Since leaving the group home last year and moving into a nice, middle-class home out in the countryside here in southeast Alabama, I’ve learned some important lessons ~ potentially life-changing lessons ~ that are bound to be for my eventual good, even though it’s now pretty painful. Anyway, I usually sort through things like this best when I collect my thoughts and write, so … I’m kind of thinking out loud here, getting it all down on paper, and maybe I’ll even receive some valuable feedback (and encouragement) from my readers. So, here goes, lessons I’ve learned over the past year or so:
- It is impossible for me to provide total care of another individual having very specific and special needs, such as, in this case, being a full-blown schizophrenic. I can love and try to understand, be compassionate and helpful, but I cannot, as my friend and landlord has put it many times, “handle” this person. Really, I’ve come to realize that probably no one individual can “handle” a full-blown adult schizophrenic on their own, without any help, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether that’s true or not, though, I realize that I can’t do it … and that’s okay. Which leads to number two.
- I am who I am and what I am, and it’s not bad or wrong. I have intelligence, gifts, talents, and abilities, but I can’t be everything to everybody … even my best friend. Period. I have my limitations, part of which involves being bipolar with depressive disorder as well as general and social anxiety disorder. And this is simply true, period. And no one is going to wave a magic wand and make it go away, and I can’t just “get over it.” No, there’s a lot I can do to deal with it and even live a fairly healthy, productive life … but I can’t just “get over it.”
- Along with this, I’ve come to realize that my plans for my life have to truly be my plans. And it doesn’t matter … it can’t matter what others think, even if it’s a close family member or my best friend. And they may want to map out my life for me, but that wouldn’t be good and healthy for me. If I’m really that bad off, then I probably need to just go back to some structured, group setting rather than being out on my own … but I’m not that bad off! Period.
- And so too, I can’t accept shaming… If someone is constantly reminding me of how good, gracious and generous they’ve been to me, and continue to be, then something’s wrong. Point in fact, whether they consciously realize it or not, they’re engaging in shaming. Whether it’s their intention or not, they’re embarrassing and even humiliating me, and that’s not right. It’s certainly not healthy. If someone ~ family member or friend ~ makes a truly genuine offer, whatever it may be, then it’s not going to come with strings attached, and they’re certainly not going to constantly, repeatedly remind you of the wonderful gift they’ve given you. If they do, then guess what? It wasn’t really, truly a gift, which leads to another lesson:
- Yeah, it’s like the old saying goes: If it’s too good to be true, then it’s probably not true! So if that family member or friend makes an offer, again whatever it may be, and it almost seems too good to be true … look for the hook! More than likely there’s more to the picture than you’re seeing at the moment. Especially if they tell you again and again and again that they’ve given you something oh-so good and wonderful, something you couldn’t hope for elsewhere, and repeatedly remind you of just how thankful you ought to be, well … something’s terribly wrong. Loving family members and good friends just don’t do this. Besides, you just can’t live with this hanging over your head, at least you can’t live an authentically healthy life. So, yeah, look for the hook, because it’s very likely that, really and truly, there’s something in it for them. In other words, if they’re shaming you to keep you humble and grateful and essentially under their thumb, then there’s a reason they want you in that position. You have to ask yourself why… Look for the hook!
- And speaking of family and friends, I’ve had to realize that not only are my relationships my own, and no one else, I also have to guard those precious relationships. For example, with my children. I have a fairly decent, healthy relationship with both my children, and our relationship is primarily between me and each of them … no one else. Therefore, I cannot abide someone, no matter how close they may be, analysing and critically critiquing these relationships. Yes, family and friends have the right to talk with me, encourage me, even politely offer advice, but when that friend says something like, “I’m really surprised, even shocked, that your children still speak to you, much less love you and want to have anything to do with you,” they’ve gone too far. That person has crossed the line, period. And, by the way, I told my children about this (yeah! it really happened!)and we talked about it at some length. Both of them were blown away that this person would say something like that. And they lovingly reassured me that, though I’ve made my share of mistakes, I’ve never done or said anything at all to lose their love. So yeah … both of them love me, respect me, and certainly want to continue being an important part of my life. Far, far from writing me off … they love me and want me! Period! So this “friend” was just wrong, plain and simple. But he was also very hurtful. So anyway, no, I can’t have that sort of crap in my life… I don’t deserve it, which leads to the next important lesson:
- I am valuable. I have real worth. Consequently, I deserve as much respect as the next person. Yes, of course, I’ve had my issues and problems and struggles, but I’ve also accomplished a lot in life. And I’ve almost always been kind, compassionate, understanding, and generous. I’ve certainly always given others consideration and respect, so I deserve at least as much in return. This means, of course, that I’m simply not going to put up with condescending attitudes and total disregard for my thoughts and feelings… You know, it’s like this: I don’t treat others this way ~ I don’t treat others disgracefully ~ so I sure as hell don’t expect to be treated this way!
- And finally, it’s probably best not to become too entangled with family members and friends. You know, if I’m going to maintain those relationships, those friendships, then (at least in this culture, in this society) it’s probably best for me to be as independent as possible. Sad to say, but at least in this day and time, in this part of the world, dependency leads to subservience. The person who even partly controls your life, effectively controls you. So if I don’t like this kind of arrangement, then I need to break free and be as independent as possible. No more, no less. It just doesn’t work out, at least not without ruining that friendship, or other relationship.
Oh, and one more lesson just from my observation of a grieving friend:
- You can’t keep someone alive through some mausoleum or memorial… Memorials to loved ones who’ve passed on is perfectly okay, so long as you’re not holding on in some really unhealthy way. When a loved one dies it’s sad, even tragic, and you mourn and part of you will probably always miss them, but … you’ve eventually got to let them go! And you’ve got to move on. This doesn’t mean you’ll ever totally forget them. Of course not! But it does mean that you pick up the pieces, get yourself back together, and move on! You get on with truly living real life! Yeah, it can be really difficult, but it’s far worse to somehow try to artificially keep that person alive after they’re dead and gone and buried… I hope this doesn’t come across as cold and cruel, really. I mean I’ve lost plenty of loved ones already, including my dearly departed parents. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss them, but … but I’ve moved on … just like they intended! Let me say that part again: Just like they intended! My folks would be horrified, in fact, if they thought I was holding on and somehow trying to essentially keep them alive in some sick fashion… That’s not good. It’s not healthy, but … I know someone right now who’s doing this. I see it. I know it. And I know it’s not good, not healthy. In fact, in many ways I think it’s tearing him apart.
Anyway, thank you one and all for letting me share. Thanks for letting me “unload” some of my burdens, clear my head, and whatnot. Most of all, thanks for reading, and if you have some thoughts or observations to share, please do so in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you, as always!