DBSA-Boston Family & Friends
People with the illness are not the only ones affected. Family and friends need support as well. The Family & Friends support group gives members a chance to vent and share with others going through the same experience of having someone close to them become ill. This is one of DBSA-Boston’s largest attended groups and family and friend members facilitate the group.
This is a growing page on our website, but here are some of the things currently available for friends and family members:
DBSA-Boston Newsletter Article: Doing Something for Yourself (Summer 2001)
In the book Hidden Victims by Julie Johnson, the author defines eight stages of recovery for individuals whose lives have been affected by mental illness in a loved one.
The 7th stage is: I return the focus of my life to myself and appreciate my own worth, despite what may be going on around me. “Perhaps it has become a conditioned response to drop everything in order to take care of someone else or clean up after someone else’s disaster, “ says Ms. Johnson.
When members of the DBSA-Boston Friends/Family group are asked to share what they have done for themselves, most just look quizzical. Their energies have been consumed by caring for this special person with a mood disorder and they have not considered their own interests or goals. Most cannot name an activity they want to try. The facilitator may assign a task: define something you want to do for yourself.
Sometimes it takes more than one meeting for the message to get through. The most effective communication of self-care comes from members who have identified and tried an activity and who found it rewarding and refreshing.
Taking classes is one of the favorite choices. One parent took knitting classes at the local Adult Education, another took Abnormal Psychology at the Community College. One took screenwriting at Harvard. All reported a change in their own psyche and several reported an improved communication with their ill family member.
A walk was the activity chosen by several, “just to get out of the house.” Many found comfort in having a pet because the person with the illness would communicate with the pet or become involved in the care of the pet (and dogs do need to be walked). Vacations are the hardest activity to come to terms with. “I just can’t leave him (or her)” is the excuse. The friend/family feel they are responsible “for everything.: Until they can let go of their caretaker role they cannot leave. Ms. Johnson suggests: “Because the failures and successes of your mentally ill relative can have a profound influence on you, you are probably very attuned to his progress…you may have lost track of your own dreams and plans…Rather than drifting through life, responding to a series of crises, you can be decisive about what you want to be.”
Members of Friends/Family can become decisive. If they can start doing something for themselves they will be better able to do something for someone else. Listen to Julie Johnson when she says: “APPRECIATE YOURSELF SO THAT YOU ARE IN A BETTER POSITION TO EXTEND LOVE AND CARING TO OTHERS.”
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