When someone you love has been diagnosed with a mental illness, you are going to feel a “gamut” of emotions ranging from panic to guilt to relief and everything in between. The caveat to take from this: All of these emotions are understandable and normal. There, I’ve said it!
Most of the time we feel that no matter how much we try to fix the situation, there’s always something else we can do. You have to remember that YOU are NOT to blame for a loved one’s mental illness. Mental illnesses are caused by various factors that work together such as genetics, environment, and life experiences.
Your role as a caregiver can play a huge role in helping a person recover, work towards their goals and stay well. This is all great to hear; however, you’re sometimes stressed out to the limit, and you feel like part of the problem and not part of the solution to their overall well-being. One thing I mentioned in my last article is the importance of self-care. This is what it all boils down to. Our own needs [as caregivers] are just as important. If we are not well, it’s harder to help someone else to recovery. I am including two tips I’ve found very useful to assist us in this concept so that we can get back to being that great advocate for our loved one.
1. Learn More – Take the time to learn more about mental illnesses. The NAMI Family-to-Family Peer Education Course is a great segue into this endeavour. However just going to a local library, or even scouring the information highway [the Internet], you can find a plethora of information through many provincial or local branches of community organizations dedicated to assisting those with mental illnesses.
2. Join a Support Group – This venue is very therapeutic for some people to know that they can come to a place and connect with people who understand what they’re going through. We are very fortunate in Cornwall to have such a support group established. The Cornwall & District Family Support Group meets once a month, and for more information on this support group, please visit our website at http://www.ListenToFamilies.ca.
Or it could be as simple as reading a book, having coffee with a friend, going for a walk, swimming, etc. The aim here is to give your loved one 100% of your best self rather than a smaller percentage of your stressed-out self. The key is to find what works for you and run with it.