Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lean on Me

"I'm so relieved to know that I am not alone."

That is a statement I have heard often over the past fifteen months.  I have also shared it with teared-up eyes while sitting around a table or in a circle of couches and chairs.  

It's good to know that you are not alone in a struggle and that your troubles sometimes seem few compared to others' when they're facing addictive, harmful behaviour.

We each experience a variety of challenges throughout our lives and I believe that it's how you face them that contributes to your character - and skills for survival.  There will be times when one cannot be strong and has to realize that some life challenges cannot be faced alone.  There will be times when we each need the meaningful support of family, friends and community.  

We all need somebody to lean on. 
I have memories of living with a mentally ill person who was emotionally and verbally abusive to our family.  We were "walking on eggshells" so as to avoid an outburst or angry tirade.  After he attempted to kill me, I remember using that term while testifying at the criminal trial - even before I knew there was a book whose title contained the same phrase.

It's bad enough if the affected family member was your former spouse who through denial and controlling behaviour could make you doubt your own sanity.   It's a different story when a parent sees it happening with a child. 

After years as a single parent dealing with PTSD, my family's emotional roller coasters and attempting to cope through writing therapy, I was very thankful for connecting with a group that helps friends and family cope when someone they love suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The twelve-week course was led by volunteers who tirelessly coordinated the weekly sessions and provided participants with documents and articles, building a "toolbox" of skills for coping and understanding affected family members. We were also reminded that we, as relatives have rights. 

I am not shy to share this part of my life with the world. Some of the details are on public record anyway.   If this blog entry can reach one person who is experiencing the same conditions as I did over a decade ago, wondering "Why is this happening?", then I feel that I have connected with and helped another human being along the bumpy road on the journey of life. 

It was during the final session of our program last spring that some of us expressed an interest to continue meeting - at least on a monthly basis.  We wanted to review the notes, refresh ourselves on the communication and coping skills.  We needed to keep on connecting, listening and sharing

Some of the people could not make it to the monthly gatherings.  I often think about them and hope their struggles have lessened over time.  

In addition to the monthly support sessions, I have continued to review the courseware and perform research online.  It's not difficult to find credible, clinical sources and... blogs by others who have endured family members with these same disorders for a long, long time.  I consider myself very lucky.

Last month, a group of my lady writer friends finally agreed on a convenient date to meet for dinner.  In addition to sharing updates on our lives and clinking our glasses in a toast, we consoled each other on our various challenges.  We agreed on the importance of the gathering of friends and taking advantage of available support systems. 

In addition to professional services, support groups and healthy communities, it's good to have friends - real life and yes, even supplemented on social networking platforms like Facebook. On the latter though, one doesn't (and shouldn't) reveal dark, personal details.  There is indeed a feeling of connection and support when sharing photographs or "what's on your mind?".  

After a "like" or a comment from a true friend across the city, the river or across the continent, you can feel assured that you are not alone. 

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The Ottawa Network for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre

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