I spend my time these days volunteering in the mental health field. I do some work for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and in an office of a counseling agency named Integrity that doesn’t bill insurance and only takes a donation of what the payee can afford for services. I love what I do. I am able to write and do my speaking engagements and talk openly about mental illness to almost anyone I am around. I truly consider everyone in my life a blessing.
I run the NAMI support group called NAMI Connections for those with mental illness in my community. In the group we have everyone from people who have just a touch of social anxiety to the extremist form of mental illness. Recently we had a lady who reminded me of the fact that though I help others I have to remember to put myself first.
Dealing with mental illness is not just what I chose to volunteer my like skills in, I suffer from it. Every day I have to be my own hero. Where I am normally the one to always step up to make a call to make sure someone is okay, I know when it is no longer healthy for me to continue to try to be a part of the process of someone else’s recovery plan. I, like others at my meetings, have my own recovery plan to manage, and in order to take care of myself I have to be sure to follow that plan. If I don’t, I know what damage I can cause not only me but my family as well. When I fall off recovery, my whole family suffers the consequences.
When does helping others become unhealthy for your recovery? I know I am near the point when I start to feel helpless about the situation, that I have done everything I can and nothing has helped. If I have been verbally assaulted, I know that too much of that negativity will get into my thoughts and damage my daily patterns and change my positive thinking that I have spent years learning. I know that I can’t handle too many negative thoughts.
I know to run when someone doesn’t know how to take ownership of their disorder. They may admit that they have it but they aren’t yet willing to do the work they need to do to be in recovery and live well. They don’t want to go to the doctor like they are supposed to, they don’t want to go to therapy, they don’t want to take medication and the truly just don’t believe there is anything out there that can make it any better. You can tell they would like the help, if they just got to do it on their own terms.
Finally, I know to refer to outside sources when I feel threatened in any way. I am not Superwoman and I am not expected to be one. I am a wife and mother and I have bipolar and ADHD. I too take medication and am fighting for my life each and every day. I try to do the best I can for others in my situation. But I have to remember to be my own hero first.