At 13 years old I learned the name of the illness my mother had be dealing with for years. It was written on a court document: paranoid schizophrenia. It would be almost 20 years before I would actually learn more about the illness and would begin to separate my mother from her illness. Over the years I have met many people that have a loved one (parent, sibling, child, spouse, or friend) that had been diagnosed with what is sometimes labeled a “serious mental illness.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “ One in 17 (adults) lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder”. If I had the chance to tell someone what to expect, this is what I would say. (This based off of my experience with my loved one, everyone’s experience will not be the same.)
For those that love someone with a serious mental illness…..
If you love someone that has a serious mental illness I don’t know if anything will fully prepare you for the roller-coaster ride that comes along with loving someone with a serious mental illness. There will be high and lows, good days and bad days. There will be feelings of guilt, anger, helplessness, and sadness. You will begin to enjoy the “simple” moments that you previously took for granted.
You patience will be tested and used up, but you will find more. You may say some hurtful things, hurtful things will be said to you-you will forgive and be forgiven. You will learn about boundaries, but you won’t use them as you should in the beginning. You will become OK with saying “no”, although you will likely feel guilty, say “no” anyway.