In Response

I was called out on a previous post. Check it out here. I’m okay with this. I’m not one of those people who believes my opinion is fact. Everything I write is my own opinion, based on my own experiences, coming from my own perspective. But that’s the wonderful thing about life—we all get our own experiences and our own perspectives.

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I had a reader say this post caught her off guard because it felt more judgmental than the rest. I can admit she was right. I hesitated posting it because I knew it would come across that way. I wasn’t trying to be judgmental. Obviously I don’t know everything, and I am not God so I cannot see into the heart and soul of others. I was simply trying to express my belief in taking personal responsibility for ourselves. Now, I absolutely believe there is hope, but it has been extremely frustrating watching the same scenario played out over and over the past fourteen years. There’s this quote often attributed to Albert Einstein, though there is a debate about whether he really said it or not. Still, I like it and think it’s pretty accurate. It goes, “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It’s what I saw these parents doing for the last fourteen years—like they think that somehow, someday he’ll just magically get better. Or like they think that once they die someone else is just going to magically step in and continue babying him until he dies. I personally don’t understand it. Maybe others do, but it is beyond my own understanding.

See, I’ve already seen that scenario played out with another family member. He also suffered from severe mental illness, just like the man I spoke of in my post. He lived off of his mother until she passed away. I know his mom liked having him live with her so she wasn’t alone in the many years after her husband died, but he pretty much bummed off of her, manipulated her, wasted all her money, let her take care of him and never learned how to live for himself. Because she never expected or taught him how to live on his own, he didn’t know how to do it. A few days after she died another family member went by to found him in the exact same clothes he’d had on when his mom passed away. He hadn’t showered or changed in all that time. The house was a total mess, he hadn’t taken care of their dog—she was pretty much starving—and the house was full of pee and poo. He was in this state because he couldn’t function without his mother taking care of him. And no one had cared enough to figure out what to do with him after she died. Sometime later he had to have one of his legs amputated because he hadn’t been diligent in taking care of his diabetes—because he didn’t know how to take care of it without his mom. This was a man in his sixties here! The way I see it, if you really love someone you think about their future, not just their present. And sometimes tough love is the best love.

As I said, I do believe in hope. There is always hope, but as it declares in James 2:26, “faith without works is dead.” You can’t just hope. You have to do. Sometimes I think I must be a complicated person. I’m a romantic, but I’m also a realist, and my experiences in life have taught me that not every story has a happy ending—especially when you don’t or won’t take responsibility for yourself.

Another reader commented about her brother who suffered from substance abuse and how frustrating it was to watch. Eventually her brother got better and overcame. I, too, had a family member who wasted away his life to addiction. Despite efforts to help him, he continued in his ways until his early fifties when he developed lung and kidney disease from years of smoking and alcoholism. Rather than waiting for the slow pain of disease to take his life he put a gun to his head and a bullet through his brain. To my reader, you and your family are incredibly blessed. Not every story ends like yours, though. Not every person owns up and takes responsibility. When they don’t, disastrous results may lie in wait.

I know I sound like a broken record, but mental illness is real. It is a disability. For those of us who live with it, it is so much harder to make certain choices and take responsibility, but nothing is impossible. And one of the most important lessons I have learned in my life is that you can do hard things.

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So speaking of hope, I’ll share one more story. Not every story has a happy ending, but not all are horrible, either. I know of another family who had a son with extreme OCD like the family member mentioned in my previous post. His parents tried helping him for years. They kept at him about taking his medication and seeing his therapist, but he just wouldn’t do it. Eventually they gave him some of that tough love and kicked him out of their house. For a long time he struggled. He was in and out of hospitals and jail for years. Was it hard? Yes, it was very hard—for him and his parents. But eventually he learned that he had to take care of himself or that dismal life would be his for the living forever, and he didn’t want that. So as hard as it was, he forced himself to take his medication, to see his therapist, to hold down a job, even if it wasn’t a good one. He even met a girl. They were able to get married and live together on their own. It may not be a “happily-ever-after” ending, as they still both struggle with their illnesses and issues, but they are living! Because they took responsibility. Because they figured out how to do hard things. Because someone changed the way they were “helping” them. Because they were given “tough” love.

Now as I have pointed out many times on this blog—everyone is different. Just because something works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. Sometimes the right solution comes through years of trial and error. But I do believe in personal responsibility, even as hard as it can be for those of us with mental illness. And I really do believe we can do hard things.

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