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The Michelle Effect

Posted by on Dec. 31, 2014 at 4:24 PM
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The Michelle Effect

Not long ago the phone rang. It was a young lady who asked if I was Michelle with NAMI. Recently, she had been released from a 21-day stay in a local psychiatric hospital and had been given my name and phone number to contact for support groups.

She said she had depression and that her husband didn't believe she had a mental illness. I shared my story about my husband, who also has depression and OCD. We talked about how difficult it was when family members didn't understand what it was like for those experiencing the symptoms of mental illness. She began to cry and said I was the first person she'd ever talked to who understood what she was going through. She asked, "How did you come to understand your husband's illness?"

This question brought me back to where I was 12 years ago. My husband had been ill about 25 years and wouldn't seek treatment. I was at the end of my rope and thought I had nowhere to turn. A friend of a friend shared a church bulletin that listed a course called NAMI Family-to-Family. It said it was for relatives of an adult living with mental illness. My friend jumped at the chance to take the course and begged me to come along. I thought I knew it all, but figured I might make some new friends so signed up.

How wrong I was! I knew the basics about the mental health conditions, but had no clue about communication skills, problem-solving skills, self-care, and that there were so many like me with ill relatives. The biggest thing I was clueless about was empathy. I was so busy trying to keep all the plates spinning in the air taking care of my family that I never considered what it must be like for my husband to have a mental illness. Not for a second did I consider what it was like to have unrelenting thoughts 24/7 and to want to stay in bed the majority of the day.

For the first time I got it! That's what had been missing! I knew the head part about mental illness; it was the heart part that I was missing. For the first time I experienced hope that our lives would be changing for the better.

by on Dec. 31, 2014 at 4:24 PM
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Replies (1-2):
lucy164
by Peggy on Dec. 31, 2014 at 4:29 PM

Interesting

rhodaj
by rho on Dec. 31, 2014 at 8:50 PM

Interesting. I took NAMI Peer to Peer classes and am able to instruct the classes. I also did my course to do the Family to Family classes too

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