I Can’t do Everything (and Neither can You)

I’m learning a rough lesson right now. It’s tough to admit this, but as it turns out, I can’t do everything. Even worse, I can’t make someone else want to take control of their health.

And I know something you may not … so I’ll share my secret. None of us can. But that hasn’t stopped me from spending the last 6 months trying to get someone I love to make changes they were not ready to make, to conquer alcoholism and address mental health issues.

For some reason as a society, we can accept that Alzheimer’s, a disease of the brain, is blameless as it robs us of the person we knew. But for reasons I don’t understand, we tend to fault the patient for being an alcoholic or suffering from mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. And worse, as loved ones, we often think we are at fault or that we can “fix” them.

Let me go on record: I call bullshit on that theory. I have suffered from depression and alcoholism (often referred to as dual diagnosis). I am now managing both (meaning I don’t drink, I am active in Women for Sobriety, and I have gone through lots of therapy for depression which is in remission and does not currently require medication). Nobody could fix me. Nobody “made” me an alcoholic and nobody “made” me have depression. Wondering why someone you love is an addict or is mentally ill is as fruitless as wondering why anyone has cancer, is the victim of a crime or is in an accident. As someone who has been on both sides of the equation, I speak from a unique perspective and if you love someone who is suffering you have to let go of the question of why; accept that it simply is, and move on. There is no “why.” Looking for that answer will rob you of any peace you can find in a difficult situation.

Science is still working through this, but as nearly as I can tell (and according to Science Daily, The Very Well Mind, and the National Institute of Alcoholism) depression, bipolar and alcoholism are likely a mix of genetic and environmental issues. We need to treat people who are diagnosed with mental illness and/or addiction the same as we would people with any other physical disease. Because they are.

As a loved one, being supportive is hard because the presentation of these diseases looks remarkably like bad behavior. Acknowledging and identifying the difference is challenging. You want to scream “KNOCK IT OFF” you just want your person back. Trust me, they want to be back.

If my loved one had heart disease I would never read a few articles on the web, chat with some people on Twitter and think that qualified me to help them heal.  I’d never try to “reason” cancer out of the body. But somehow, as a well-intentioned support person, I thought I could help someone dear to me get their addiction and mental health disorders under control in exactly this manner. To be fair, I didn’t have illusions that I didn’t need any help. But I did think I could get them through without as much professional assistance as I needed. I tried to reason his illness away.

I felt guilty (sometimes annoyed) when he would not take medication. I didn’t ask for professional help to understand when his disease was speaking and when it was him. I got angry when I should have just let it go. And then I beat myself up for not getting it perfect. Eventually, I was forced to let him sleep outside for three nights because he would not get treatment and I could not have him at home; his disease made it unsafe for me to be around him. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. I could not force him to make the changes I knew he needed. He’s brilliant, creative, talented, funny, and kind. He’s not human waste to forgotten or lost in the system. He’s #sicknotweak. I need help to help him. He needs a team of professionals right now, and he’s getting it.

Here’s what I did do, I took him to the hospital to get his prescription. He hated this and was adamant that he did not need it (to the point of a Jerry Springer-worthy fight in the parking lot where I eventually took the keys and sat in the waiting room until he came in). I’ll probably never know if I did the right thing by forcing him to go, but I know if he needed stitches for an open wound I wouldn’t have taken no for an answer so I did my best and applied that logic. I navigated his very crummy insurance and the prescriptions to him. I got him in touch with his sponsor but couldn’t get him to go to AA meetings. I cried, a lot. I can’t overemphasize this, I cried a lot. I tried talking to him. Holding him. Loving him. In the end, it was not enough. He was under too much stress and I ended up calling for professional help. Then I cried more. I’m still crying, but I’m also doing something new, I’m hoping.

I’ve been fortunate to find a NAMI Family Support Group in my area that is helping me understand what I can and cannot control. I’ve found an amazing “tribe” on Twitter that includes so many superheroes who struggle every day but keep showing up and supporting each other. They teach me so much! I write and I pray.

If you love someone who struggles or are diagnosed with a mental illness or suffer from addiction please use the comments to talk about what you think are the best ways to provide support. If we talk about it we can eliminate the stigma.

Use a List to Conquer Fear and Drive Change

list-image

Recently, I’ve had a tough time with my love life, to put it mildly.  To be more specific, I’ve been abused physically, emotionally, and financially.  I nearly lost my life because of this experience.  And yet, I am struggling to get away from this man.

I’ve spent the last 24 hours crying.  You see I tried again to “help” him because I’m “Terminally Nice.”  He was released from jail unexpectedly, I had been hoping to get him into a transition program that could help with sobriety, mental health, and anger management.  He literally has no place to go without me.  So when this happened without warning, I let him come to my home.  I was too nice to let him deal with the consequences of his own issues.  Instead, I dealt with them and took on the risk.

