Monday, November 26, 2007


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BEING A FAMILY MEMBER/ November 26, 2007
Being a family member of a person with a mental illness is harder than being the person with the mental illness. I think I have the right to state that personal opinion because I have watched the suffering of my family over the years and because along with being a person with a mental illness I am a family member myself.
My parents and my sisters have been in agony over the years because of my illness. Both of my parents are dead. They did not live to see the better years. The years I have put together over the past fifteen years or so. My father died right at the beginning of the better years and my mom was so sick she died early in them. Too early to know it was a lasting change. I had strung good months together before. How was she to know this time was any different?
Let me tell you a little about the program I have been on. I call it the Patty Program. When I talk about it in seminars or speeches people always say, “Well that sounds good, but everybody does not have a Patty.” Don’t make that mistake here please. It is true. No one else has a Patty. She is special. She is my wife. I would not loan her out even if I could, but anyone who knows Patty knows I don’t own her so I couldn’t loan her.
We now have the first concept of the Patty Program. You don’t own your loved one. I do not own Patty and she does not own me. That puts the burden for my behavior on me. Since I am not a slave, but rather a free person I must take responsibility for my own actions. Being free is scary. It takes courage to accept the responsibility rather than blame the illness.
I liked the highs of mania. They were better than any high produced by any drug. Until I decided to take my meds on a regular basis the better years did not begin. When I first went on medications regularly for my bipolar illness, I went for a time to the Outpatient Clinic at Memorial Hospital in Broward County, FL ,but it was not the therapy there that helped. It was my friend Joyce who was in charge, but still took time to talk to me that helped me over the hump. It was Jan at who I saw at mental health meetings and who had run a group for years who helped. It was Patty who never tried to force the drugs, but just simply walked beside me.
We now have the second concept. BE WILLING TO SIMPLY WALK BESIDE THE PERSON YOU LOVE. This is not easy for a family member to do. You see someone suffering and you naturally want it relieved. It is how you help them get it relieved that matters.
Sally Clay, one of the leading advocates, grew up in the same small town in Kentucky that I lived in just before Daddy took us to the mission field in southern Africa. She wrote an article for the Dream Again Journal which was published by Dream Again Press for a few years in the 90’s. It was called “Spirituality and Anger” and can still be found at her website It was published in the January 1996 issue. Sally Clay might say I am stepping over the line here too.
Kurt Entsminger in his statement on the website of the Treatment Advocacy Center where he will become the Executive Director January 2, 2008 says, “It is my history that brought me to TAC. As a person who has struggled with bipolar disorder for many years, I understand firsthand the difference that effective treatment can make in allowing someone to function normally again. My hospitalization and subsequent and continuing treatment is the reason I’m well today.”
I have no problem with that statement but then later on he says, “I was particularly drawn to this new position because of my great empathy for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who continue, without treatment, to struggle with the consequences of untreated severe brain disorders. Far too many people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are living on our streets, are warehoused in our prisons, and unnecessarily remain at risk for violence or suicide. I believe it is time to restore common sense to a society that has literally sacrificed human sanity in the name of personal privacy and an outdated and unrealistic understanding of what constitutes true civil rights. “
Now I got a problem Kurt. In 1978 Judi Chamberlin’s book “On Our Own” came out. It is available at the National Empowerment Center store online at At Sally Clay’s website there is information about a book “On Our Own, Together” edited by Sally Clay. Maybe Kurt should read them both.
My disability Kurt nor the disability of any of my fellow sojourners does not mean we have lost any of our rights so let’s just talk plain. Your words are code for let’s force treatment on every poor soul we decide needs it.
Kurt, another book you might want to read was written by Edward M. Podvoll, M.D. In the “The Seduction of Madness” he says, “Moments of natural recovery, ‘islands of clarity’ as I have called them, happen all the time within the experience of psychosis; not only can these be recognized and acknowledged, they need to be protected.”
How do I know Dr. Podvoll is right? Because I have experienced them. “On Our Own” may be the only way when our own betray us.
I wrote about how hard it was to be a family member in my own book “When Even the Devil Deserts You” which is still available through Dream Again Press at, but please try the Patty Program before resorting to forced treatment. Do you know how many of us get killed each year while they are trying to pick us up to take us in for the forced treatment? Do you know how many of us die while we are in there? Do you know how many of us will never trust a mental health professional again or the person who had it done?
No matter how tough the road gets embrace me don’t force treat me then at least I can still trust somebody.

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