When a loved one has a mental illness, their behavior can be confusing.
Does my loved one behave irrationally? Do they have down periods where they prefer isolation? Is their behavior offensive or erratic?
Tip 1: EMPOWER. Empower with education. Research the illness. Surround me with experts. With education comes power. I have more empathy and compassion when there is power and insight into their suffering. Open my heart. Embrace curiosity as if I am a child, without fixed beliefs and thoughts. Become a sponge capable of absorbing every drop of water that falls on a surface. Never be at the mercy of anyone for anything. Seek power from my being.
Tip 2: COMMUNICATE. Communicate with my loved one’s support system. Ensure I have access to my loved one’s psychiatrist and therapists. Would I be involved in their care if my loved one was suffering from a heart problem or had cancer? Would I talk to their oncologist or cardiologist? Yes. Mental illness needs to be treated the same way as a physical ailment; otherwise, its disguise can reap dire consequences on my loved ones, their relationships, finances, physical and emotional well-being for decades to come.
Tip 3: SEPARATE. I must separate the illness from the individual. Remember who they were before this disease. This disease does not define them. Perhaps the most critical question to ask me is: are their existing behaviors reflective of who they are when they are well? The ability to look beneath the mask of mental illness is challenging but is the most crucial thing a loved one can do to support them through their healing journey.
My husband suffered unknowingly from bipolar disorder for over two decades. Sadly, even his father, a psychiatrist, failed to look beneath the mask of bipolar mania. He was unable to see the love and compassion within him. He failed to see his soul.
Hold onto that soul because after the dust of verbal or emotional abuse settles, they will re-appear. And when they do, I will be there to catch their fall, or it will be too late. It takes an army to raise a child. It takes an army to support a loved one who is suffering. Without emotional support, they will fall deeper into the darkness. It does not matter how much medication they push down their throats; they will crumble without unconditional love.
Unconditional love is the foundation of all. When I place conditions on my love, I am not stepping away from the physical state and embracing their soul. I am not looking from within. I am not loving to my heart’s capacity: truly, madly, and deeply.
When I do not forgive, I am only poisoning myself, no one else. When I do not forget the mistakes of others or consume myself with negativity, I fail not only myself but my loved ones. How can I support my loved one if I have not faced my demons?
Tip 4: CHAMPION. Champion my loved one’s journey by attending some therapy sessions. Do I understand my loved one on a deeper level, or is my connection superfluous?
Six years ago, I had a picture-perfect marriage, married a banking executive, and had three beautiful children. Suddenly, yanked from this illusion: my loving husband — who had suffered from undiagnosed bipolar disorder for decades — transformed before my eyes, filed for divorce and became hellbent on my destruction. My sanity, physical health, faith in humanity, pocketbook, and welfare of my children and husband eroded before my eyes.
Today, I am an author, mother of 3, wife, and entrepreneur who launched a career in healthcare at GIOSTAR (Global Institute of Stem Cell Therapy and Research) and wrote a book called Untethered on my journey after saving my husband’s life. I discovered that the fulfillment gained from diminishing the pain of others is like nothing else.
Contact me to learn more!