My son's case manager calls them "your Earth friends." They are the people you know and love who do not have a mentally ill family member. They can sympathize. They can listen. But they really can't understand, no matter how hard they try.
Here are some things you have to live to understand:
1. Removing your child from yet another activity because other parents are complaining.
2. The sound of the psych ward door locking behind you during visiting hours.
3. Getting a slip of paper without comment that contains a diagnosis that changes your life forever.
4. Waiting with dread to hear from MIA adult children with mental illness .. and the instant relief when you discover that they are cursing out someone online. So they are alive!
5. What a really bad day is ... and what it is not.
That's why it's so important to find companions who have been there. I have had the good fortune of meeting many fine people at Families in Touch, the Mental Health America group, as well as our Support and Recovery Group, Loving Someone With Mental Illness, at Vineyard Columbus. Laughing together at jokes that everyone else would find in poor taste is such a great stress reliever.
I co-founded Loving Someone With Mental Illness because I wanted the opportunity to pray with others about our mentally ill loved ones. For me, the best way to live faithfully in a secular work as a radical Christian is to belong to a small group of spiritual companions. Our group is there to allow us to share each other's burdens and point each other to Jesus in good times and bad. Loving Someone With Mental Illness meets on the first and third Thursdays at 7 p.m. at Vineyard Columbus' main campus on Cooper Road, Westerville.
Don't go through the pain of caregiving for a mentally ill person alone. Having someone other than your "Earth friends" to help you is truly a godsend.