When we love and care for someone who suffers from a serious mental illness, there are beautiful, joyful moments where everything is well managed.
The best of everything and everyone is possible.
I try to take pictures with my heart at those moments.
Then, every number of years, there is a major health crisis.
And a part of that person we love can die.
And we grieve.
It’s like when someone loses parts of their body to cancer or diabetes.
Only, instead of a physical piece, it’s pieces of their personality, bits of their soul that feels gone forever.
If we are witness to their despair, that leaves marks on our own soul. Those marks add up.
While we attempt to ignore that horror, we search for practical answers.
Working hard to remove our emotions to logically look for solutions, learn the names of old and new interventions, try and remember if she already tried that one and how she responded to it.
This is another one of those years.
I have been watching for a long time now, like a slow moving tsunami. And I cannot get out of the way and no longer can hold it off through sheer determination.
I know I am not alone in this. Many others, known and not known to me have walked this coast line.
I woke up in tears this morning. Unable to stop the flood.
Then relaxing, playing on FB, surfing YouTube for distractions.
Then crying again when my husband got up.
Giving myself permission to cry is such a relief. Instead of holding my breath. Pretending…
Truthfully, I am heartbroken. Over her struggle from the deep despair that she is living. As many others before her have. It’s so unfair.
Out of kindness for self, for this moment. I give myself permission to feel this old friend of grief. To express it openly to all who are waiting for this same permission.
To bathe in the love I feel for this beautiful being who once cradled me and that I now cradle. This soul that is being slowly chipped away from me. Where even my love for her cannot break through the shell of her disease.
From the time I was 15, she has been my heart story.
My secret passion of caring for someone I love when I feel called to action.
Of being her partner in crime to find good days and stretch those as much as possible.
And she is in good company in this struggle.
I am remembering so many beautiful souls who struggle with her diagnosis or other diagnoses, who have also brought me joy.
There are footprints on my hearts of clients I have comforted and strategized with. Journeying with them through their laughter or their tears.
Of doctors I have colluded with to keep their illness at bay.
Working hard to empower both the patients and their loved ones.
But their memory brings me no comfort today. I have no competencies to help her here. It is my turn for tears.
Damn you Bi-Polar. I refuse to believe you can take her away from me. But my hot tears suggest I am wrong this time.
Today is a hard day while I give my grief space knowing I must mentally prepare for the next steps.
I know tomorrow, I will have to try to wake up that old spark of hope which is now being drenched.
Will I be able to dry it all off and let hope bounce back? Yes. I must.
But not today. And that is only because I love her so dearly.
I am so grateful for her. For the lessons she has taught us about courage in the face of the worst.
And I will try to do what she taught me. Be courageous.
Which means, after a brief moment of selfish grief, I will dry off and spark the hope to face this, being grateful for whatever is left.
I must make the most of future moments.
We are not done. This will get better again. I must believe it!
My husband just walked in with chocolate.
Can chocolate mend this broken heart? No.
But these acts of thoughtfulness most certainly make the coast line less frightening. Knowing that I am cared for.
If you know a caregiver, just listen and care enough to be present when they are crying.
Do not try to stop the tears. It is a symbol of their love. Hold space while they express.
If you are a caregiver, know that you are loved. Without judgement.
Monique Caissie draws from her background in crisis intervention and as a mental health worker, and her personal experiences, to help managers, leaders and other smart professionals demystify challenging relationships.