Brenda: Finding Support
Brenda has the support of family, friends, work, and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Her AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) group has been an especially strong support for her.
Note: NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a mental health advocacy organization at national and state levels that offers a multitude of informational material, classes, and support groups.
When everything was really crazy and I moved out of the house, I was going to more meetings than I ever went to. Because that was my family. That was my support system. Some of them have had to deal with family members, loved ones with the same problems. They were very supportive. I’ve maintained those relationships.
In NAMI, Brenda participated in the Hope for Recovery class and the Family to Family class. She spoke about NAMI as “a lifesaver because nobody else really knew what to tell you, what to even suggest.” Brenda and a friend started a NAMI family support group in their community that meets twice a month.
An active lifestyle helps her deal with the stress in her life.
I go swimming at least two, three times a week. I garden. If I’m frustrated, I’m out in the garden. We don’t have a lot of weeds in that garden. I’ve dealt with stress for years. In the winter time I work out every day at home for half an hour before I come into work. I am busy with my grandkids. I’m active with my family, church, AA, and NAMI. I keep busy. I pray a lot. I pray every day--at least once a day, if not more.
Through all the chaos and life challenges Brenda has learned to be strong and more compassionate.
I’m definitely a stronger person than I thought I was. I would say I’m more compassionate for people that have to live with mental illness and their families. I can be supportive to them. Learning to look at things through another person’s eyes, like when my husband, who will stay in bed for 12 hours at a time, and says he’s afraid to get out of bed because something can go wrong. I try to put myself in his shoes and just think about, okay, how miserable that must be, instead of saying, “Suck it up buttercup; get moving.”
Don told Brenda that he is grateful to have her with him. She also understands that things may change quickly.
We talk about it in NAMI—things are good this week but we’re always waiting for the other shoe to fall. You’re always looking for any little change in his behavior; it’s like a red flag—let’s watch to see what’s going on here. I actually have a notebook, and if I see something that’s really off, I will note it down that day. Then I’ll just kind of sit back and I’ll see what’s going on.