Living with Mental Illness

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This month is mental health awareness month.  Like other awareness months, the hope is that opportunities will arise for people to learn more, be understood more than before, invest in legislation and research focused on the topic of the month, and change the lives of the people living with the condition for the better.  Excellent mental health ranks high on my prayer list for myself and my family.  My children used to ask me why I prayed for them to be mentally sound.  I gave them a general statement about the need to be able to manage day to day tasks, care for themselves, and have healthy relationships as accomplishments that would be easier for them if they were of sound mind.  I didn’t fully explain to them that my prayers were informed by time spent with my sister who suffered with a history of mental illness.

During my childhood, I spent a great deal of time trying to understand why my life had to be impacted by mental illness.  I learned to compartmentalize the part of my life that was impacted by my sister’s illness so that I could use what time was left to do some things that fed my soul.  Depending on the diagnosis, there might be a plethora of symptoms, behaviors, and plans of action necessary to support the person dealing with the illness.  It was my experience that mental illness operated like a moving target in the form of a phantom.  Some days the being acted like a jokester teasing us with stability.  Other days, it performed like a mean spirited villain smirking and wringing his hand while we made repeated missteps in our efforts to improve the situation that had become our normal.

As a result of my childhood experiences, I learned to be a good caretaker as a child.  I also learned to study behaviors and listen carefully to the words that come out of the mouths of people around me.  I learned to remove myself from unsafe situations and isolate myself for chaos to find time to quiet my mind.  I learned the importance of making good mental health a priority and objective.  In my adult life, I have learned that there are many options for improving and maintaining good mental health, but all require intentional actions.  I have come to enjoy a number of tools for recharging and resetting.  I spend my days encouraging others to do the same.  Finally, I learned to mind my own business because after working to maintain my own mental health or working to support someone dealing will mental illness I only have time for my own business.

It took me years to write publicly about this part of my journey because I always want to be sensitive to my sister and my family.  However, I feel charged to share my experiences with others hoping that my story will ensure that others do not feel alone or hopeless.  I hope that my readers will seek the help of friends and family and/ or medical professionals if more guidance is needed to achieve the goal of excellent mental wellness.  I decided to repost the series of posts I wrote a couple of years ago during mental health awareness month.  The first post was about my initial thoughts when I was eleven and mental illness became an unwelcome house guest.  Here it is:

http://www.sisterintheshadow.com/when-mental-illness-found-us/

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