I was cleaning out my room today and I found a pamphlet on how to help your loved one and easy mistakes to make and avoid. As I read, I got a chill down my spine. I have made all these mistakes and more. But as long as I learn from them, it will get better for the both of us.
Learn about your relative’s personal experience of mental illness.
Mistake 1. This one reminded me of me of my brothers release from hospital when I was old enough to try and understand what made him so different. I was armed with every book on the shelf but still didn’t connect with my mentally ill brother because I never actually asked him directly… “Please help me understand what it’s like for your personally, what is YOUR day like.” When I stopped expecting a “case study” and asked what HIS experience was like he opened up more. He was more receptive to telling me then I gave the situation credit for.
Acknowledge your relative’s struggle with mental illness
Mistake 2. I once told my brother “I know what you’re going through”. I didn’t know. What a silly thing for me to say. I had no idea how hard it is for him all the time until I asked and acknowledged.
Once I was told all the hurdles he had to over come in a day, I was amazed how much effort he put into what he was doing. I’m proud of him for working so hard, for staying med compliant, for taking people’s advice on how to manage the symptoms. I can still tell him I’m proud of him for not giving up.
Acknowledge your relative’s potential for growth and recovery.
Mistake 3. This one I have gotten wrong. I have underestimated my brothers potential for recovery. But I was able to see that even though he won’t be “who we projected him to be” He can still have a life. He can still heal, he can still grow, he can still be given encouragement and his self-confidence can be rebuilt. Things that this illness has stripped away can be re-learned.
Help your Relative with specific problems
Mistake 4. I unfortunately just decided what my brother needed help with and decided what he was lacking in doing. I would do what I though he needed help with, and then I’d feel hurt when he didn’t seem to appreciate what I had done for him. When I asked what he wanted help with and started helping with his specific goals, things started to get better between us. Ask your loved one what he/she feels they need help with.
Maintain a vision of Hope and Recovery.
Mistake 5. I’ve fallen into the mistake of thinking there was no hope and no recovery potential left. What we had was as good as it would get. But giving up hope is dangerous. New meds and therapies come out all the time. I stay hopeful that something will work better, bring more stability, bring more recovery. Giving up hope closes the mind to all the new possibilities happening at any one time in the quest to tame SZ.
Take time to a simply be a friend
Mistake 6. I used to try and have all the answers, all the angles. I tried to know as much as I could so anything little detail wouldn’t slip by me. I wore myself out watching for every little sign, every little nuance. I was ready with books, meds, phone numbers and the best answers I could research. I was ready to talk SZ until the sun rose. Well, as Sigmund Freud said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”
Not every tired afternoon was negative symptom, not every excited mood was positive symptom, not every forgotten item was a cognitive disability, and my brother didn’t WANT to talk about SZ until the sun rose. He wanted to talk about books and surfing. I learned to leave the books on the shelf once in a while and just hang out.
The last little blurb from this old photocopied mash of a handbook from a very old S.Z. support group was as follows; “Celebrate your human bond with your relative, share in life’s pleasures, simply with companionship and compassion. During difficult times be patent and hope for a better tomorrow.”
Thank you for letting me post.