Monday, November 9, 2009

Family-to-Family Week 5

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

Imagine harnessing the collective experience of nearly 20 experts and "lay-experts" to personally address your one most pressing problem.

We were assigned homework for this week: to define one problem that you have with your loved one and describe our emotional response to the problem. Then, we were to see if our emotional response to the problem helped us redefine the original problem. I see where they're going with this--in many cases the only thing I have control over is my own reaction to the problem. And, often, my reaction causes escalation of the original problem or creates a whole new problem altogether. This reminds me of the variation of the Serenity Prayer I learned at the NAMI National Conference: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that that one is me."

Unfortunately, while most of the problems described in our group tonight involved extremely emotional responses, there were more serious and pressing issues underlying them. As a group, we worked on each dilemma, following a problem-solving technique called P.O.W., which involves reviewing the Past Experience with the problem--who has tried what, what has worked, what hasn't; listing Options--new things to try to resolved the issue; and What if--picking a second option to try if the first choice either cannot be implemented or does not work as planned.

For each problem, the group was tasked with listing 10-12 possible solutions. The reaction to some of our suggestions was as if we were giving new hope to people who felt they'd "tried everything." Most of the people had never heard of Clubhouses--places where a person with a mental illness can go to socialize, learn job skills or get information on housing, jobs and other supports. In several cases, it was suggested that a new doctor be consulted or medications evaluated, encouraging action in situations that had become accepted as "the norm" although they were steadily eroding the lives of those involved.

Next week we have a guest speaker who will answer our medication questions--how valuable would it be to have answers to your questions about your loved one's medication?

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