Nobody talks about having an adult mentally ill family member. It is not safe in our society to discuss having a child, sibling or parent who is mentally ill. When I say it is not safe, I don’t mean you will be physically abused but there will be social consequences beyond what I could digest until I hit 50. I want to do something about this. Is it about educating people? Is it about our culture and it’s values?
Pride is a major enemy. If your loved one is acting psychotic or doing antisocial behaviors you are judged or worse, you feel judged at every turn…just be stricter or just be kinder or stop spending money on him/her or get better more expensive help or stuff…it is an internal dialogue that only hurts your pride when someone says it out loud. And then it destroys relationships.
I see people every week in my job whose anxiety and depression grow silently while they age and the toll of time wears them down. Marriages get destroyed, finances dwindle,the fear of dying and leaving your loved one alone or worse just not being able to help them from the grave haunts you so you push through life with your own soul feeling victimized.
The reason I want to DO something about this is that in my job as a therapist and psychiatric administrator, I see people get better just having a safe place to go to talk about it. Their lives aren’t perfect but in “tweaking” their perspective, their self-talk improves and they face the situation from a healthier perspective and everybody wins. Just like when close girlfriends gather and bond.
It’s living with the reality that there is no “solution” it’s just accepting that mental health is like laundry, if you are alive and wearing something…you will always have more laundry. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s just life. I can go crazy with this metaphor…getting stains out…allergies to detergents…color boosters…bleach….not letting your kids do their own laundry…doing your parents laundry…parents doing your laundry after 50…I used to joke with my colleagues when my washer was broken for a month about starting a support group for people with broken washers or dryers….
As a mother, daughter, sister and friend we do our laundry in private but occasionally we talk about how we do it better or a trick we learned to help with a laundry problem. We don’t take it as seriously as maybe they did when “The Stepford Wives” was written but when Felice asked me to write an article for her new magazine, I thought this might be a good time to start my personal and professional journey to create a dialogue about this kind of laundry.