I have been discussing Sanctuary, having a person who is having mental health difficulties stay in your home until they feel well enough to live on their own or move on to some other more appropriate situation. This can be short or long term. In our particular case, although we thought it would be short term at first, it now seems likely that the person who is staying with us will be staying with us for a long time. This is because he is a teen and other options for him are limited, and that we are fond of him (he enriches our life). It is a challenge for all of us. Ed and I have been teaching and living “recovery” for years for ourselves, and now it feels like we are getting intensive “hands on” experience, experience that is supporting his recovery and his preparations for the independent life that he dreams about and craves. It is exciting to see transformation happen almost day-to-day. And yet it is intensive and all consuming for us. We have to be very careful to use our WRAP to keep ourselves healthy and happy. And we have many friends and family members who help out.
Let me share with you some of the key points that guide us day to day.
1. Avoid nagging. I have known of situations where the nagging starts as soon as someone wakes up and goes on all through the day. It starts with “get up” and goes on to “pick up your socks” and “don’t forget your homework” and “don’t get crumbs on the table” and “zip up your jacket” and “when is the last time you washed your hair” and “when are you going to pick up your room” and “I hope you are going to work on getting a job today” and “have you called your grandmother this week”, and “don’t look so grumpy”–and on and on it goes. I once shared this at a workshop. A woman who was there said this is what she had been doing for years. And now her daughter barely speaks to her. The next time I saw her she was elated. She said her daughter came for a holiday and she asked her how she was doing and then she listened. She didn’t nag the whole time her daughter was there. And that quickly the relationship was salvaged. They established a new way of being together.
My spouse and I have a deal. When we were first together, we spent a lot of time “advising” each other. It didn’t take too long for us to realize this wasn’t going to work. So we made a deal. One piece of advice a day. We have stuck to that for many years now and it works.
When you feel the temptation to nag, ask yourself, “Is this really important enough to jeopardize our relationship?”. “Have I already been on this person’s case too much today”, “Do I really need to say this right now?” and Do I really need to say this at all?”
2. Avoid yelling. I just read an article that described the damaging effects of yelling. Unless you need to be rescued or warn someone of impending danger, I have found in my own life that yelling never helps, and it damages and destroys relationships. Going into a diatribe does not help, actually hinders and is hurtful. Whatever needs to be said can be said in a quiet tone of voice. And discussed. In our case, we did not want to get into a situation where we were always “yelling” at the young man who is staying with us to get up for school. We talked to him about independence. He said he wanted to get up on his own. We got him an alarm clock. He sets it every night and gets himself up and going in the morning. He feels good about it. And there is no yelling.
3. Avoid lecturing. Long, intense, “one-sided” discussions don’t help. Keep these brief and to the point. For instance, “This morning you forgot your school work and that made school hard. Would it help if we got your things together tonight before you go to bed and have them ready by the door when you have to leave in the morning”. Enough said. Then he might agree or come back with a better idea.
3. Avoid drama and theatrics. Is a misplaced sock or book, or a messy bedroom or counter in the kitchen, a poor grade, a lost job, a lost wallet or phone worth it? I have seen people say, “I can’t deal with this any more” and then go into a swoon or walk away weeping and wailing. Again, quiet, reasonable discussion is the way to go.
4. In our case, our young man seems to fear disastrous consequences when some thing goes wrong like a broken plate or a missed appointment. I have had to say to him over and over, when we have difficulties, we will talk about this and figure out a solution. Don’t worry. Hard times don’t mean that we are throwing in the towel. And then that is what we do. We take the time to talk about the situation, even though that is often difficult, and then come up with a solution that works for everyone.
5. Listen, listen, listen as much as you can. Just yesterday afternoon I was working in my office and heard a knock on the door. The young many who is staying with us asked if I had time to talk. I said I did, but what I did really was listen. He is adjusting to school and that is hard for him, particularly peer relationships. At first I interjected some “advice”. But I soon became aware that what he really needed was to talk. And so he did, for 10 or 15 minutes. And then he said, “Thanks, I just needed to vent”. And then he was off to do his own thing.
I will continue to keep you updated as I learn more that I think might be helpful to your if you are providing sanctuary and in life in general. But again, Keep in mind, WRAP is key to success in sanctuary and in life. When things get out of sync for me, I think Wellness Tools and WRAP. I hope you do too.
For more information about the Wellness Recovery Action Plan, visit the website at www.mentalhealthrecovery.com
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.