Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


5 Tips If You Love Someone with Mental Illness

posted by Beyond Blue

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I loved this post by Elvira Aletta, Ph.D. on Psychcentral! To view the entire post, click here. I have excerpted her five tips for people who love persons afflicted with mental illness.

1) Be informed.

Go to the library or do a Google search to learn more about whatever diagnosis our loved one has. Be judicious, however. Go to reliable websites like the Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Mental Health. I am proud to be part of the Psych Central community primarily because the information you find here is accurate, responsible and scientifically supported. As you do your research, remember that mental illness falls along a continuum of severity. One person’s depression, bipolar or borderline personality disorder may be quite different from someone else’s.

2) Join supportive organizations.

Before you reject the idea of support groups because you are “not a joiner” or you “can’t relate to those people,” go to at least two meetings. I’d bet my favorite pair of shoes that you will be surprised who is there and what you get from them. Mental illness and addictions touch people everywhere from all walks of life.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, provides thousands of families with much needed support. NAMI’s mission statement says: From its inception in 1979, NAMI has been dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. They have a terrific website and local meetings.

Al-Anon also has a great tradition of fellowship and comfort. Al-Anon and Alateen are a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope in order to solve their common problems. There are meetings everywhere, at all times of the day and night, all around the world.

3) Keep healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are hard to maintain when you love someone with a mental illness, but it is crucial. Take time out for yourself. Nurture yourself by exercising, keeping involved in activities that bring you pleasure, getting respite and taking a trip. Keep up your connections to friends. Such actions are not self-indulgent, they are your prescription for good health and resiliency like food, water, and air.

4) Do not work harder than your loved one.

It is their job to do what they can to get well. You cannot make them well. You cannot do their therapy homework. You cannot force them to go to sessions, groups or meetings. As much as you wish you could, you cannot take their medication for them.

Two good books to help you let go, even as you maintain a relationship with the person with mental illness, are Co-dependent No More by Melody Beattie and Stop Walking On Eggshells by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger. It doesn’t matter whether or not your mentally ill love is an addict or a borderline personality disorder. The insight and advice in these books are reassuring and practical and transcend diagnosis.

5) Find a therapist for yourself.

Caregivers often get depressed themselves and could use a professional’s eyes and ears to help them gain perspective again. Please do not wait until you are down for the count before you give yourself this valuable gift.

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.



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posted April 29, 2010 at 3:16 pm


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Annette Lilley

posted May 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm


Not only am I trying to help my son who just resently moved into his own apartment after a year in a half way house, but his daughter as well. He started on drugs at the age of 15 and is now 42. Five years ago I moved back to Co.from AZ as Co. was my home and my husband had passed away almost two years prior. It was my understanding I would buy a home and they would live with me and my son and I would share the financial aspect and I would help with his daughter then 5. Only if he stayed off drugs and try to get some technical training. Which he was doing when I came. When they moved in he handed my granddaughter over to me. He paid little attention to her and about six months into this situation he went back to drugs and dropped out of school. I told him many times to leave, but to no avail. He gave me less and less money and I was dipping heavily into what I had put into an annuity that gave me extra income along with my SS. Also my granddaughter was having a terrible time. Full of anger and rage and at times needing me to rock her, feed her and clothe her. I sought therapy for her which lasted 1 year. Now five years later she is in Mt.St.Vincent home for troubled children. She is extremely depressed, psycotic and also has also been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She’s been at Mt St. Vincent since Feb 2nd. My question is this: Her parents were on meth and alcohol when she was conceived and I can only guess this was also the case during her gesstation. I do know for a fact that she was inhaling the fumes from burning or whatever it’s called to make meth into a liquid so they can inject it. When she was 14 months old I put on a sting to get her away from her mother and taken into the system whereby my x-husband and his wife were waiting to become foster parents for her. Since meth changes the brain chemicals in users, can it change the chemicals in a growing fetus’s brain and continue during the child’s early developement? I’ve asked this question of the many people, and doctor’s involved and no one seems to know. I’ve been reassured with medication she’ll be all right in time, but is that just hope? Is her brain capable of functioning normally? I find no studies or information through the web on this. I find this surprising due to the epidemic on drugs. I have to believe there are many disfunctioning children from drug addicted parents. Not all disturbed but some who are whom we are perhaps not aware of. Do you know where I could find any information on this? I’ve already checked the Mayo clinic and, many, many others to no avail. Am I fighting a losing battle and need to except her physical abuse toward me, her cutting herself, her outbursts and her ghost friend and the many enemy ghosts she sees. The medicine she’s taking is not doing the trick. I’m broke, but will have to fnd a way to hold things together so there will be a home for her to come home to. I’m physically, emotionally, and financially depleated. I’m driving a car that’s about to fall apart and have dental problems I can’t aford to fix and this child is growing like a weed. At ten she’s 4’11″ and weighs 90 lbs. Also one show size larger than when she left. Keeping up with this is challenge enough, but am I fighting a losing battle? I miss her terribly but I truly can’t take her back and have her be the way she was. I pray constantly. I cry all the time. I see the therapist on Fridays for family therapy, but I fear this child’s outcome. HELP!
Thank you and may God Bless. Annette



