Friday morning and these flu symptoms are still kicking my butt. But at least I managed to get some sleep last night. So this morning, complete with early morning coffee, meds and glucose tester I am determined to get some things done today. Including answering today’s question in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge which my daughter has set me.
Good morning honey,
Of the last three questions – this one and the previous two – which have all been directly connected to each other. This one is the one which is probably going to require the longest and most complex answer. And I recall mentioning, in my last answer, how I would explain more concerning your question yesterday, within my response to today’s question.
The reason for this was that ‘how you love me’, and ‘how I allow you to love me’ are very much related and will and do very much therefore have a bearing on each other.
So let’s establish some basic facts that I feel we will both easily agree on.
The fact that you love me is clear.
The fact that I love you is also clear.
The fact that I have mental illnesses is also clear.
And those three facts are clear and cannot be denied. But from then on it all gets a little complicated doesn’t it? Hence your questions. None of the last three questions – this one and the previous two – question whether we love each other. What they question is the way in which that love does or is allowed to show itself.
And it is here where my mental illnesses come into play.
Throughout my answers to these questions, indeed throughout this blog, I have often referred to different alternate worlds, different alternate realities, which are created by my mental illnesses.
I have, within that analogy, tried to explain how you and I both share a common world, or a common reality – when my mental health is good. But how there is an alternate world, an alternate reality, which you and I cannot share and which I experience when my mental health is bad.
And of course how true or relevant that is, is directly dependant on a sliding scale according to how bad my mental health is at any given time.
When I was a young boy, my sister went away on a school trip – to Austria or Switzerland, or both, I really don’t remember. But amongst the gifts that she brought home for us all was a small wooden ‘weather house’.
It hung on the wall in the hallway of my family home for years and consisted of a little wooden house containing two little figures at either end of and joined together via a little pivoted platform. (see picture)
In good weather the little lady came forward and out of the little wooden house, and in bad weather the little man came forward and out of the little wooden house. And since they are connected on either end of a pivoted platform the further the little lady came outside of the little wooden house, the further back into the little wooden house the little man went. And of course the opposite was also true. So the further out the little man came the further back in the little lady went. And naturally if the little lady was halfway in the little wooden house and halfway out of it, so too was the little man.
So if you consider those two states – the one outside of the little wooden house as being one world, one reality, (the world and reality you and I both share). And the other state (within the little wooden house) as being the world or reality created by my mental illness – you will have a better understanding of how it works.
Because putting it into the most simplistic of terms, this is how it does work with my mental health. The more prominent, the more dominant – the further ‘out’ my mental illnesses are, the less prominent, the less dominant – the further ‘in’ (to that alternate world or reality), I am.
And this therefore means that very often what you are dealing with – and therefore what or who you are interacting with or more importantly trying to love – is directly dependant on who (or what) is more dominant at that time.
And this is an important factor honey because it effectively changes your question from the fairly simple “How do you think your mental illness affects the way you allow me to love you?” to a far more complex “How do you think your mental illness affects the way you allow me to love you, or are able to allow me to love you?“
And honey it really is so vitally important to me that you can understand this and also that you know this. Because all wrapped up in the question of my not allowing you to love me, is a possibility of your experiencing a level of rejection or lack of trust from me. And honey I so very much want for you never to take ownership of those feelings or thoughts as they aren’t true.
So, if you can grasp the fact that my mental illnesses affect my ability to even be me, and thus my ability to allow you to love me, then that removes so very much of those potential feelings of rejection or those potential feelings of my not trusting you.
It really is so very hard to explain honey, and I apologize if I have made a mess of explaining it. But I really do hope that you can at least understand some of what I am trying to explain here. Because the next part is even more important and even more complex in so many ways.
How far or how deep into that other (mental illness created) world or reality I am, indeed even how quickly or traumatically I entered into it, will not only have a direct bearing on how aware I am of the reality or world you and I normally share, but also on how I view that shared world or reality.
I think what has to be remembered here honey, as hard as it may be to understand, is that paranoia is a big part of my mental illness. And this can totally corrupt the way in which I perceive or view people. The fact is that they either don’t belong, or I don’t want them to be a part of my mental illness created world or reality. They are part of that other (shared) world or reality and my mental illness created world or reality is telling me, convincing me, that not only do I not belong in that (shared) world but that you do not belong in this world. Additionally – since this alternate mental illness created world or reality is full of confusion, pain and torment – my love for you desperately wants to keep you out of this alternate world or reality.
I hope that this makes sense to you honey? And I hope that it hasn’t upset you too much. An honey I so very much want you to hold on to the positives and the hope that really is there despite all of this.
I said earlier that how far or how deep into that other (mental illness created) world or reality I am, indeed even how quickly or traumatically I entered into it, has a direct effect on how I perceive our normal shared world or reality. But honey they also affect who I am and how I react within that world. So with love, with gentleness, patience and understanding and with care it is possible to bring me out of that alternate world (or reality) back into our shared world or reality.
And honey that love, that: gentleness, patience, understanding and care is so very important. Remember that to me, in my mental state and alternate reality, your shared world is scary. My mind is telling me that I don’t belong to your shared world and sometimes I am convinced that not only have I already messed up, but that I cannot cope or possibly won’t even be able to survive in that world.
And honey I really do recognise that keeping; gentle, patient, understanding and loving can be such a difficult thing for a loved one who is so frustrated with what is happening and really doesn’t fully understand. But what you have to remember is that any anger, any frustration, any stress that you display actively works against my wanting to come back to that world. And additionally, and very importantly, it changes you from being someone reaching into my alternate world to contact me into someone invading my alternate world in order to attack me.
OK. Honey I am extremely mindful that this has already been a very long answer to your question. But it really does mean so very much to me not only that you have some understanding of what happens to me when I have an episode, but also that you understand that any reluctance or seeming lack of trust on my part is actually my mental health and not me or you and thus not a rejection of you.
And there is something else that it is so very important that I say before closing this answer to today’s question…
In our shared world – our shared reality, I love you so very much and I trust you completely. You are my child, my daughter, and I want so very much to be here for you and to show my love to you. And yes honey, even when I am falling into that alternate world – that alternate reality, I love you and I trust you. But as I fall into that alternate world my ability to love you, to be there for you, even to recognise you starts to decrease and to fade.
By opening up to you now. By sharing what that other mental illness created world is like, I am demonstrating my love to you and my trust to you. But even more than that honey, I am trying to open that world up to you and to allow you to find a way into that world and to find me. To find me when I am so unable to find, to even want to find a way back on my own.
My mental health affects the way I allow you to love me in many ways when I am in our shared world honey. I have, for example, had to accept that I can’t always be there for you and that there are also times when I need for you to be there for me. I have had to open up and admit my weaknesses and my inabilities. Something which comes hard to a dad. Well, certainly to this dad.
But. as I hope I have explained, my mental health also sometimes affects my very ability to allow you (or anyone) to love me. And honey, at times like these it isn’t about my allowing, it is about my needing. And it is about your simply having to take control and to do what is right for me. Even and especially when I don’t understand or know what is right for me.
With all my love.