The only thing more difficult than being supportive to someone you love who has a mental illness is actually being the the person with the mental illness.What makes this so difficult is the fact that you can not possibly understand what your loved one is actually going through. You can read all the amazingly written blogs by people who deal with mental illnesses in their daily lives, you can research as much information as possible, and you can speak with doctor after doctor, but simple truth is that illness is as individual as the people who have them.
My baby brother is 25 years younger than I am, and only a couple of weeks older than my daughter. In many ways he is more like another child to me than a brother. He has always been a little unique, we know now that was a great deal due to his undiagnosed Asperger’s Autism. Unfortunately for him very little was know about this diagnosis 26 years ago so he did not receive the early beneficial therapy that children today receive. So he was always a very sweet, but awkward social out cast.
At the age of 17 he suddenly became very dark, and emotionally out of control. He began to exhibit some very unusual behaviors. Uncontrollable fits of anger, and crying, he seemed to be having conversations with someone we could not see. He began to remove my face from family pictures (my sister’s too), and he was very paranoid whenever we were present. Our first thought sadly was that perhaps he was experimenting with drugs/alcohol so we had him physically examined. He passed all exams with no negative results, and the doctor suggested we seek a psychiatric evaluation.
He was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder as a primary diagnosis, and Asperger’s Autism as a secondary. It’s very similar to Schizophrenia, but our brother insists that he does not hear voices. This is still something we are not completely convinced of, but we have to take his word to heart. He suffers from extreme paranoia, and delusions when he is not properly medicated. Medications are not an exact science with this illness, and the body builds a tolerance to them after a period of time so then symptoms reoccur requiring a medication increase.
We have a wonderful psychiatrist who keeps our brother at the lowest doses possible especially since he will have to be medicated his entire life. I am not upset by my brother’s extreme anger towards me, because as difficult as that is for me it is also the only way I have of gauging if he is in need of medical attention. I know it is his mental illness that is angry with me not my brother. I just hate that he has to live with his illness, and all the difficult symptoms, his intense loneliness, delusional thoughts, and societal stigmas on a daily basis. I love my brother with all my heart, so every time we reach a point where we need to increase his medicine my heart breaks for him.