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Deli

posted May 4, 2011 at 4:07 am


Annette, I’m not a professional in the mental health field, but I do struggle with depression/anxiety myself. My heart aches for what you are going through with your family. I can tell it’s totally overwhelming for you; it would be for anyone. None of this is your fault.

I will pray for you that our loving Heavenly Father will hold you securely in His hands, comfort your heart, heal your wounds, alleviate your pain, work healing & wholeness for your entire family & bless you in ways you cannot imagine, in Jesus’ name.

Do you have a supportive church? Some churches are more understanding than others. Try to find one whose leadership has training or experience in the mental health field. Do not stick with a church that offers you no love, friendship, support, kindness, understanding, or prayers. You are too precious & valuable to waste on that kind of religiosity.

Keep up with the therapist if it’s helping; we need all the support we can get. Have you tried medication support for yourself, so you can function in your own life? Keep trying others if the first few meds do not work for you. There are literally dozens of meds available for depression & anxiety; some work better than others for different people.

Are you eligible for government assistance with Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, the local food bank? Programs have had their funding cut all over, but there is some help still available. Some churches have auxiliary food closets for their congregations & others in the faith community.

God bless you! I will continue to pray for you & the whole situation.

Your sister in Christ, Deli



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Shirley J. Stephens

posted May 9, 2011 at 6:31 am


My daughter was diagnosed as bipolar, obcessive/compulsive & schizophenic about 30 years ago. She was never on drugs but refuses to take her meds and is very paranoid. She lives by herself but has many living-related issues. Being that she won’t acknowledge her disability, she has no monetary help that she would quality for and is dependent on me (which she hates!)for her living and has no monetary help that she would qualify for. She’s had many jobs and has a BS degree in accounting. She feels over-qualified for jobs that are availabe so consequently doesn’t have a job. At this time, her paranoia is the hardest for me to deal with. I DO have a supportive church and lots of prayers. I’m 76 years old and my concern is for her when I’m gone. God has been my support all these years and I give Him the praise & glory for that. I covet your prayers – thank you. Shirley



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maryann moon

posted May 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm


A person with any kind of disease does not exist. Mental or physical. We are essentially spirit beings
and spirits don’t go insane. That means however that it is insane to believe this world is real, because
it isn’t . A Course in Miracles says “this journey you make is a journey without distance”. That means
there’s no distance between anyone or anything. We are all One. Plane ‘SEEM TO” fly between
distances but planes do not exist, because distance does not exist.



