Even when we know Manic Marge is coming to visit, we feel like there is really very little we can do to prepare for her. You see, May is Chloe’s birthday month, and not so coincidentally, we also coin it Manic May. I partially blame Manic May on my husband and his family since every birthday in their family is celebrated the ENTIRE month instead of just the day. In fact, they even NAME the month after themselves, like “Jefftember” and “Raytober.” It’s no wonder Marge can hardly hold herself back when May rolls around.
Manic Marge always makes her presence known the first week in May almost warning us, “It’s my birthday month, you know.” As if she’s entitled to do anything she chooses. We try to remind her that just because it’s her birthday month, she still has house rules to follow and expectations. But she can barely hold herself together.
The first week of May this year, Marge started with frequent visits to the park down the street to meet friends. “Be back by eight, Chloe,” I said as she dashed out the door. But eight o’clock would come and go and I called her soon after, “Where are you?” I asked. “I’m having a conversation with my friends,” she said, annoyed by my inquiry. “Well you were supposed to be home at eight,” I reminded her. “You better get back before your dad gets home from soccer practice.” 15 more minutes rolled by when she finally sauntered into the room where I was paying bills and announced, “I’m really stressed at school so I think I’m going to stop going until I’m not so anxious.” “That sounds like a great idea, Chloe,” I said sarcastically. “How do you plan on graduating high school or holding down a job if you just ‘quit’ when you’re stressed out? Everyone gets stressed out, you need to learn to manage it.”
As frustrating as this dialogue is to me and Jeff, the fact is, her solution made perfect sense to her and the idea of “managing her stress” is a skill she can barely perform on her best days, much less on days she’s feeling stressed out and manic. It’s easy to forget that our mentally ill youth and loved ones have a disability because we can’t see it! In our rational minds, we can easily pass it off as lazy, willful and rude behavior, when in fact they are most likely expending a whole lot of energy just trying to hold it together.
It always helps to get some perspective with my own mental illness, too. As of late, I’ve been struggling with some depression. We have a lot going on at our house and something to do almost every night. The constant activity gives me little time to exercise and nearly no down time, which my sensitive mind needs a healthy amount of both. The free time I do have is usually spent sleeping. I have to remind myself and my husband that it’s my body’s way of healing itself and recovering. It is a good reminder that it’s okay to take care of yourself and listen to your body. Just as it’s okay for Chloe to listen to her body and respond as needed.
One of the best things we can do for a loved one that struggles with a mental illness is to try to provide support and compassion. Although, you may not understand what they’re going through, trust that they’re doing the best they can with what they have. Empathy works wonders in helping them solve problems and validate feelings.
Collaborative Proactive Solutions (CPS) is a great skill you can use with someone who struggles with a mental illness. You can find some examples in one of our other blogs or on the site of the CPS guru, Dr. Ross Greene, http://cpsconnection.com/CPSmodel.