Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.
We are always looking for something to make our journey easier, something to lighten the load and if possible a shortcut. We understand how grueling a day in our lives can be and how we must be at the ready most of the time. As a mental health family caregiver I learned early how a lack of trust can deeply affect how effective we are in our roles.
When we go through the beginning stages of recovery with our loved ones and there is the “little white lie” of I’m okay and we only find out later the amount of urgency “Ok” carries with it. When we are in the hospital on a 72 hour hold with our loved one and combing over and over in our mind where did we miss the cues and how could we have not known, we began to doubt ourselves. We find ourselves in a state of review every time we ask our loved one about how they feel. Was that an ok “ok” or an I don’t want you to worry ok?
Resentment becomes a close friend if we let it because we confuse the lack of communication or trust from our loved one as their choice and not a symptom of their illness. Having a mental illness means fighting yourself all day long, reassuring yourself that you can take one more step, be stronger than you feel. I know this because I’m a survivor myself of depression and anxiety. I understand how feeling like your family may not understand why you are having an anxiety attack when you were fine an hour ago. I understand the feelings of guilt because you can’t control it always. I understand the importance of trusting the love your loved ones have for you and concern they have when you are not well. I learned to trust that love versus the voice that says don’t talk about it, they are probably tired of hearing about it.
When I say trust has to be part of our toolkits I’m speaking from the experience of a survivor and of a caregiver. Mental illness lies and it causes people to lose families, it causes dependence on drugs and alcohol, it tells you no one cares. As a caregiver that knowledge is important because with that knowledge you can manage how you engage your loved one, you are able to reinforce the lies with truth and build trust. Knowing that someone is not leaving because you are struggling is one of the biggest concerns with mental illness, I don’t care how long you’ve had it under control, mental illness has a way of putting the thought of “eventually people will get tired of me being sick” on a continuous loop in your brain. As a caregiver you can combat that ugly thought process in your loved ones mind by reassuring them how much family loves them, and how much family wants them to succeed and are willing to be there to help them fight.
Your Loved One Needs To Know They Can Trust You
Your loved one is not their illness. They are taken hostage by an illness and they are fearful of what it can do or does do to them and to those they love and care about. Expressing your love and concern for them is important. They need to know they have a family and or friends behind them who support them and are going to stand in the gap for them. Unless there is violence make sure to keep your word to be there. Many times they will need you at the most inconvenient times be there anyway. Many times it will sting a bit when they say some things while they are symptomatic, remind yourself that it is the illness, and not your loved one. Don’t bring up things they have shared with you in confidence to make or prove a point or to share with others; they trusted you enough to share their fears or whatever they told you. Be respectful and don’t make them feel horrible for trusting you.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. When you say, “You cannot speak to me that way, I will not answer you when you speak that way”, stick to what you are saying. Your loved one thrives in a careful balance of structure, it helps them to know you care true, but it also gives them boundaries to operate within. They may not always do so, especially if they are having a rough time, are manic, or moody due to their illness. Knowing you will be there can sometimes cause a loved one to say whatever they choose knowing they will always have you there. It’s important for you to let them know when they are stable how much you were hurt by what they said or did. Let them know you understand how the illness can cause them to behave in that manner but you want them to know it is still painful, and that you have feelings that can be hurt just like they do.
Being honest removes doubt about how you feel about supporting your loved one and it gives them a birds eye view into how you feel emotionally as well. Sometimes that brings a level of peace to your loved one knowing they are not the only ones confused and afraid. It allows them to trust that you are really there for the long haul. That does wonders for recovery and reaching out when they are in trouble.
Trusting Those Who Want To Help
Everyone has at one point or another ran across an individual who only wants to inquire of your affair because they are nosey, but not everyone is that way. Some people are genuinely interested in your well-being and if you are being overwhelmed by your duties and care demands for your loved ones. Imagine if you could trust someone to come in and help with those care demands, you would free yourself up for more time, self-care, and rebuilding your reserves up again. One of the main barriers for caregivers is trusting someone to come in and help with the duties. Whether we are concerned about the way the house looks, about someone thinking we can’t do the job, or worse yet that we are not doing a justice to our loved one by allowing someone to help us. Sometimes help is just as simple as someone going to the store for us.
