Sunday, November 7, 2010

Finding a Partner in Crime

Happy Fall Back Day Blog Readers!

Before diving into today's post, I want to say this post is purely a reflection of my own experience and thoughts - no facts and no articles.

I've always enjoyed the movie 'Love Actually.' It always gets me excited to begin the holiday season. That, and it always makes me hopeful for true love; I won't bore you on that topic as it's probably suited for an entirely different blog... It's funny, I've probably seen the movie 5 or 6 times, but I had completely forgotten the story behind one of the main characters. Laura Linney's character Sarah is shown answering several phone calls that the viewer is to see as interrupting her life - as she works, spends time with friends, and is even in the middle of getting hot and heavy with a coworker. You're not quite sure where the story is going until Sarah receives yet another phone call and her side of the conversation goes something like this: "no honey I don't believe the Pope is around this time of night." "Well sure, I'm sure the Pope is quite good at exorcisms but that's just not an option tonight." "No, I'm not busy, what do you need?" (As a note, this is a great example of delusions - the blurring of reality with something that is far from possible) Christmas Eve comes around and cut to Sarah sitting in a room at an institution with her obviously disturbed brother. How could I have forgotten all about this character and the struggles she faces as a sibling to someone with mental illness. She has dedicated her life to serving her brother with mental illness.

Interestingly enough, I was recently having a conversation with Anna about dating, marriage, etc as it relates to being a sibling of someone with a mental illness. As a young 20s something single woman, dating is hard enough. But in my early 20s I'm already thinking "well, gosh, I have to end up with someone that can handle 'this'" - 'this' being the up and down, cyclical nature of Brian's disease. It's not easy to stomach the delusions, the hallucinations and the sometimes violent nature of someone suffering psychotic breaks. Therefor, I've gotten accustomed to not expecting anyone to understand or being able to relate. Instead, I protect those that I don't think can handle it and avoid conversation about Brian. Several times I've found myself terribly emotional and guilty thinking about the fact that I'm hiding his life and his struggles from people that also mean something to me. I'm sure others have felt this way but for quite some time I thought I was alone. My very best friends assure me that one day, I will find someone that is in this with me - fighting against stigma and Brian's illness as a team.

At some point in my life, I will be a caretaker. Never have my parents 'expected' this from me, but it only feels naturally that in 20 years when it is harder for my parents to care for him, I step up - do my part in the family. Life is not easy for a person living with mental illness, but life is also not easy for those that are supporting them. I think it's important for people to know that those individuals you can trust are those that will discuss mental illness, will try to relate and will support you in your and your family's fight.

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1 comment:

  1. Throughout my brother’s illness, I have had constant worry about his safety. My therapist once told me “you will find the one you are supposed to spend the rest of your life with when you find the person that takes some of this unnecessary worry away.” Your life partner will share this worry with you. My own worries have interfered with relationships in the past due to someone not understanding. It is hard for an individual outside of the situation to understand that you will drop anything to speak to your sibling or to see your sibling. I would sacrifice a relationship in order to be there for my brother. So, a relationship is not going to be successful until that is understood. During my brother’s first hospitalization, I was dating a boy that was very unsupportive. When Gabe was released and on his way home, the boy I was dating would not stay at my house to have dinner with our family. I think that he felt uncomfortable about the situation and did not know what to say to Gabe. But I did not know what to say to Gabe because there is nothing you can say. You cannot ask “hey, how was that locked psych ward you were in?” All you can do is hug that person and welcome them home. They will do the talking if they want to talk. They will tell you everything they want to get off their mind. Or they may not; they may sit and talk about current events. This was a point when I knew that I could not continue that relationship.

    But at the same time, I wonder how even more difficult this feels for the mentally ill individual. How do you find a partner to support your illness? Luckily, Gabe has found a partner. He has found someone that will support him in his depressions and his mania. He has found someone that will help him get through the times when he feels like hurting himself. This is a person he completely trusts.

    I believe that when you find the person you are supposed to send the rest of your life with you will feel at ease discussing your sibling’s illness. And you will feel fully supported by your partner.

    Please contact us to share your story or if you have any questions.

    Thanks for reading,