It’s Saturday, and we’re more or less snowed in… what better time to make a blog post?!? Let’s continue repeating my initial Facebook posts, and I’ll add a bit…
I think few people realize just how many suffering folks have turned to the Internet for support, social interaction, and love simply because they have not found it in the “real world”. When I was hit with my first episode of psychosis, I was baffled at how little contact I received from people I had believed to be my friends. Knowing my office, I really doubt my situation was kept completely confidential, and yet I did not receive a single card or email regarding my condition.
Now, I could have concluded from this that I was not loved by them or cared for by them. But that would have been a faulty assumption. How do I know? Because in the subsequent years of my very slow recovery, they have stood by me, encouraged me, put up with my weaknesses and failures, and done nothing but help to ensure that my condition improved.
So… why weren’t they there for me during those most difficult of days? Well, I think what I’ve written covers some of the reasons. Some may not have known what to say. Some may have gotten involved with someone having mental illness and found it too challenging for them to handle. I know now that others feared repercussions – thinking I might blame them for what had happened.
I can’t honestly say that thoughts along those lines didn’t cross my mind. When your life falls apart, you look for anyone to blame… especially if you feel it was out of your own control.
But as a Christian, I have been taught that ultimately I have to forgive. This makes me very slow to seek retribution, or to lay blame, or to get angry. It gives me pause when my thoughts become accusatory or angry. Because I know that the hardest person to forgive is me – and if I “add insult to injury”, it’s ultimately me who pays the price.
One big reason – in my opinion – that people abandon those of us with mental illness, is that we can make it so difficult for them. Everyone knows, “you always hurt the ones you love”. When we are at our lowest points, it’s often the people closest to us who receive the brunt of our wrath, the painful outpouring of our souls, and the guilt they cannot help but feel for being so helpless to prevent what has happened to us or to heal us from our wounds.
So I challenge the people on both sides: find ways to bridge the gap. If it’s too painful to interact in real ways, find “virtual” ways to do it – through email, texts, cards… then be sure at some point to follow up with something real: a phone call, a doorstep visit (“I’m in a rush to get errands done, but I wanted to swing by… it’s just good to see your face.”), coffee at a coffee shop. If we all worked at this, we could make the situation much better.