Cait was sixteen when her brother Jay left for college. They always had a very close relationship. During their childhood they would spend time fishing together and going to the park where she would fetch his baseballs in an effort to help him fulfill his dream to become a professional baseball player. There was a tremendous amount of excitement when Jay received an offer to play baseball in college.
Cait was seventeen when Jay was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her whole world fell apart. Cait’s parents were back and forth visiting Jay eventually bringing him home and subsequently back and forth to various specialists, treatments, and therapist appointments. Cait’s parents slid into their own anxiety and sadness and did not notice that Cait’s college applications did not get completed. Cait was at a place where she no longer cared about college because in her mind, it was a place where people went to get sick.
“We practitioners need to be attuned to not only our clients but to their network as well. What hurts one hurts all”
When someone is affected by mental illness, their loved ones are affected as well, often suffering silently like Cait did over Jay. Our focus becomes so much on the person in the center of concern that we overlook the silent sufferers. Although different, family members have a parallel, shared, experience like their loved one. It is in these moments that parents often get the beginning of support and advice – sometimes welcomed, sometimes overwhelming – from friends and loved ones. Siblings however, are often overlooked. We practitioners need to be attuned to not only our clients but to their network as well. What hurts one hurts all. If you are a loved one that has been touched by mental illness, whose life has been turned upside down, and feels like it will never be the same, don’t lose Hope. Start with self care and self healing.
Continue doing things in life that bring you pleasure and make you feel good. Taking care of yourself and giving yourself love and attention doesn’t mean that you’re being selfish or not caring about your loved one who is going through a terrible time. You can remain attuned to your love ones by taking care of yourself first and foremost. Cait and her family have moved on to healing and I hope you do too. There are a lot of wonderful resources for families.
Below are some suggestions for education and support:
Family Therapy: To find a therapist aamft.org
Institute for Dialogic Practice – dialogicpractice.net
National Alliance for Mental Illness- NAMI.org
American Psychological Association- APA.org (How to cope when a loved one has a serious mental illness)