface: The impulsive behavior, mania, major depression, substance abuse, inability to get out of bed, suicide ideation, etc.
Under the surface of the water, is a big part of the structure no one sees; obsessions such as; fear of abandonment, fear of causing harm to others and the feeling that something bad is going to happen. The loneliness and depression that is fought almost every day, make it impossible to see any light, sometimes.
It is very easy to focus on things that are superficial and visible, but it is what is anchoring these behaviors, that are the main problem – and this is what the general public should be educated about.
Alcoholism and addiction are progressive diseases. THEY GET WORSE OVER TIME. Alcoholics didn’t just decide to chug a gallon of vodka one day because everything is so right inside of them. Addicts don’t start out with a needle in their arm. No. Their first drink or drug was the same way it was for you! With friends having a good time!
I have never met someone who out of the blue, woke up one day and said, “You know what I need? A bag of heroin and a syringe.”
When I tried to speak from my heart about what life is like for me, my sister and Mom became irate and the interpersonal skill of communication, was nonexistent. They thought I was being self- absorbed because I had been writing a lot instead of paying attention to the family. I validated their feelings , understood, and put my phone away. It didn’t matter.
They don’t understand that sometimes I need to be in this cocoon. Especially, to stay safe from my sister’s powerful energy. She is so angry and internalizes everything. She is also very powerful. When she feels any kind of way, you know it.
The content of what they are saying to me is not helping me. It’s hurting me. Trying to make me feel like less than a human being, or a person undeserving of decency (treatment I get from my sister) and the ever present guilt trip my mother puts on me when I cannot do the simplest things she wants me to do just gives me more feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness when no one understands.
The link below is what I was attempting to talk with them about, while referencing the importance of my work. Instead of being met with support, I was devalued and told everything I have to say is shit, even when I sat there and took it, agreed with them, anything to make it stop…
Do you know what helps? Not feeling alone or isolated, being validated, supported and loved unconditionally.
According to data from the National Institutes of Health, nearly one in five Americans — 43.8 million people — live with mental illness.
Luna Greenstein, marketing and communications manager at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says,
“Storytelling accomplishes more than most probably realize,”It helps people feel less alone, and it cultivates empathy and compassion. “Additionally, it’s a great form of education for the aspects of mental illness that are hardest to understand.”
All I was trying to say to my family is this is why what I’m doing is so important.
I might not ever get through to my sister and mother. That’s a shame because as far as a support system goes, I am seriously lacking. Since I don’t fit the mold they have for mental illness, they don’t get me or realize how debilitating my illness is. I found my voice finally, it only took about 38 years. I know that I am on the path I am supposed to be on.
My kids will get this, even if not right away, they will. The reason they will, is they’re smart, empathetic, and they have a dad and step-mom educating them and allowing them to form their own identities separate from theirs. It’s exactly the way I wanted to raise my kids. We might not always see eye to eye and that’s ok. Simply aiming for understanding is awesome, progressive, and supportive. I truly hope they know and understand how grateful I am.
This is not the life I wanted, yet here I am. I’m sorry to anyone who has ever been affected negatively by my words, or actions. Please know, it was never my intention.
Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, its it’s not for them.Joubert Botha
***I do not want to give the impression my family is horrible. I am simply trying to show the other side of these scenerios. No one ever thinks people with mental illness know how we affect everyone around us. Trust me, the mentally ill get it. ***
****Also,this communication issue needs to be resolved. If you would like more information about loving someone in your family who is afflicted with a mental illness, please click here.