I went to celebrate my niece’s 21st birthday. We met at a bar in South Bend to have a few beers with her earlier in the afternoon, before she went out with all of her friends, to do what kids turning 21 do. It all started out really good. My husband and I picked up my relative, and drove over to my brother’s house to follow him on to the bar we were all going to meet there. Not only was it his daughters birthday, but in a few hours there was also a gathering for his granddaughter’s birthday party as well.
After the drinks were ordered, and everyone was busy chatting, and catching up, my relative decided to order a double of the same drink I was having… and down it went. My relative was on to their third while everyone else was still consuming their second. Before we knew it, down went the 3rd, and the problems began. My relative is dealing with many of the same issues quite a few of my biological family deal with daily. This family member, however, is not taking the medications as prescribed, and is always wanting someone else’s RX, because it makes them ‘feel better,’ than the meds their doctor has prescribed. To make it worse, this family member was also just coming off of their second in-patient stint from a psych hospital. My brother said they would have to leave, if they couldn’t pull it together.
The last thing I wanted to see happen, was my part of the family missing my nieces, and great nieces parties. Of course I understood why my brother felt the way he did. No parent, or grand parent wants to bring someone who spoils their kids day. I also knew that giving lots of attention to what our relative was doing, by continuing to give discussion to all the turmoil in their life at this moment in time, would only enable all these negative behaviors to continue. If I were to simply take them home, and have them miss it all, it would have been the ‘tough love’ needed at this point. I had to try to defuse the situation at least once. So, that is what I did. I wanted to give them a chance to pull it together, as my brother called it. Family deserves to be present at family events, if at all possible. If it is going to ruin everyone’s time, or if from what has gone before causes the family to believe it will, sadly for the one having issues, it is totally justifiable to exclude them all together until something changes.
We went for a little walk in the neighborhood. My relative was still a little angry with me when we returned, but they had a few cups of coffee, and pretended nothing happened.. We are all so good at that. The rest of the afternoon went ok. My husband and I had to leave early, and we took them with us when we left. My brother was not going to be leaving until the next day. It was somewhat understood by them and , leaving the event happened without incident.
Our older sister and I have decided that no hard liquor will be allowed at our family parties anymore. It seems the only way to take precaution against something like this happening in the future. I know that when mental illness is involved, any situation, or gathering can take a turn for the worse without any advance warning. I also know, that taking some simple preventive steps can help alleviate some problems. There is never a dull moment with all of us.
It is hard to watch someone you love struggle with their mental health. It is even harder to watch them self destruct, and not be able to stop it. In these situations, it can be made worse by giving attention when a self created crisis is happening. Yes, call the ambulance or police. If they are deemed stable at the ER, no, don’t go visiting with flowers and smiles. Don’t come running every time, right away. Give it a day or two. Don’t go to every visiting hour a facility offers. Be involved only enough to support the person, but contact simply must be limited in cases where the person isn’t being compliant, or willing to do ALL the doctor wants them to do. If they are only going through the motions, or ‘playing the game,’ as is said, contact with the patient must be limited. Attention is approval, even if you say you don’t approve.
To be honest, I myself have been that relative. It took me more years than I want to admit to accept the help offered me and take responsibility for my mental health. And it took even longer to take responsibility for the pain, and damage it has caused others in my life. Thankfully that day came many years ago. We have all reached the point we joke about all that once hurt so badly. I am so grateful for the love I was shown, and am even more grateful for the firm consistency, which they dealt with me back then. It is all part of the journey of my life. It was a teacher of lessons, lessons I fought off learning.. but learn I eventually did, as we all must, if happiness on the journey is to be obtained.