When we reach out for help we are not just helping ourselves and our loved ones, we are helping those who love us and are not sure how they can be of assistance. By telling them what we need we trust them with the responsibility to come through for us which in turn helps us feel a part of a team, and that we are not alone. Consider what your life would be like if you allowed someone else to come in and help you.
Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. I don’t remember where I heard that saying but it’s true. It starts with being afraid of trying new methods of supporting our loved ones. Being afraid to make a mistake, or to not accomplish stopping a downward slide or out of control spiral of our loved one when they are in symptom mode can work against us and our loved one. Many a caregiver I have spoke to had a small voice that told them to do something before their loved one progressed to the next level and they waited, “…if only I…” has fallen out of the mouth of many caregivers.
Once we have been supporting our loved one and we learn the signs they are not doing well or they could be headed into troubled waters we know what to do, and if we are taking our caregiving journey seriously we have prepared as much as we possibly can, but many times there is the second guess that comes in and convinces us we are over reacting. Being afraid to make the right decision is part of what we do. Do I take them to the hospital? Do I wait? Being fearful of making a mistake will cause us to make the wrong decision.
By the time our loved one has had a setback or relapse we have been there as a means of support and we are not as afraid of where we are going because we pretty much have an idea. Being honest by saying, “I’m scared too but I’m going to be here for you” is one of the best gifts you can give to your loved one. Knowing they are not the only one afraid can help them to be at ease, especially when you are remaining calm in spite of being scared out of your wits.
Faith Is Trust
Prayer is the quickest way to bring peace to you and your loved one. There is something about the creator of the universe; the sun and the moon that makes a sudden calm come over you. Reading your bible and meditating is a great way to build a relationship and trust with your creator, and it opens your heart and eyes to the possibilities available to you because of your faith. You can keep going when you have faith. Getting up and doing the work and researching and following the news for new developments in the treatment of your loved ones illness empowers you and gives you a level of control and a direction to go in, instead of just waiting for the journey to overtake you, you are prepared to overtake the journey.
God is never farther than prayer from us or our situation; it’s just the remembering and trusting God to make a way out of no way. God doesn’t always provide a way out; sometimes He provides a way for us to endure. Sometimes that is the best we can ask for is a way to get through what we are facing. Keep the faith. Keep working hard. Keep researching. Keep supporting. Keep putting your self-care first. Eventually trust will get easier and you will be better for it. You really are that strong. Each time you try and fail you learn something and your courage grows. Doubt and not trusting that you can will derail you and delay your progress. Stay focused on what you accomplish and what you learn, not on failure.
Trust the process. This journey will never be perfect. Give up the idea and the wish for perfect. If you can live and be happy and content that is enough. Build a life you can grow with not one that places unrealistic expectations on you, your loved one and your family. That’s not only unfair to you, but to all involved. Just be. That’s all you have to do. Keep going, keep fighting, and just be. That is enough.
La Shawn is a Mental Health Survivor & Mental Health Family Caregiver. Although her passion has always been to help those in need, Homagi began 12 years ago as a non profit for homeless women and children, she chose to use her experience as a Mental Health Family Caregiver to guide other family caregivers on their journey as they assist their loved ones on theirs. She is known for her vibrant smile, easy going personality, positive attitude, and servant spirit. Always willing to stop and listen or share an experience with others, you feel heard and appreciated. Don't let those characteristics fool you into believing she's not an advocate who will stand up, march, and make the voice of the sometimes voiceless heard. A California native, now a Houstonian she loves the beach, hiking, crocheting and woodwork. She is married to her best friend and co-pilots their blended family of 5 children and 3 granddaughters.
BLOG: MENTAL HEALTH CAREGIVING 101: High Functioning Mental Illness - Supporting A Loved One With Semi-Managed Mental Health August 23, 2017 | La Sha...
August 23, 2017
Mental Health Family Caregivers – The Sometimes Silent Warriors
May 6, 2016
Social Support: A Mental Health Caregivers Plight - Where Are Our Villages?