My family has a history of mental illness, pretty much all of it completely un-diagnosed. When I say my family is crazy, I’m not elaborating. Some are more crazy than others, but all of us deal with depression and anxiety to some degree.
I’m writing this post anonymously because it’s a hard one to discuss…the affects that someone elses’ mental illness can have on you.
Mental illness is hard, it’s this battlefield, rutted in darkness. Everybody is shooting, trying to get the enemy but often getting other innocent people in the process because they just can’t see. The darkness is suffocating, blinding, maddening. Everybody wants out of it – those who are fighting the illness, those who are fighting for someone who has the illness, and those who are innocent bystanders.
Someone I care about has a bunch of mental illnesses that are undiagnosed but blatantly there. This person lives in their own twisted perception of reality, and truly views themselves as the victim. This person cannot comprehend that maybe, they aren’t the only victim in the story. This person cannot see that their actions are seriously hurting those they calm to care about. This person won’t get help for their mental illness, they won’t accept the fact that something is even remotely wrong. “It’s just depression,” they say, only it’s not just depression. I deal with depression and anxiety daily, I know what it looks like…what it inflicts on others and while it isn’t always pretty, it’s not this.
This person seeps out toxic poison from every pore. This person’s presence creates more issues for my own mental health, because this person asks and asks and asks and doesn’t realize the extent of what they are asking, of what I am giving. I shake and tremble in their wake. A phone conversation drains me, and a visit destroys me. It takes me forever to bring myself back to a place where I can honestly say I’m alright.
Mental health is a bitch, a cruel tormentor that knows just how to destroy families. It’s not like an illness such as cancer, where you would never even presume to give up on someone suffering from it. You would fight for that person, because they didn’t ask for that cruel disease. Mental health is just as cruel and nobody asks for it, but it’s harder to not give up on someone because it affects your own mental health so much.
Having children myself, I look at them and want to cry. I want to cry because I shudder at the mere thought that maybe one day, I will affect them in the ways that this person affects me. I don’t want to do that to them, not now or ever. I don’t want to make them feel trapped with lips sewn shut.
It’s different when someone is trying to see through the darkness, trying to get help. When the person isn’t getting help and flat out refuses to, they cause destruction to not only themselves but everyone around them. In that darkened battlefield, they’re shooting in every direction and enjoying it. They are not working together with the other voices, not calling out their position so other’s know when to duck.
And no matter what, those that they hurt are to blame. And that’s a hard thing to handle. It’s your fault I’m so sad. It’s your fault that I left you for years. It’s your fault because you sided with this other person, my abandonment is justified and now that I’ve returned, you MUST make it up to me. You must do all that I ask because if you don’t, you’re terrible people and I am and will always be the victim.
You have to know when to slam the door, to take the broken pieces of your own mental health and sanity and cling to them, protecting them from the destruction.
Making that call in itself is almost impossible, because of the guilt. The thoughts that if this was cancer, there would be no question. But it’s not cancer, it’s an attack on the soul and spirit and the will. When you’re handling your own illnesses that attack your soul, spirit and will…having someone else attack you as well is extremely crippling.