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A Family of Choice

It's unfair that many families refuse to accept their loved one's mental illness.  It's cruel!  It's painful and it is certainly anything but comforting.  Abandonment happens.  Glen and I have experienced this stinging loss.  Glen more than me.  His family does not get it.  It was all pretence and shallow.  It times of deep loss, we were often neglected and ignored.  We have often been sorely misrepresented and misunderstood.  No one cared that their abandonment has scorched deep burning scars into our souls. These seering scars; we will carry forever.  We will never be the same.  It would be unfair to ask that of us. 

We have repeatedly stumbled over this loss.  We have groveled, griped and complained.  We have whined and cried and begged for it to be different, but to no avail. We were certain they should love and accept him/us.  But we are learning that sometimes you don't get to choose the family you are born with.  If you are lucky, some families will get it and they will become your greatest support.  If you are just unfortunate, then you have to find a way to cope and move on. 

What is one to do?  You can't cry over it forever, for you are the only one destroyed by your tears.  It's life and accepting it is most definitely the first step on the road of recovery.  We are continuously learning to move on, but moving on is even more challenging.  It takes courage beyond belief.  It takes grit and determination.  It takes commitment to yourself, each other and to the disease to move forward. 

It requires a resolve to not look back or to not look back very often.  Looking back can become a disheartening setback, if one is not careful.  If you do look back, do so with an observing eye.  Take from the past only what is necessary for the future! Whatever you do, don't live in the past.  Turn quickly and swiftly and set your face once again to the wind.  Move on because those you left behind don't even miss you.  That's what makes it hurt.  I wish they hurt over losing him.  I wish they missed him.  I wish they felt bad but they don't.  Move On!

You can't make people like you or love you.  We tried that and it has never worked.  You can't control others.  That doesn't work either.  People like you or love you because they see you for who you are and they aren't trying to change you.  These people are your allies!  They can become family.  We have discovered that path to finding these people means you have to let go of the ones who long ago let go of you.  It's hard to do but so vital to your well being.  Let them go!  Keep the door to those relationships CLOSED!!!!  If the door re-opens, it will be for them to do.  It rarely happens.  If it does, great for you. 

So, take a look at who is around you.  These people are your family.  They chose you and you chose them.  That is enough!  They are living life with us because they see the value we have to offer.  They recognize who we are and they appreciate the battles we have fought and won!  They understand mental illness is no one's fault.  They see past mental illness and give dignity to the ones who suffer. 

Glen and I are deeply grateful to our "new family".  We'd be lost without them. Honestly, we don't just  need them, they need us.  Mental illness teaches people to give grace and compassion.  It makes people better in the art of caring for humanity.  We all need that! 

Your family of choice may not be vast in number but they are out there.  The important thing is to be grateful for them.  Thank them for caring and showing up.  Let them know you need them.  Gratefulness goes a long way.  As you give thanks, others will show up and support you.  It has been amazing to watch what happens every time we close our hands to the ones who hurt us!  Someone shows up to replace them.  This must be God's way of affirming us and reminding us that we are never alone! 

- Joyce 


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