'Our Home Environment Gradually Became More And More Unbearable'
My family and I had been going through a very rough stage in our lives trying to deal with our oldest daughter’s diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
We thought our daughter was just a ‘typical teenager’, rebelling against our authority and refusing to follow the rules, until her lifestyle got out of hand. She just made it through Grade 12 and then her primary focus became her social life which encompassed the regular use of alcohol and drugs. She could not hold a job nor was she interested in pursuing any further education. She stopped participating in our family activities and only wanted to hang out with her friends. She now had a steady boyfriend who moved into our home with us, as they were preparing for the birth of their baby boy.
Over the next couple of years our home environment gradually became more and more unbearable. Her behaviour became unmanageable and the rest of us would become more isolated and withdrawn, constantly walking on eggshells, worried about what would happen next. My growing anxiety over the parenting of my new grandson was a daily concern. I didn’t know what to do, for her, for the baby, nor for the rest of my family.
One day I was looking through my local newspaper and found an article introducing the new Family Resource Centre (FRC) at Ontario Shores. I cut the article out and posted it on my fridge. Within a couple of days, when the environment in my house turned volatile again, I pulled the article off of the fridge and with my other daughter and newly born grandson in tow, we left the house in tears, got in the car and made our way to Ontario Shores.
We arrived at the FRC, totally unannounced, and were greeted by a very friendly social worker and volunteer who patiently listened as I told my story through tears. They were able to calm me down and provided me with some great advice and resources to assist me in dealing with my current situation and moving forward. For the first time since my daughter’s diagnosis I felt there was hope for me to survive this. Immediately after my visit, I began to receive emails with invites to information sessions and education series organized and presented by professionals through the organization’s Family Council.
Soon thereafter, my husband and I participated in a program called Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) for families. This program is designed to help family members of those with mental illnesses, by providing tools and skills to strengthen and look after ourselves so we can be well and strong to better understand and support our loved one.
The more I learned from our education in this program, the more I realized what negative stigma is attached to mental illness and why many families suffer in silence. After all, it’s difficult enough to accept that our loved one is afflicted with a mental illness, so how on earth do we talk about the affect their illness has on us? Do the families of those with diabetes or cancer feel ashamed to seek help? No, so why do we? The most important things I’ve learned from the FRC is that we are not alone and this is not our fault. Mental illness was not afflicted upon my daughter because I was a bad parent, so why was I embarrassed or afraid to talk about this?
I have met many wonderful, courageous people that have shared their family stories with me. It is through their experiences and triumphs that I have been able to better accept the road I need to travel on and understand that we are not always in control of our direction; rather we need to be in control of how we adapt and proceed in the direction necessary to stay well and be strong for our loved one when circumstances change. I’ve learned to accept that we will have our ups and downs and sometimes we will take a few steps backward, and that’s OK. We need to remain positive and strong whatever the circumstance dictates. We need to look after ourselves.
After spending time learning from other families, understanding what they have gone through, meeting new families that are just beginning the journey to mental health with their loved one, I decided to become a volunteer in the FRC. They had provided me with so much that I sincerely felt that I wanted and needed to give something back.
Although I still have some bad days, they are easier to deal with than they were a couple of years ago. I feel comforted knowing that there are resources available to me and my family to utilize through the FRC and great people to lean on for support.