Luckily he did not hurt my body, but for the past week I’ve felt like I was auditioning for the Jerry Springer Show (Is that even on?)  Wednesday it got to be too much, I called the police to get him out of my home.  He was either drunk or having a mental health crisis. Either way, he was threatening my livelihood (I work from home and he was disrupting meetings), my pets and I felt certain this would eventually escalate to another physical fight.  I had to call the police to help get him away.

Of course he did not leave easily, and of course, I talked to him on the phone and in person, after they released him (Why the F— would they release a man who’s been arrested twice for DV and while awaiting sentencing breaks his peaceful contact order?????).  I was hoping he’d get into a program.  I was willing to help.  He was crying telling me he’s never loved anyone like me and that he wanted to go to the hospital.

What he really wanted was to come back into the house.  I let him sleep in my car because I am too soft to say go sleep in the woods … (I knew if he got inside the house I’d never get him out).  When I woke up this morning, he was gone.  He called several times to tell me he has no reason to live and he was going to get drunk and jump onto the freeway with instructions on what to do with his body.  This went on for three hours during which I said I’d help him get help but he could not come in the house.  Then,  abrupt silence.  He’s been incommunicado for 5 hours.  I should feel relieved.  Instead, I’m wondering where he is.  I’ve been crying and truly out of my mind with angst.  I can’t keep food down, it’s hard to believe.

I think the silence really started when he realized he was not going to talk his way back into the apartment.  I fully realize he may have made good on his awful suicide promise.  I don’t know where he was so I could not call for help.  I sent him all kinds of crisis intervention information.  I don’t know what else I could have done, I’m sure if he hurt himself I’ll be a wreck.

Now I’m FINALLY getting to the part that I think may help you!  I’m at peace, and I achieved this within about 20 minutes.  You see, I was “romancing” him, remembering all the things I liked about him, most of which had nothing to do with who he really is but were the fantasy I created in my head with his help.  I thought he was sexy, intelligent and talented when I met him.  I still think he is 2 out of 3.  Until this second, all I could see was a fragile person who needed support.  He looked gentle to me.

I couldn’t think straight, I actually drove around looking for him, wondering what I’d do if I found him because I wasn’t going to bring him to my home …  But wanting to know he was alive.

In a frantic attempt to calm my emotions, I sat behind my trusty keyboard and made a list of the significant things he’s done to me that caused emotional, physical or financial pain.  In about 20 minutes I had 50 things (and because my background is marketing, some of my items had sub-bullets so it was more like 55! LOL)  With every strike of the return key I got stronger in my resolve.  I deleted him from my phone.

If you are struggling with trying to let go of anything, a substance, a behavior, a person, and you can’t seem to get past the pain I suggest you try this technique.

fear1

Fear is what typically holds people back from making meaningful change. There are three types of fear.

  1. Fear of failure — So what, try again.  Not even computer programs run perfect the first time.
  2. Fear the change won’t be worth the effort — AND?  If you are constantly struggling with knowing you want to change something but romancing the past, you already know it will be better.  And if it’s not, then go back to the way it was or make more changes. You get to decide what is best for you.
  3. Fear of the unknown, what will the future be like if you change? — If you are seriously contemplating a significant change you don’t like the present.  If you don’t like the future the change manifests you can always “change the change”.

So I asked myself, What am I afraid of?  All of the above. Failure — I’ve already tried to get him out of my life but I keep letting him come back even though I know the likelihood is that this will not end well for either of us.  Will it be worth the effort? What if I make this change and it hurts my heart and my life doesn’t get better? My analytical brain knows it will, my soft heart is confusing me.  Lastly and perhaps most significantly for me, fear of the unknown. What if he hurts himself because I set boundaries?  What if he is my soulmate and I just put him on the street?  What if I can never love again because I had to close my heart off to him?

I’m still going to make the change.  I’m scared.  But my list tells me I’m also scared of staying the same.  Both are hard but at least one option offers the potential for a stronger future where I am an inspiration for others, not a warning.

What do you want to change?

Mermaid

4_b979199-0181-40_df-8_c69-6_f8_a4235_d127
My New Necklace, by artsangel on DeviantArtz

I was toying around with some emotion.  Is this poetry? Lyrics? Most likely it’s simply the ravings of a woman trying to find her own strength.  Perhaps it will speak to you.

Mermaid

She believed she was living a dream
A fool in love delivered by God above
Instead of fantasy, it was an evil scheme
Heartache, shame, and pain, fit like a glove

Take what you can
Who knows how long it will last
She believes you are a good man
Doesn’t know you’re playing her fast

The energy and life are leaving her now
You got what you wanted but it was never enough
She gave it all so you could take a bow
Instead of hugs and kisses you treated her rough

Take what you can
Who knows how long it will last
She believes you are a good man
Doesn’t know you’re playing her fast

Battered and bruised, her heart is hardened now
She has no fucks to give, no reasons to live
She gave it all so you could take a bow
There’s nothing to hope for, no reason to forgive

The taking is done
She sees who you are
Lies exposed by sun
Try to win her but won’t get far

Look out, she’s come to her senses
She’s a mermaid in a sea of fish
Now you’ll face the consequences
Strong and alone she will flourish