The Difference My Family Made

I went to answer the door buzzer. Who is it I said, and then I heard her voice. That sweet loving voice I had heard all of my life. My sister Heather. I told her:  “Ok just hang on I’m just getting ready. “

Getting ready for what I’m not sure, I probably wanted to clean up the apartment, so I began cleaning, again the door buzzer, who is it I said…..again, her voice and this time, my friend Justin was also there. Hey Les are you coming down? ….…”I’m just getting ready”.  I began cleaning again……….the door buzzer, who is it I said? …….it’s Justin and Heather, Leslie we are waiting for you to come down here – what are you doing up there? …..I’m just getting ready. Well can we come up? They asked……yes sure I went to cleaning again ……….this time I was looking for something in the closet and somehow I become very disoriented and became lost in a 4 foot by 4-foot closet. I couldn’t find my way out. Now you might be asking yourself, how can anyone get lost in a closet? ……….again the door buzzer…..hello who is it? Leslie, it’s your sister Heather, we have been waiting for you for 2 hours now, we are standing on the street wanting to come in and help you but you are not opening the door or coming down here. What’s going on? ……..you see, I was in the height of my manic illness. Time wasn’t registering, each time they called up; it was like I had never spoken to them the previous time. My sister, Heather, and my best friend stood outside of an apartment building for 4 hours waiting for me to come out. Each time buzzing up to me, and getting more worried by the moment.

What was going on, how someone can have such a short attention span that she can’t even remember who she just spoke to 30 seconds ago.

Part of the Bipolar illness does this to you. I became very flightily and would forget what I just did or said. The impact I was having on my friend and family was that they were very confused, they didn’t understand what was going on, and this was not the Leslie they knew. They relaized I needed help.

So what made a difference?

There where three factors that made a difference for me: My families support, their perseverance and their forgiveness.

Studies have shown in recovery research a supportive family can be a major attribute in the recovery process.

My family never gave up on me – no matter how manic I was and no matter how much trouble I was getting myself into, they didn’t give up on me.

Support

My family knew they needed help and support so they found it – partly through the Mood Disorder Association of BC and partly though speaking to their friends / family about what was happening. When there is a crisis in a family, suddenly stigma and judgment is not a consideration any more.

As I stood looking out the widow of the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver from the 30th floor and off handily said “I could jump out this window” my mom knew she had what everyone had been telling her, the evidence they needed to hear to have me committed into a psychiatric ward. The RCMP officer friend of my families had told my mom and sister that the only way I would be able to be committed was if I was in a position to hurt someone or myself.

Perseverance

What they understood very quickly was it is an illness, and not something I was doing to get attention.

Sometimes they had to make hard decisions about my care and how much more time and money they would spend on me, it was about how they did it vs. what they did.

Always, making sure that someone was there to take care of me.
When I was released from St. Paul’s psychiatric ward, I was unwilling to go home toToronto to live with my parents. There was nothing they could do except pray that I would change my mind and come home.

As I stood at a pay phone (1997) at the gas station at East Hastings, my hand was shaking, I dialed the number, and heard my mom’s voice, “mom I want to come home”, and all I can remember was how happy my mom was, now I don’t remember getting to the airport, checking in ,getting on the plane but I do remember my mom’s face the relief that I saw when she saw me, I fell asleep in the back of the car on the way home from the airport and only thinking that I’m home now my parents can take care of me.

Forgiveness

What made the difference is and will always be is their forgiveness.  Not once have they asked why I did what I did, nor do they ask for me to pay back all the debt that they covered for me when I was ill. What I experience with my family is true unconditional love and complete and total forgiveness. That’s the difference a family makes. 

If a family member experiences a mood disorder or mental health issue remember one of the major contributors to their recovery is your support. Support can look and come in many different forms. I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today with out the support I got from my family.  Support can look like knowing when to make the hard decisions, knowing when to forgive, learning as much as possible about the illness your loved one is going through.

Please support your loved ones in their time of need.

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