Jon Press opens up about having bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses in his family. Do people ask you how things are going? He suggests responding with HONESTY. Here’s why:
Hey guys! It’s Jon Press for BP Magazine’s BP Hope online community.
I grew up with a sibling who had a serious mental illness. My parents spent an enormous amount of emotional energy and money to get her the best treatments available. But her choices and actions were often destructive both to herself and to our family.
My mother would often refer to these incidents as “private family matters”. And I grew up actively keeping the secret. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that the work of hiding a family member’s mental illness was both toxic and isolating, not to mention exhausting.
She did know who tell or how to ask for help. Was this supposed to be another “private family matter”? What would happen if our friends knew? Our church? My employer? On top of this, her best friend and life partner wasn’t able to participate in the conversations or offer opinions.
Caring for a bipolar loved one can be extremely emotionally draining. Author Anne Lamott wrote, “You own everything that has ever happened to you.” It’s import to keep in mind that bipolar does not just affect the person living with it. It impacts families. It’s happening to you – the caretaker. You need care and support too!
So what does this look like?
Process your feelings and concerns with a trusted advisor or therapist. It’s natural to focus on your loved one’s issues and behavior. But make sure to talk about your feelings and emotions too. It might be time to talk about a few family secrets in a safe, confidential environment.
Figure out what fills your tank and be vigilant to carve out time for it. Use this time to focus on something other than bipolar disorder. Staying rested and refreshed can help you to avoid feeling isolated and prevent compassion fatigue.
As people became aware of our situation, people would say things like, “Let us know if we can do anything.” They legitimately wanted to help but didn’t know how.
So we learned to be specific when asking for help. “Thank you so much! Actually, we could really use dinner on Thursday.” Honestly, it felt a little weird asking. We felt a little self-conscious. But hey – we got a great meal and some breathing room!
One more note about asking for help – despite the best of intentions, friends may not always follow through. Resist the urge to interpret this as rejection. Do your best to let them off the hook. And ask someone else.
I’d like to end with a shout out to the friends and family members that support us. Thank you for your sacrifice, patience, and love! We live better because of you.
Ok, so we’ve talked about some challenging stuff this week. I’d love to hear how you practice self-care when caring for a loved one. Share with us in the space below!
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community