A Caregiver’s Perspective
Most discussions of caregiving related to a crisis involving serious mental illness (SMI) start with a highly visible event or series of events. That is how it should be. That we should jump to rally around and support families who suffer these life-shattering and heartbreaking experiences could not be more obvious.
There is, however, another type of crisis. By its own nature it is overlooked because it is invisible and unheard. Its challenge is that, while it may be devastating to those affected by it, no one knows. It may be tearing the heart out of the one sitting beside or in front or behind you in church. They may hide it with a smile, or they may simply pass by, seemingly not knowing you are there.
The best way to explain this is to share my personal experience. Or, rather, the experience of my dear spouse who suffers from a psychosis. Her original break would have fallen into the category of a visible SMI crisis. However, like many others, there was no one in her world that understood that. She was diagnosed at a local hospital as having had a psychotic break and released because that hospital did not serve the mentally ill.
I reacted to her in anger. At the time, I was a verbally abusive controller (which, in all probability, was a key ingredient to her break). So, there she was, all alone and the only person close to her was angry with her (I am broken as I share this).
I did make many attempts to get help. I first went to the pastor of our local mega church, who flatly told me that they wouldn’t help. He showed no interest in our existence. Many of the help we did find were, unintentionally, punitive. Putting her in the position of having to make changes she was physically unable to make. There were also misguided spiritual implications. Thank God, after two or three years of trying, He led us to a church that cared.
Under their care, and with the grace of God, she has been able to live with her illness. And, somewhere along the line, God changed my life. He healed me of my anger and replaced my selfish love with true love and concern for my wife. I saw her need for real for the first time. She is no longer going through this alone.
Looking at her with clear eyes became a very heavy weight. I see her fight. And a fight it is. I could not suffer what she suffers. But I suffer watching her suffer. I can’t fix her. I can only watch and pray and love. I watch her interact with unseen voices and stand in the hallway, waiting for the unseen oppression to let her pass. I am aware that, except for when she is able to sleep, she is constantly bombarded with voices whose goal is to destroy her self-image. She deals with threats and hate talk all day and night long.
This is a different kind of crisis. It is a crisis for her because she is living it. It is a crisis for me because I alone stand with her. I don’t have an answer as to how we, as a care team, can identify and provide care for these crises, but I know we need to try. One way may be to make our small talk and greetings with those around us more intentional. Maybe we should be praying to that end on our way to church.
P82 Project Restoration, Inc. | Crisis Care Team | Copyright 2018