|Mom, Chris, me, & Kate|
There is mental illness in my family (quite a bit in fact if you look closely). My brother Chris turned 40 this year and he has been managing Bipolar Disorder for 22 years, and its symptoms for much longer. I am so proud of Chris, but it wasn't always easy being his sister.
For years my parents took Chris from doctor to doctor to control his "hyperactivity" and "mood swings" and "imagination." Something was different, maybe wrong with him. His symptoms added stress to our family. He was Chris, I thought, what more did they need to know?
Once when I was 16 my new friend spent the night at my house after a late evening. Chris (5 years old) had never met her before and did not know we had an overnight guest. In the morning she came downstairs in her black pajamas with her long brown hair frizzed out from hairspray and sleep. Chris rushed to the sink and filled a glass of water and threw it on her. He thought she was the wicked witch from Oz. It's funny now.
I remember setting my alarm to watch the Smurfs cartoon on Saturday mornings in the dorm lobby when I went out of state to college. It helped us both with separation anxiety. We loved doing that together even when we were apart.
Then the phone call when he was hospitalized for the first time. The supervised visits to a locked unit, with doctors I didn't always trust and medication with horrific side effects.
Sometimes life is like a dark cloud that bocks out the sun, but if you look very closely you will see a ray of sunshine on the outer edge of the cloud. It is the silver lining. It represents the hope that there will be better days ahead.
The silver lining in loving my brother and living with mental illness in the family is it formed me into a compassionate and nonjudgmental person. These qualities clearly help me in my role as a psychologist, but they have also been handy in my roles as daughter, wife, mother, citizen, and friend. I have also met some incredible people that have helped me and my brother journey together. People like Bonnie Dunn at Transition House in Norman, and Gail Isreal with NAMI Oklahoma.
Have you watched the movie Silver Linings? I watched it Friday night at the urging of my daughters. I loved it- it made me laugh, and cry (always a good thing for me in a movie) added bonus -the psychiatrist is helpful and not very nutty.
Do you have a silver lining in loving someone with mental illness? Please share!