There are times when we have all thought if that person would just change, if that person would just see my point of view, if that person understood me, things would be better. We would get along better. We would be happier; he would be happier, etc. etc.
But a quote from Gandhi says it all – “I can’t change the world, but I can change myself.”
When you really think about it, he is right. We have no control over how someone else is, but we do have control over how we are. I use the present tense, because the present is also what matters.
In the Family to Family class taught at the local non-profit, NAMI of Southern Arizona, participants are first taught about the reality of mental illness and the biological basis of mental illness. Then everyone learns what it means to be empathetic and to put themselves in their loved ones shoes. It can be an emotional realization for some who have come to the class trying to cope with what can be a day to day struggle. Parents feel guilty, siblings feel anger and children of adults with mental illness can feel abandoned, or worse. Emotions vary and people can feel like they are experiencing never ending grief after their relative is diagnosed. The young man who was going to go to Harvard now struggles to comprehend a story in the newspaper, the high powered attorney who successfully represented clients in the courtroom no longer has the confidence to speak in public, or as in Daniel Ayers case (the man with schizophrenia in the move “The Soloist,”) an incredibly gifted musician is living on the streets.
A person’s journey with mental illness can be heart-breaking. We want so much to help them, advise them, and convince them to take medications. But, in reality all we can do is support and encourage them and remind them there is hope. Recovery is a reality and once we convince ourselves of that and acknowledge that today is a present and tomorrow is just a dream and we can’t and shouldn’t force our relative into anything the dynamic changes.
People living with mental illness need emotional support. They need to feel like someone genuinely cares. People with mental illness tend to isolate, so it is incumbent upon us, as people that want the best for them to be there for them and be a much needed friend.
If you are interested in being a friend to someone with mental illness, NAMI of Southern Arizona also has a “buddy” program. It is called “Heart to Heart” and it pairs a compassionate volunteer with a person who truly appreciates the value of friendship.
For more information, call the local office at 520-622-5582 or visit the website www.namisa.org