Dealing with My Difficult Family Situation on the Road to Mental Health

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stuart_woodingBoth of my parents were orphans.  They raised four children in a parental framework riddled with insecurity.  I’m the eldest and have a diagnosis of affective bipolar disorder. My siblings suffer from dyslexia and other psychological problems about which they are firmly secretive. I have a sister who never calls and I’m still denied knowledge of my brother’s home telephone number.  I fell ill at the age of 46 and the stigma and prejudice exhibited by family at the time almost cost me my life.

One spring, when things were at their worst, I tried to end my life.  The attempt should never have happened as at the time I was in hospital under observation and awaiting housing.  Afterward, I went to my parents’ house for support, but they shut the door on me when they found out what I had done. I was forced to return to the hospital where I was subjected to all of the indignities of being on suicide watch. It was horrendous.

My father, at the age of 91, passed away last year.  In the latter years of his life, I was his caretaker as he suffered two strokes and advanced dementia.  My mother has also developed dementia and, at the age of 86, is still very demanding (both practically and in terms of affection).  For a couple of years, I became her caretaker as well.  She now lives several hundred miles away and is looked after by a sister with whom I have lost contact. My mother and I, however, still speak every day.  

One of my deepest regrets is that some of this cycle has continued. Though I have rebuilt my relationship with my daughter and grandchildren, I have a son in Italy with whom I have lost touch.  

Today, I’m working as an “Expert by Experience” in London, England.  The road towards fostering positive family relationships has been riddled with pain and hurt, but there has also been happiness and confidence building.

--Stuart A. Wooding, Member of Families for Depression Awareness’ Facebook community

Educating family members about depression and bipolar disorder is a big job, but we are here to help.  Tell them to visit our Help Someone Who Has Depression page to learn what they need to do.  They can also order copies of our brochure on helping a family member or friend.

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