Family Mental Illness And Stigma

This is a difficult post.  I have a family member with mental illness, and I myself have recovered from severe clinical depression, a mental illness.    There I said it. Mental illness.  The stigma is humiliating when you call it what it is, but until you do, you can’t deal with it, nor can our society as a whole.

After all, IT ISN’T OUR FAULT we have the genes we have, IT ISN’T OUR FAULT that our symptoms work to shut down our higher order thinking centers at times and color our perceptions of realitybut even our self-judgment is ruthless, much less the judgment of others.  “Mental illness” scares people, and our own denial is really huge to try to overcome.

Go ahead, practice.  “Depression.”  “Anxiety”  “Mood Swings.”  “Mental Illness.”  What pictures come up each time????  But also, what remedy comes up?  You don’t just “snap out of” diabetes or cancer or hearty disease.  And you don’t just snap out of mental illness, although if you think you have “mood swings,’ you might think you should be able to control them.

My children (and my spouses) suffered because of my depression and my grown children still have not forgiven me for it, keep solid boundaries to keep me at a distance, though I am a different person today.  I can’t really blame them, it is good self-care on their part, though I grieved continuously about it for years.

Another family member suffers from bipolar disorder…and I do mean suffers…but everyone around him suffers too, including his infant daughter and former spouse…and everyone who loves him and wants his life to follow the path called “normal.”  The rest of the familyGirl_suffering_form_anxiety_wikicommons views him as a pariah, want nothing whatsoever to do with him, but even having to hold that boundary hurts them too.  After all, we are family.

It is difficult to come to terms with mental illness, especially since it seems to become your identity, both to yourself and to other people who suffer the effects of your illness. It incapacitates you in so many ways, mostly hidden to yourself at the time.  Especially,i thought I was doing a good job as a parent, did not understand until much later how little joy my children had in my home, and how much extra responsibility.

You struggle with your own demons (dragons, I call them), but you also struggle with the effects of the illness on your ability to work, have relationships, especially intimate relationships, and raise your children – and the blowback that comes to you from failures in any of those areas – divorce, being fired, your kids leaving to live with their other parent, perhaps homelessness, just feeds the dragons of fear, anger, depression, self-doubt, hopelessness.  So many people – far too many people – commit suicide to end the struggles.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I had excellent insurance for inpatient and outpatient treatment, and I already had some understanding of the disease I din’t want to admit I had. I have found real recovery and am very grateful for it.

o-HEALING-FROM-A-BROKEN-HEART-facebookMy children are finding their own recovery, in their late thirties. My own recovery didn’t start until my fifties. The young man with the infant daughter he adores?  He is affected more profoundly by his illness, and I have to pray that by some miracle both he and his baby daughter find recovery sooner than we all did – he is in his early twenties and if you are a praying person, he and she could use a prayer – the Universe knows who you mean.

If you suffer from any severe mood disorder, which is a mental illness, yes, you have to face it, I want you to know that there is help and HOPE, and that if you can’t bring yourself find professional help for your own sake, please seek it for the sake of your family.  I send you all my love and I want you to know you are not alone.

hugs, gerry


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