May is Mental Health Month.
I know that this is the point where I should pull out statistics and facts, but this one hits too close to home to be boiled down to x out of x's and YY%'s. For people who suffer from mental illness or whose loved ones suffer, it is far more than a number. It is a life-changer.
Having a loved one with a mental illness means...
... sleepless nights as you worry about their well-being.
... constant disruptions at work, home - to family life in general.
... highs and lows.
... good days and bad days - never knowing what's around some corners and bracing for what you know is around the other corners.
... knowing when to be a safety net and when to clean up the scrapes and bruises.
... wondering why this is happening to you and what you could have possibly done to have caused it.
... times where you wish things could be "normal" for just one hour/ day/ week.
... dealing with people who don't understand and judge.
... finding inner strength that you didn't know you had.
... patience. Lots and lots of patience.
... humility. It can be humbling.
... lots of unsolicited advice and learning how to gracefully keep your mouth shut.
... listening to really hard things taken out of context and biting your tongue. Sometimes, you just have to let the words come out - there is no opportunity for rebuttal.
... learning how to "not take it personally" - it isn't always about you.
... learning how to "put it aside" - after all, you are only human and sometimes we all need a break.
... the struggle of loving someone and separating them from their illness.
... learning how to ask for help. Isolation does not help. There is help out there - don't be afraid to use it.
... discovering that you are not alone. It is more common that you think - so many families deal with these issues every day.
... learning to take things one day at a time.
It is hard. Very, very hard. But you do it. You learn to live with it - the whole household learns to live with it. And you hope and pray that you come out on the other side a better person for it - some one who is more caring and tolerant. Some one who is stronger. Some one who is able to use their own experiences to ease the load for another person down the road - whether it be in word or actions. Some times, just being able to put a face or a voice to some one who has been there is enough to get you through the day.