Cinco de Mayo 2020
For 66 years now, my family has been woven into who I am and who I will always be, whether I like it or not. My loved ones with SMI (serious mental illness) include my mother, aunt, siblings, children and ex-husband. If I include alcoholism I can add my father to my list. As of today, some are stabilized, some are delusional, some self-medicate, some are unaware they are ill, some are self-absorbed, some believe in God, some are liars, some are estranged and some are deceased. The undulating stages of their illnesses have inflicted wounds and some continue to elicit all sorts of negative emotions for me. I am only human, I am also fragile and I am learning how to guard my own sanity.
Detachment is neither kind nor unkind. It does not imply judgement or condemnation of my loved one or the situation from which I am detaching. Separating myself from the adverse effects of my loved one’s disease of psychosis, mania, depression, anxiety or drug abuse can be a means of detaching: this may or may not require physical separation and/or cutting off of all communications in order to maintain healthy boundaries for my physical and emotional well-being. Detachment can help me look at the situation realistically and objectively.
These are family diseases in that they impact all family members whether they are siblings, parents, ex-husbands, aunts, uncles, nieces or nephews. Living with the effects of a family member’s disease, whether under the same roof or not, is too devastating for us to bear without help. My sources of help include Christian fellowship, Alanon meetings, NAMI family meetings and staying close to God through the Bible, worship and prayer.
I reject guilt and the compulsion to fix anyone else;
- Nothing I do or say can cause or stop someone else’s disease.
- I am not responsible for another person’s disease or recovery from it.
I must protect my sanity and well-being. Detachment allows me to let go of my obsession with another’s behavior and begin to lead a happier and more manageable life, a life with dignity and rights, a life guided by Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. I can still love the person without liking their behaviors.
I refuse to . . .
- suffer because of the words, actions or reactions of other people
- allow myself to be used or abused verbally or physically by others in the interest of another’s recovery
- do for others what they can do for themselves
- manipulate situations so others will eat, go to bed, get up, pay bills, seek treatment, take their meds, not drink or abuse drugs, or behave as I see fit
- cover up or lie for another’s mistakes or misdeeds
- create or escalate a crisis by trying to control things that are not in my control
- prevent a crisis if it is in the natural course of events
— Adapted for myself from Alanon literature
(photo is in ER with my dislocated index finger. Bouldering across the water by the waterfall in Eaton Canyon, Pasadena, CA, I fell after Jessie banged into my standing leg.)