"But you don't understand what they have done ..."
The hurt inflicted by mental illness is real—disrespect, anger and aggression, rejection, substance abuse, promiscuity and infidelity, financial loss, legal troubles, the continual embarrassment and hurt amongst community and family. The pain is overwhelming for the both the spouse and the family ... and for the one living with an untreated mental health disorder. Usually, desperation leads to, "I can't do this anymore!" Divorce, abandonment, and "tough love." Then, they end up calling us in intense tears, "Help me, I have nothing, why am I like this ... I need help."
The key to all this is how we view treatment vs. recovery. Treatment focuses on, "take your medication" and let's all hope this works. Is that really enough? Recovery focuses on a process and a strategy to simplify the process. It's not about recovery for a lifetime; it's about recovering the purpose of life. The pain is real, but recovery can bring incredible healing for whatever has happened!
So, as a spouse, family member or friend, to get through destruction let's establish some key ways think about and approach your loved-one’s illness.
1) IT'S NOT PERSONAL
It may seem like it at the time, but when you really understand depression, anxiety, unstable moods, obsessive thoughts, etc, you realize it’s not personal. Just having a diagnosis or a guess is not enough, rather you must understand the deep symptoms and what's really going on. For example, even if your loved one stood there and chewed you out calling you the most horrible things, remember "it's not personal, it's the disorder."
When you can start seeing the troubles affecting your loved one ... you can feel compassion. I met with one husband over the ongoing anxiety and depression for his wife and the destruction that followed. I explained how it worked and then showed brain scans of a healthy brain and a depressed brain. His eyes filled up with tears, finally starting to see his wife's struggle instead of simply feeling anger because she couldn't be the wife he wanted.
2) INVITE AND OFFER HEALING
Recovery is a process, not a quick fix. This is not days to weeks, this will take months to years. I once heard that some of God's best works are done over the long haul ... and that sure sounds right to me. We look at the holistic needs, not just the quick fix pill to make it all better. Recovery provides structure, routine and boundaries. People are often being told what to do and if they do not comply, "tough love, baby!" We want to empower them into a healing process—they need vision for something greater. We don't demand this, we offer them a process that goes beyond medication and therapy (which is only a part of it). We look at what are the full dimension of needs physically, emotionally and even spiritually. That's what we do and we see lives transformed.
3) DON'T JUST FORGIVE, LEARN HOW
Some Christian counsel tells you, "focus on the things you love about him/her, and then you have to forgive them." But the hurt is real, valid, and damaging. The person tries to forgive, but can't, and then they feel like they've failed God ... "I'm not a good Christian." Or they can say, "I forgive," but still feel depressed. It's about grieving the offenses back to acceptance ... then you rebuild trust. It's the demand to forgive that locks people up. It takes time to mourn the loss of the relationship, the loss of that security, trust and love. They need time to validate their own pain and hurts. Then, forgiveness becomes part of the person's countenance and more than a religious requirement. It's real and genuine. You will be able to forgive, just give yourself time to get through the shock, anger and sadness, guilt and shame ... time to find a place of acceptance so that you can give love again.
Life improves by grace ... Life gets better
The Grace Alliance