What Not to Do When Someone You Love Is Psychotic

November 29, 2010

There have been a couple of disturbing news reports lately about terrible crimes committed by people in psychotic states, including the actor Michael Brea’s savage murder of his mother and a Seattle killing that took place in front of school children.

Although it’s been proven that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it, these reports underscore the fact that untreated psychosis can lead to tragedy.

It’s imperative, then, that you do everything you can to get your loved one the help he or she needs.

When John became psychotic due to a manic episode that escalated into psychosis, I learned a few hard lessons about what not to do when you’re trying to help a loved one beat this frightening illness.

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Healthy Self-Sacrifice in a Marriage Marked by Mental Illness

October 20, 2010

If a woman leaves her husband because he gets cancer, pretty much everyone will decide that she’s a cold, heartless rhymes-with-witch. If a woman leaves her husband because he gets diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, a lot of people will decide that she’s smart, she’s dodged a bullet, she’s spared herself a lifetime of pain.

I hate the disparity between these two reactions. On one level, I get it. Cancer doesn’t mess with your personality the way severe mental illness does. On the other hand, the second woman is just as heartless and just as cold as the first.

In the words of Edward Sri, a Catholic writer who penned MEN, WOMEN AND THE MYSTERY OF LOVE, both women are committed to their husbands “only insofar as—and as long as—[they] receive pleasure or advantage from the relationship[s].”

They’re both selfish, and they both throw aside their husbands when they decide these men can no longer give them what they want.

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Being the Strong One

October 7, 2010

A recent post by Therese Borchard contained a beautiful Biblical verse, a portion of which reads, “To everything there is a season… a time to break down, and a time to build up…” It reminded me of something my mother said to me when John was in and out of the psych ward: “You take turns being strong in a marriage. This is your turn.”

At the time, I was scared that John would never recover, and that I’d have to be the strong one for the rest of our lives. Fortunately, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.

But looking back, I can see that as my husband was breaking down, I was building him up. When he was sick, I advocated for his recovery. I took care of paying the medical bills, scheduling doctor’s appointments, and communicating with his employer about his eventual return to work.

It was sort of a yin/yang kind of thing: I took care of the details of everyday life so he had the space to get well.

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