Loving someone with a mental illness has been compared to a rollercoaster ride, a merry-go-round, a broken record. As a loved one spits spite; we listen and still love. We show up the next day for more of the same. For me, it is my own Sisyphus boulder. I am destined to repeat the cycle over and over, ever hoping for a different outcome.
As I have learned about my loved one’s illness, I have grown kinder and more patient. I am grateful for this relationship in my life that deepens daily and has helped me grow into a better person. Each day together is a blessing; some days are radiant sunshine and hope. Other days? Well yes, there are other days that are harder to take. But even those aren’t too bad, when I am able to apply all I have learned about self-care to my day.
Yet there will always be days when I am weak; when a well-timed barb, spoken many times before and deflected, strikes home. Or worse, ever so much worse: when the darkness of a winter night falls and instead of seeing the crisp stars among winged birch branches, I see the suffering of my loved one, unable to face another day in this beautiful, cruel world.
Today, a difficult day for my loved one, the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, helped me remain supportive. These words, often read at weddings, can be applied to many relationships in life. But I find the words especially helpful for the sometimes one-sided relationships with those battling mental illness.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
My loved one carries a heavy burden. Yet my smaller burder is difficult too: I watch as my loved ones struggles with med-cycling; I am the brundt of antagonistic comments alternated with penitent pleas for forgiveness. I see self-loathing as peers achieve goals that were once his own. And just as I sit steeped in his sorrow, he baits me with critiques; I swallow retorts. For me, the meaning of Matthew 18:22’s forgiving “not seven times, but seventy-seven times” changes from the philosophical to an applied science.
Throughout the world there are many of us who love someone with a mental illness. When we walk alone, the pain and sadness creates an unweildy weight, and the goal of healthy living seems unattainable. It is when we walk together that there is hope and the Sisyphus boulder becomes a bit more manageable. That is when we begin to hope that someday we will reach the mountain peak and maybe, just maybe, we’ll stay for a while.
Visit Canvas of the Minds for more blogs written by and for people with mental illnesses.