Sliding Otter News 5/7/2011

What People Do When Spring Does Not Spring

Not Spring

It is spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want-

oh you don’t quite know what it is you do want,

but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!

~Mark Twain~

The calendar says Spring has arrived. I long for the warmth which left with Fall. Each morning I hope this is the day I can put away my bundle-up clothes. But more often than not, fierce winds, driving, and dark clouds wait outside. Maybe tomorrow. This is not the biggest disappointment I have faced in my life. Nobody died.

Then my mind turns to the panel on which I agreed to sit to address questions about depression and bipolar disorder. As we wait for Spring, people with mental illness wait to have their lives back. Their families also want life to return to normal. I recall the days when I worked with families struggling with mental illness and all its challenges. I also remember the realization of clients I worked with and their families when they first faced the prospect of living with these conditions in the forseeable future. They were bewildered, upset, worried and angry. I don’t blame them. I kept seeing these feelings in family after family. I also faced them in my own family.

Like any family adversity, there is no easy answer. No easy explanation comes to mind about why this condition appears in some families and not others. Is it family history? Lifestyle? Traumatic events? Even if there was an explanation, it would not take away the heartache and uncertainty they face.

I remember when I first faced this quagmire. What I learned from my own family experience helped me to understand what other families were facing. But the feelings whirling in my mind made it hard for me to be objective. Just as my clients struggled to balance their thoughts and feelings, I felt the same struggle in trying to help them deal with their ordeal.

Mental illness demoralizes people who struggle with it. Will they ever get it under control? Even if they do learn to control it, will it stay under control? What will medication do for them and to them? Will they be able to keep working or ever work again? Families wonder if they have lost their mentally ill relative for good and whether the family will ever be the same again.

Fortunately, with support and time, life does continue, even with mental illness. It might be different from before, but families often need to find ways to adapt to life’s adversity. Expectations of each other may need to change. Patience and understanding are certainly at a premium.

Life Lab Lessons

  • If you have a mental illness, find a way to understand it.
  • Help those who care about you understand what you are going through.
  • If you have mental illness in your family, try to understand it.
  • Let your loved ones know you are on their side.
  • Remember that love is kind, patient, understanding and always hopeful.

Update

Four of my books, Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life, Young Man of the Cloth, The Pastor’s Inferno and Navigating Life  are now on sale at Barnes and Noble in e-pub format for $5.95 each. The can be read on the Nook, your computer or other devices with e-pub capability. See details here.

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