Some days I feel like I should be in group therapy... sitting in a room full of people who start out their introductions with "Hi, my name is... and I'm a..." But my mantra would sound a bit different. "Hi, my name is Heather and I have a loved one(s) who is(are) mentally ill." I would be able to openly discuss the frustrations and pains of loving someone who suffers from an invisible disease. I would talk about how some days I honestly just want a break and others I pray they don't decide today is the day to take their life.
I would share my internal struggle of knowing when to back off and when to push my way in, even when hate is being thrown my way. I would talk about the time I dropped all of my classes at the end of a semester to rescue someone who then threw it all back in my face. I would talk about the feeling of guilt... and oh how it eats away at me. Sometimes it seems like either I am not enough for those who are struggling or I am neglecting my own immediate family. I would talk about the nights spent on my knees pleading with the Lord to "fix" them, only to realize how selfish and wrong that prayer was. I would talk about the feeling of wanting to run away, to cut off all my contact with those sick loved ones.
I would talk about how important it is that in the fight for rights for those with mental illness their loved ones aren't plowed down along the way, because we matter too, we suffer as well. But many times our resources are even more limited than theirs.
I would talk about the one friend I have who has always been okay with me telling her what is happening in my life. How so many people cannot deal with the concepts but her? She knows what to say, whether to crack a joke or just have a mind numbing conversation. She has saved my sanity more than once. I would then talk about Gabe, my loving, kind and patient husband who has loved these people as much as I have. Who has been the strength I needed to say enough is enough at times but also has opened his arms to let my loved ones in. Sometimes when they hurt me or themselves, or someone else we love ... again... He will just hug me. And how he has been burned by every single one of them, just like I have. But, he still loves them too.
I would talk about how imperfect the timing of their episodes seem to be, and the day I realized if it is this inconvenient for my life I wonder how angry they are about the mental illness interrupting their life.
I would talk about the beautiful art and souls that these individuals make and have, that sometimes those intense feelings they have flow over into the most wonderful things. But other times that intensity takes a dark turn, like a storm turning into a tornado, that leaves destruction in it's wake.
I would discuss how much it pained me to watch other people go through similar pain and hurt I have as they tried to help as well. I would invite those people to my imaginary group therapy, so they too could see how much others have been hurt and how much they should not blame themselves.
When I was finished talking I would sit down, exhale and for a second feel relief. I would listen to others and hear their frustrations and pains. I would reflect on how much empathy, strength and wisdom I have gathered from my life experiences. I would ponder how I can do better in the future and I would text a few "I love you"s because I genuinely feel that way and they need to hear it.
Sometimes, a support group would be so nice, especially if I decided I could share my feelings openly. But for now, I have a loving husband, that one friend, and most importantly prayer. I would say in the long run, those three blessings are more than enough to get through the day.