Heather: Be gentle with yourself

“I decided instead of trying to change my brother, I would channel all of that energy over into advocacy.”

Although Heather’s younger brother and her husband both live with bipolar disorder, their life experiences are quite different. Her husband, Scott, sustains stability in his life, while her brother, Brad, continues to struggle with managing symptoms. Brad showed symptoms consistent with mental illness one year before he was first hospitalized at age 22 for erratic behavior and saying things that did not make sense. He had run-ins with the police and the courts and then experienced a psychotic break and would not accept help. When he ran away from home, his parents called the police.

Luckily one of the police officers had this intervention training and was able to get my brother to go to the hospital where he got a diagnosis. He was at one hospital at first and they let him out within 24 hours, which I think was a real mistake. We missed that opportunity. Later he ended up at another hospital for a good chunk of time. He got out. He went back to that same hospital, which was disheartening for the people working there. They really try to focus on that first episode. For them to see him come back I think was disappointing for them. But it was amazing. They had done great work and it helped us in the future. He did eventually end up at the regional treatment center, where he went through the court process and was committed.

Note: Regional treatment centers are state-operated inpatient psychiatric services that provide treatment for psychiatric patients with a high level of behavioral issues and complex needs.

At age 29, Brad lives at home with his parents, does not have a job, and is “really struggling.”

Although Heather’s husband, Scott, was diagnosed as living with a mental illness 15 years ago, he has never been hospitalized, works full time, and is stable on medication. He is now 33 years old and keeps a structured routine that helps him cope with stress.