Assisting a Loved One With Mental Illness… Pt. 2

Apologies for the prolonged absence. Brain decided not to cooperate.

Advocacy and education are two very important parts of living with or with someone with a mental illness. Mental illness follows its own set of rules that are not like what one may be up against with a physical disability. Thus it is important to develop a deep understanding of treatment methods, medications, and what they are supposed to be doing and not doing to an individual. This also falls under the advocacy line of thinking.

The average Bipolar individual takes 9 years to get the correct diagnosis. Why? Depression is one half of the disorder and is commonly the reason people seek help. The manic component is often looked at as a positive even if it is destructive. When someone is depressed, any other time than when they feel depressed is a welcome and beautiful reprieve. The manic component may also cause that person’s mind to function sharper, with more clarity, more aggression. It does have its merits but the risk of disconnecting and getting out of control is too great.

A great example is the recent troubles of Charlie Sheen. He was clearly in a manic cycle of Bipolar Disorder and he lost touch with reality. His life was “going great” even though he had lost his role and custody recently. Everyone else was the problem. He was interpreting his reality to be going great with him being oppressed while the world just sort of looked on and waited for the inevitable. On a side note, I hope the man gets the help he needs before he ends up killing himself or in jail.

Advocating for another person’s wellness may mean nudging them towards their goal. If depression sets in they are almost certain to stop right there on the track. I can’t count the number of times I’ve used “I’ll do it tomorrow” as an excuse to put things off for weeks that I should have accomplished promptly. Why? Because I just did not give a shit about it or the consequences. Normal people have a difficult time understanding this mindset. “How can you not care about the consequences?”

When you live with a mental illness where you may be suicidal and dead in 10 minutes from flipping on the TV and seeing a commercial that is a depressive trigger; everything else starts to pale in comparison. There was a long period of time where my only criteria for having a good day was not thinking about suicide more than 3 times. Because of that, it was easy for me to get lost on things I had to get accomplished to live a “normal” life. Other people suffering from depression or depressive components of another mental illness likely feel the same.

It’s not always best to push. In most cases, just a gentle nudge of “You really need to get this done today” or “Just get this done and out of the way” will push them past that hurdle in their mind. They are trying to draw an excuse in their mind to not do it. However if the person resists heavily, just let it go. It’s not worth a fighting/screaming match that will only make what they’re feeling worse. Again, this is subject to your own comfort zones. Issues like paying bills, the rent, or other such mandatory activities need to be either pushed for or handled yourself.

A final point to consider is the use of medication. Medication should accomplish a couple things. It should make the disorder manageable with side effects that are manageable. Both. Not one or the other. Both. If it is not doing both, then one should keep pressing to find the right combination. Hopelessness is a big factor during this period. Trying medication after medication and having none of them work or work badly is frustrating and draining. The person being treated must take an active role in discussions with their doctor about their medication. Do not let them answer “I’ve been fine” if they haven’t slept in six days or are sleeping 18 hours a day. People do it all the time. Encourage them to not settle until they have things in a manageable state for them.

“Mercy is for the weak, when I speak I scream
Afraid to sleep, I’m havin’ of crazy dreams
Vivid pictures of my enemies and family times
God forgive me cause it’s wrong but I plan to die
Either take me in Heaven and understand I was a G
Did the best I could, raised in insanity
Or send me to hell cause I ain’t beggin’ for my life
Ain’t nothing worse than this cursed ass hopeless life
I’m troublesome.”
– Tupac Shakur – Troublesome ’96


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