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Ellie

posted May 10, 2011 at 10:04 am


Annette,
My heart goes out to you and your granddaughter. I have bipolar disorder, and although I have never done meth, I know someone who used to be an addict. Have hope for you son. It is possible to quit, even for a long-time user. As for whether exposure to meth has affected your granddaughter, I just did a quick search on the internet and found an article in the Journal of Neuroscience: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20237258 Also, I haven’t watched this, but there is a video on YouTube called Brain Development & Addiction with Dr. Gabor Mate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpHiFqXCYKc. The comments for this video look mostly good. I also looked for a video about how exercise and nutrition can help brain functioning & moods, but I can’t find it right now. Neuroscience is still evolving, and the brain is still a mystery. But I think it is generally accepted that the brain is very plastic (as in it can grow and change and make new pathways around problem areas) — especially in children. Your granddaughter’s fate is not written in stone, even though she has been exposed to drugs. Your love & support are helping her greatly. And I think that since she’s ten, it’s important for her not to form an identity as a schizophrenic. She has an illness that can be helped with medication. You wrote that the medication is not working, which is something you should address with the doctors and discuss with your therapist. I wonder if she has been misdiagnosed? I was first diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and then with bipolar disorder. Perhaps you could ask why the medication might not be working, and for a list of alternative medications. But maybe the medication needs more time to have an effect. It can take a long time for positive changes to happen. For me, I was stabilized in the first couple of months, and I have not had another manic episode (which can include delusions similar to seeing ghosts), but I still struggle with depression. I believe that your granddaughter has a great chance at leading a normal life, with love & support from you and others, even if she needs medication along the way. Also, it sounds like you are financially & emotionally overwhelmed. NAMI and other organizations have support groups for relatives of people with mental illnesses. Also, I’m guessing that since your son is 42, that you might be a senior. I volunteer at our local Area Agency on Aging (there is one in your area, too. You can look it up here: http://www.n4a.org You can also try the Eldercare Locator: http://www.eldercare.gov/) In our office, we have resources for grandparents who are raising grandchildren. You might qualify for financial help, but I don’t know for sure. God bless you and your granddaughter. My thoughts and prayers go out to you in your time of need, that you will be strengthened and encouraged and healed through divine love.



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Pamela

posted May 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm


Annette,
I will be praying for you and your granddaughter. I venture to say that any type of drug would cross the placenta and cause some brain damage, however, I would think that her incapable parents probably contributed as much to her mental state. Professionals are so successful today in helping children with mental illness. You just need to remind her [as I am sure that you do] that she is loved.



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Pamela

posted May 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm


Shirley,
I will pray for you and your situation. You could look into setting up a special needs trust for your daughter to support her financially. We’ve done that for our autistic son. NAMI might have more information about caring for adults with mental illness and preparing them for the future. God bless.



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Ellie

posted May 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm


Annette,
My heart goes out to you and your granddaughter. I have bipolar disorder, and although I have never done meth, I know someone who used to be an addict. Have hope for you son. It is possible to quit, even for a long-time user. As for whether exposure to meth has affected your granddaughter, I just did a quick search on the internet and found an article in the Journal of Neuroscience: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20237258 Also, I haven’t watched this, but there is a video on YouTube called Brain Development & Addiction with Dr. Gabor Mate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpHiFqXCYKc. The comments for this video look mostly good. I also looked for a video about how exercise and nutrition can help brain functioning & moods, but I can’t find it right now. Neuroscience is still evolving, and the brain is still a mystery. But I think it is generally accepted that the brain is very plastic (as in it can grow and change and make new pathways around problem areas) — especially in children. Your granddaughter’s fate is not written in stone, even though she has been exposed to drugs. Your love & support are helping her greatly. And I think that since she’s ten, it’s important for her not to form an identity as a schizophrenic. She has an illness that can be helped with medication. You wrote that the medication is not working, which is something you should address with the doctors and discuss with your therapist. I wonder if she has been misdiagnosed? I was first diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and then with bipolar disorder. Perhaps you could ask why the medication might not be working, and for a list of alternative medications. But maybe the medication needs more time to have an effect. It can take a long time for positive changes to happen. For me, I was stabilized in the first couple of months, and I have not had another manic episode (which can include delusions similar to seeing ghosts), but I still struggle with depression. I believe that your granddaughter has a great chance at leading a normal life, with love & support from you and others, even if she needs medication along the way. Also, it sounds like you are financially & emotionally overwhelmed. NAMI and other organizations have support groups for relatives of people with mental illnesses. Also, I’m guessing that since your son is 42, that you might be a senior. I volunteer at our local Area Agency on Aging (there is one in your area, too. You can look it up here: http://www.n4a.org You can also try the Eldercare Locator: http://www.eldercare.gov/) In our office, we have resources for grandparents who are raising grandchildren. You might qualify for financial help, but I don’t know for sure. God bless you and your granddaughter. My thoughts and prayers go out to you in your time of need, that you will be strengthened and encouraged and healed through divine love.



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