One of the most vexing aspects of caring for someone with mental illness is that you can’t make them recover. We with our illnesses have to choose recovery for ourselves. I spent years fighting with my parents, denying that they were even on my side, and even fighting with the law. I was dragged to several places by police and one of those places was jail. My family just wanted me to be well, but I fought them.
I’m often asked, “What changed that you found yourself in Recovery?” I honestly don’t know the full answer. As frustrating as that is, I have figured out a few factors.
A supportive family
My family always worked hard for me. Oftentimes they struggled, and sometimes they even did more harm than good. Such is life. But they worked hard all the same. My parents did what they could to provide an environment for me to grow. Sometimes that meant asking caring questions in the middle of a fight. Once, I was having a tantrum (I threw tantrums well into my teens, due to somewhat slower emotional development), and I had a blanket over my head. My mother asked “are you ashamed? Is that why you have your blanket over your head?” At the time I was angry with her for even suggesting such a thing, but she was right, and I sort of knew it. I certainly thought about it for a time. My mother may not know even now that I remembered that. I guess she’s about to find out.
My family tried to get me on the right meds. I wasn’t generally compliant, but they tried. Sometimes they had to call the police to make me take my meds, and sometimes those police were helpful. Calling the police is sort of rolling the dice to see if you get a compassionate officer. We didn’t always roll well, but sometimes we did.
My parents forbade me to talk to some of my friends who were harmful to my recovery. I was absolutely furious about this, and I definitely disobeyed them, but my life was significantly improved when that influence was not around.
Trouble with the law
When I was very sick, I didn’t understand the effect of my actions. On one occasion I somehow managed to threaten my mother with a knife by accident. It’s a bit of a story, but it was definitely not my intention. Intentions aside, it’s what I actually did, so I went to jail for it. I was fortunate in that the judge ordered me to get treatment, and gave me a suspended sentence rather than giving me a jail sentence. (I only went to jail for a few hours when I was first charged. My parents bailed me out.)
Somehow, when in the hospital yet again, I talked with another patient at that hospital. She told me about how wonderfully supportive her parents were, and somehow it just clicked in my mind. My parents were on my side! They just wanted me to be well! There was just something about having a friend in the same position that really helped. I kept in touch with her for several years. Sadly, we sort of lost track of each other by now, but she was important to my life and I always remember her.
There were many factors involved in me getting well. I haven’t named them all. It would be too much to cover in one post. But I hope this is some sort of guide to what can work and what did work for me. Ultimately I am the one who made the choice to get well. No one could make that for me, but they could provide an environment that was fertile ground for Recovery. Thank you to all who are part of my story. I will strive to remember and honor you with my actions and my wellness.