Attitude is everything, and I’m grateful that happiness is a choice I can make. For my son and others living with severe mental illness or addiction, however, that choice is more difficult. I can get out of bed, do what’s needed around the house, get to work on time, stay focused on the job, have solid friendships with others successful in their lives, and I can sleep through the night. I can find serenity in nature, pause to think before making decisions, and my negative thoughts do not rule my life. On the other hand, I know that people like my son don’t have the same choice.
My 31 year old son has struggled with impulsivity, social phobias, anxieties, and debilitating depression. He is haunted by voices telling him what a horrible person he is. Since he was 17, after the death of his father, my son’s symptoms have led to multiple diagnoses, including schizoaffective disorder. He takes medication, but many cause more problems than they solve.
Unfortunately, like many people who live with mental illness, my son turned to drugs to deal with some of the symptoms from his mental illness and the side effects of the medications. Illicit drug use and addiction have caused major physical and legal consequences, including incarceration.
My son’s story is not unique. Like many of you, I struggle to cope with the crises of someone I love. After participating in NAMI Family-to-Family course, some of the anxieties I have for my son have been relieved. I was able to find new treatments, medications, doctors and programs for treating his mental illness. I met people who remain close friends, and now, I never feel alone.
I appreciate being able to call NAMI to speak to someone when I’m unsure of where to turn for mental health services. Many of us love someone with a mental health condition and drug or alcohol addiction. I attend Nar-Anon meetings for my own self-care. It has been important to learn how my son’s condition affects me and what I do to take care of myself to be happy, no matter what is unfolding around me. NAMI and Nar-Anon have been partners for me. NAMI gives me the education and support I need to take care of my son, but I need to protect my health to deal with every crisis, and the 12-Steps provide that. I welcome relationships and stories from others who are struggling from both programs.
Hope is everything. I am grateful to the staff and volunteers at NAMI for all their hard work, and for continuing to provide me with support and hope-hope that my son will get to a point in his life where the biological, psychological, social and spiritual parts of him will be at peace.