One of the things being a part of a NAMI support group has taught me is to see a person and their illness as two separate things. I think, in a way, I have always tried to teach CJ this by reminding him “You are not your illness”…..but sometimes I have a hard time grasping the concept when he is out of control or simply being completely disrespectful. Throw in the challenge of differentiating normal teenage behavior from bipolar behavior and sometimes I am at a complete loss in regard to understanding my kid.
One challenge we have been dealing with for many years is CJ accepting responsibility for his actions and blaming others for outcomes that he could have prevented. For example, we have been looking to move into the next county over from us. Since CJ has started his new school, I have been spending about 2 1/2 hours a day commuting back and forth to his school. One county doesn’t seem like a big move, but by doing so it will cut my driving time in more than half. It will also put us closer to our church, where my husband is heavily involved and closer to the highway for his commute into the Atlanta area for work. To make this change, we have to put our current house on the market. CJ is actually very excited about the prospect of moving, however, to put our house on the market, he has to maintain his bedroom and stop damaging walls. Instead of stepping up to do what he needs to, he gets angry at us for not making this change happen fast enough. He simply won’t take responsibility for his actions that have caused this delay. I have even offered to clean his room and maintain it daily…..but he won’t have it. The thought of me invading his space sends him into a tailspin. So we seem to be at an impasse trying to keep him stable enough emotionally that we can move forward with our plans.
This has been an ongoing problem for us. I am constantly in a state of frustration trying to figure out ways to teach him to accept responsibility for his actions while still understanding that placing blame on others is a trait of many people living with bipolar disorder. The inability to see the cause and effect of your own actions can hinder every aspect of your life…..especially relationships and work.
So, in NAMI, our first principle of support is “We will see the individual first, not the illness”. I have found that one of the best ways to do this is to try to educate CJ about his illness…..and some of the road blocks that it tends to place in his way. I hope by showing him ways to move past these roadblocks now, it might help him in his adult life…….or it could back-fire and he will use what I teach him as a crutch (sometimes you just have to take the risk). Either way, I feel I need to educate him just as much as I try to educate others. We have to remember that just because our kids are living with mental illness, it doesn’t mean that they understand their actions any better than we understand them.
*****On a separate note, WordPress has informed me that today is my 1 year anniversary of starting this blog. I know it has been a bumpy road these past few months, but I want to thank you for sticking with me. If I have helped anybody understand their loved one better, or helped to educate those in the dark about mental illness, then this blog is fulfilling it’s purpose. CJ and I thank you for reading. *****
*** NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) provides support to families, caregivers and people living with mental illness. To find a support group in your area go to http://www.nami.org/