As I’ve speak about frequently,  my family, in the form of my daughter, has been crucial to my recovery. When it came down to it, and I truly needed her to be there, she was.  When I was in the hospital in Orlando, the first outside call I made was to her.  My life was in crisis, and I knew I had her unconditional love.  Which she freely gave.  And we planned on my making a move to live near her. However it could be accomplished.  Not everybody is as lucky as I was in this regard.  Many of those living with mental illness don’t have families backing them. Many mentally ill individuals have ‘issues’ with their families that make it more likely that they separate from them. And others are separated from family because their families found it too difficult to deal with the behavior/problems that are part of dealing with the fact that someone you love is mentally ill.

 Families watch the deterioration.  As happened with my family as Maxine deteriorated, they frequently find that there is no place to go to get help.  If mentally ill people are unable to find help, how likely is it that the family will be able to get help?  Sometimes even if a family is able to get help, the mentally ill loved one doesn’t cooperate.  Living with someone with mental illness is difficult.  When someone is mentally ill and their behavior is out of control, it is overwhelming.  As I’ve described with Maxine, our family never knew how to handle it.  We were in a constant crisis. We played out the stress in constant arguing.  Or hiding out.  My Dad watched TV.  I hid in my room and read.  My sister did the same.  My Mom would hide out in her room, smoke cigarettes, and stare off into the distance.  It was a painful existence.  At the time, I thought I would not have had a problem with being separated from Maxine.  She seemed like an insurmountable problem to me. And I sometimes hoped that my Dad would leave her.  And take me with him.  However, given the fact that my feelings about Maxine were very conflicted, if he actually had left…I’m not sure that I would have been OK with that either.  After all, she WAS Mom.

I’ve heard from many people who are mentally ill who have the same kinds of conflicted feelings. They crave family. And they crave distance from their family. Because they perceive them as unaccepting and judgmental.That is truly a hard place to be.  Without family, you are alone.  If J. hadn’t been there, I don’t know what I would have done. So, in my opinion, the need to create support in the community is crucial for one important reason. Without people in your life, coping with mental illness is extraordinarily difficult. And if family isn’t there, you have to create a family.  Now, online support is great.  I see people online talking very honestly. For some people, that connection with an online community is the one place that they can get support, feedback, ideas…and human contact. For example, for someone dealing with agoraphobia, the phone and the computer are a lifeline.  But community connections are important too.  Having a community support group is a connection to recovery. Whether that is in friendships or in a formal group.

What do you do to create connections?  Do you have supportive family?  Or do you find your connections in the community or online?  Talking can help us to create our own connection. Take a risk!  Do it…….


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