Many caretakers and family members come to a support group feeling isolated, frustrated and embarrassed about their situations with their mentally ill loved one. What you are going through is unique, but we also share some nearly universal circumstances:

  • Most of us took a while to fully comprehend that our MIL (Mentally ill Loved One) has a serious mental illness which transcends ordinary emotions, personality or behavioral dysfunctions.
  • Most of us have endured the fear of not knowing what to do and a lack of resources or funds to help with the crisis or chronic situation.
  • Most of us have a MIL who has little or no insight into their illness, including how it affects those around them.
  • Most of us have a MIL who will resist living in a licensed or clinically supervised environment, even if that is more therapeutic for them than living at home or precariously on their own instead.
  • Most of us will feel guilt from placing our MIL in any type of treatment facility.
  • Most caretakers feel insecure, manipulated, and exhausted having a MIL live at home, having to manage their medications personally or make sure they are safe, clean and fed.
  • Most of us have a MIL who will be hospitalized a number of times, if not many times over the course of their life.
  • Most of us will struggle to get our MIL to take their medication.
  • Most of us feel perplexed and sorrowful with seeing how intelligent and creative our MIL can be or was in the past, but seriously debilitated now by their symptoms or diagnosis.
  • Most of us find that our own personal and professional lives suffer as a by-product of having a MIL consume so much of our time and energy.
  • Most of us have a MIL who does not have the same goals for themselves, if any goals, that we have for them.
  • Most of us will be forced to learn about all kinds of medications and their side effects, legal necessities such as conservatorships and Special Needs Trusts and other topics related to mental illness, stigma and emergencies.
  • Most of us will lose some friends who can’t handle hearing about the drama going on with our MIL or they will offer suggestions which may not be realistic, since friends are not expected to have the answers.
  • Most of us have a MIL doing other destructive behaviors such as smoking or substance abuse, which we know complicates the problem.
  • Most of us will have to see things get some degree of worse with our MIL before they get better.
  • Most of us will encounter incompetence at some point with doctors, psychiatrists and other health care workers.
  • And it’s a given that Law Enforcement and the whole Mental Health care system are under-staffed, under-funded, and still somewhat in the Dark Ages about understanding and treating mental illness.

With all that said, we can learn from each other, guide and support each other and hope for a brighter future for all our mentally ill loved ones.

Kartar Diamond is a Mental Illness and Family Advocate, author of Noah’s Schizophrenia: A Mother’s Search for Truth.