Friday, October 23, 2009

Family-to-Family, Week 3

Note: One of our current Family-to-Family participants is writing a weekly series of her experience in NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania's 12-week class. This is her third post.

Back for week three at Family-to-Family and, even though I'm dead tired after a day of work, I'm looking forward to tonight's topic: Types of bipolar disease, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder. These labels are bandied around so much in the media--in news reports, talk shows and TV series--that they become one confusing jumble of overlapping symptoms. I'm anxious to get some clarification.

However, as our co-teachers present the content, and I mentally flip through the catalog of symptoms experienced by various family members, friends, and myself, I'm still at a loss. Which makes one thing very clear: at any given point in time, each and every person's position on the spectrum of mental illness, from perfectly healthy to severely incapacitated, can and does change.

The second half of class is reserved for each member of the group to talk about their loved one and share their story, mapping where they are currently to the stages of dealing with a loved one's mental illness. Much like the stages of grief, the stages of dealing with mental illness detail the range of attitudes one experiences during the process of coming to terms with the drastic rearrangement of one's life, hopes and dreams that occurs in the wake of serious mental illness.

Heavy stuff for a Monday. But hearing the stories of the others in this class, learning how they and their loved ones have struggled, how some have persevered, while others are still searching for a light at the end of the tunnel, leaves me feeling as though I am surrounded by untold strength.

For more information, visit the Family-to-Family section on NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania's website.