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Have a Great Life Anyway

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Have a Great Life Anyway
(Take Your Hand Off the Burner!)

Visitors since 8/2004.

Living our own lives and finding joy in them, despite the illness of people we love, is our responsibility as human beings. I do not believe God put us on earth to live someone else's life. But, there is so much guilt for being healthy and so much activity that goes into trying to heal or save the mentally ill person that we often "forget" to have our own lives. The following are some of the things I tell the members of my groups repeatedly, because they seem to touch on issues we often ignore:

1) Have a Great Life Anyway. Everyone has something. This is a lifelong challenge, so do not live in crisis mode.

2) Take Your Hand Off the Burner. Healthy people know when to "Let go and let God." We grow up with our hands always on the burner. As we become healthier, we need to stop analyzing the smoke and the pain and asking "Why? Why? Why?" Insight is impossible while flesh is frying. Just take your hand off the burner.

3) Seriously ask yourself, "Can I talk about my dream and goals? Or, do I always to back to focusing on the ill person? What am I avoiding in my own life?" Building our own lives is hard and it is frustrating. As painful as dealing with someone's illness is, it is sometimes easier than looking at ourselves.

4) Let the Dog Catch the Truck. We cannot prevent bad things from happening to our loved ones even if we watch them 24 hours a day. We are not God and we cannot fix other people, especially people who do not want to be fixed.

5) Are you perfectly depressed? Try embracing your imperfections and stop insisting on being an exception to every rule. People often try to deal with their feelings in a controlled, logical way. It is okay to occasionally "lose it". Mental illness in your family is a very, very sad thing. Having feelings does not mean YOU are mean or crazy.

6) Stop finding new people to take care of. This may be the hardest pattern to break. We are so used to trying to live other people's lives for them, partly out of compassion, partly out of fear of living our own, that we tend to always find new people to take care of. Stop! The rewards of living one's own life are huge. HUGE.

by Amy Catherine White
(NAMI-NYC Metro's Teen Support Group leader)