Mental illness can be a disabling illness for many people. Quite often, a person with a mental illness has a combination of different disorders. For instance, individuals with bipolar depression and schizoaffective disorder have a combination of a mood disorder and psychosis. Dealing with day to day life can be very difficult for some people with mental illnesses, because they may have delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs; individuals who are having delusions may believe someone is trying to harm them in some way, or they may have other false beliefs. Hallucinations may be auditory and/or visual; in other words, people suffering from hallucinations may hear voices and see things that seem very real to them.
I live with mental illness every day of my life; besides having some issues, myself, my daughter has bipolar depression and schizoaffective disorder. Life, since puberty, has been a long, rough and bumpy road for her. The thing about mental illness is that when a family member has a mental illness, the whole family is affected by it. The behaviors of someone with mental illness can take his/her family on a frightful roller coaster ride. I lived in fear every day that my daughter would do something to herself. When she did act out and break a bone, or cut herself, we tried to keep it to ourselves, as much as possible. It’s a very painful experience, even when you aren’t the one afflicted with the illness. The EMTs were quite familiar with where we lived, because they were called to our home so many times for self-inflicted injuries.
How mental illness can cause a financial burden.
It is difficult to see your loved one suffer with a mental illness, especially when she/he is compelled self-injure by cutting or breaking bones. The family has to set up the home environment in such a way that the loved one cannot hurt her/himself. When two people are married and one of the people in the marriage has a mood disorder, such as bipolar depression and schizoaffective disorder, it can be more than worrisome for the remaining spouse. For instance, you may go to work and worry about your spouse while you are gone. You may wonder if your spouse is going to slam a hammer into her/his wrist or cut her arm to pieces with a razor blade. You may feel the need to stay home with your spouse, but you can’t because you have to earn a living. You and your spouse may apply for SSI for the spouse with the mental illness, and your spouse may be denied benefits. This can happen when you are the only bread winner in the family, and because your income exceeds the level for your spouse to qualify for benefits, she/he can’t receive benefits. Your spouse is disabled, but because she/he was never able to work, she/he doesn’t qualify for SSI.
Sometimes a family has to make concessions, when one of the family members has a mental illness, because she/he cannot be left alone. About 5 years ago, it was decided that I would move in with my daughter and her husband, so that someone would be with my daughter when he was out of the house earning a living. Prior to me moving in with them, my daughter would have to be dropped off at my apartment, because she couldn’t stay home by herself. On several occasions, before I came to live with them, my daughter left the house to hide in the bushes in the yard, because she was convinced that someone was in the house. The police would be called to come check the house to make sure no one was there, but even that didn’t make her feel safe to go back inside the home. I had to go get her and bring her to my apartment more than a few times, so it was just easier on everyone for me to move in to be her companion.
Can people with bipolar depression and schizoaffective disorder get well?
To be mentally healthy you must have balanced brain chemistry. It can be difficult to find the right combination of psychotropic medications, and psychotherapy, but it can be achieved. It is important that the individual can have a good rapport with his/her mental health practitioner. The person with a mental illness, such as bipolar depression and schizoaffective disorder, should have a mental health practitioner that she/he can have a good rapport with.
For the last year, life has been a lot easier. My daughter doesn’t hear voices as much as before. If she does hear voices telling her to do something to herself, she doesn’t act out anymore. Instead of acting out, my daughter lets us know what is happening. She has learned ways to cope with the voices that doesn’t involve hurting herself. Gradually, her psychiatrist has been letting more time elapse between appointments, because she is doing so well. She has improved to the point where one of the medications she was on has been discontinued.
We can never take mental illness for granted; we can never assume that because our loved ones are doing well at the present, that the mental illness may not present its ugly head at some later date. It is hard to separate the mental illness from the person, but you have to learn how to do it. If your loved one has a mental illness, she/he is not defined by it. If your spouse once had uncontrollable impulses to spend money, it doesn’t mean you will never be able to trust him/her again. Trust can be regained, over time. My daughter is living proof that if a person has a mental illness, they can regain a balanced brain chemistry to live a happy life one day at a time.