Saturday, November 05, 2005

Family Acceptance

My wife was talking about this the other day, and I started thinking about it again. Why are some people, specifically family members, so unsupportive of our conditions?

I have told my parents about my son's condition. I have told them specifically about the challenges he faces every day. And after that, the next time they see him they proceed to heap praise on our oldest son, then immediately grill Kyle about not having a job. He hung his head, the confidence zapped from him in a moments time. They don't know how to treat him, to react to him, to interact with him. He's a very confident, good looking kid, and to meet and talk to him you'd never suspect his issues. And now it's coming out about my condition, and this is going to be interesting how it goes over. The funny thing is, I can point to several people in our extended family suffering from the same thing. They probably don't know they have it, and if they did would surely never admit it. It's hereditary, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. But the stigma must be avoided.

People think that factors such as willpower, hard work, dedication, and so forth can overcome anything. I used to think so also. If someone gets off track, give 'em a swift kick in the butt to catch their attention and put them on-track again. But all the kicks in the butt don't do anything if the chemical make-up of the brain isn't what it should be.

At the NAMI meeting last night I was talking to a father who was having a hard time adjusting to his son's schizophrenia. He talked about setting rules, laying down the law, and putting the kid out on the street if the rules were broken. I've heard that a million times, and we've DONE that. It just doesn't work, and really accomplishes nothing. Once again, all the rules in the world don't mean a thing if the ability to think from point A to point B to point Z is not there.

My son can't do many things, and I can't do many things. My wife has been telling my son to return his call from an agency that can get assistance started for him. She left out a number every day this week for him to call. So this morning, she got him up early, sat him down, dialed the number, told the person her son wasn't comfortable on the phone. The lady understood fully, my wife then handed the phone to my son who took over with confidence and smooth talking. But he just was not capable of picking up that phone and dialing that number.

I have a hard time opening up mail, bills, and so forth. I just can't do it. I'll set them aside and never do it. Thank goodness for a wife who recognizes what I have difficulty doing, and takes over for me. I can't stand clutter and messes, something just snaps. So I'll avoid rooms in our house like the plague. I just can't bring myself to face it. It's not that I'm lazy, or don't want to keep a clean house, I just am not capable of doing certain things. Is this just an excuse? I suppose that's possible, but I really don't think so...

As parents of a bipolar child it was important to us to know how to live with and nurture that child. We (actually mostly my wife) read countless books and did extensive research on this condition. When it came out in me, we knew what to expect, having suspected it for years. But people interacting with those suffering from mental issues need to research enough to understand, and open their hearts enough to accept.

Finally, one last thing. It was difficult for me to let go of my hopes and dreams for my bipolar son. He may be a huge success, but his path will be NOTHING like a father dreams for his son. I now tell him, and truly mean it, that I want nothing more for him than happiness. He encounters so many frustrations in day to day life, that a life where he can achieve happiness would make me VERY happy.


Lisa said...


Many people are supportive if you have a disease like heart disease or cancer but can't come to terms with mental illness. I think it's because they don't understand it or can't give it the same social equality as other illnesses. It isn't fair but that is just the way it is.

It sounds like you have a supportive wife which is half the battle. It helps to have someone who can take action when you can't.

Have you thought about therapy? That helped me a great deal. It also took a long time to get on the right med as well.

Wishing you well,

Belinda said...

Have you read Xavier Amador's book, "I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help?" Good stuff in there about setting boundaries when it seems impossible (not "throwing them out in the street), and focusing on a tangible and desired goal, whatever that may be, that the BP person has, to help them stick to "the program."

I know of a few people who insist they are NOT "bipolar", but will accept an alternate dx that uses the same treatment plan. One of the many great points of Amador's books is, does that keep them on their meds and in treatment and stable? Then who cares what they call it or how they get there, as long as they get there?

I'd take the same approach with any resistant family members, I think, although lucky for me, mine "gets it", even though we just "married into it."

Jon said...

Thanks to both for your comments.

RB - I'm considering therapy. Time is the issue...

Belinda - I will check out that book. That makes sense.