Rebuilding Relationships

Patient Expert

Lost jobs, lost homes, lost families. As I travel the country and talk with my peers, I sometimes become overwhelmed by the amazing things people have lost-and the things we have survived.

One young man told me about selling all of his possessions, giving away his dogs and driving out into the middle of the desert to die. He just had given up hope. Thankfully, he was found and brought back from dehydration and near death. He was given a second change and grabbed onto it with both hands. He is now working on his recovery one day at a time.

One woman talked about being abandoned by her mother and sexually and physically abused most of her life. Now in her forties, she's working her recovery, is actually happy for the first time and is proud of her own ability to be a good mother to her children.

One man talked about ending up in jail because of a manic episode and then losing his job, his teaching license, his marriage and his children. Yet he is anxious to reach out and help others who are also on the road to full recovery.

As I celebrate how resilient our community is, I'm also aware of the patterns of loss that seem to surround our illnesses. And invariably, the losses that are most painful always surround the relationships we lose after manic or depressive episodes.

It's hard to rebuild trust after anger has poured out ... after despair has colored a relationship ... after promises have been broken through mindless acts with major consequences. Our family, friends and coworkers may or may not be willing to welcome us back after trust has been broken.

We laugh at the lead character in the TV show, "My Name is Earl," as he bungles around trying to make amends for the wrongs he has done in his life. But it's not funny. It's painful. And hard.

I have no magic formula, but I do know from listening to many of my peers that it seems to take time, hard work, persistence and honesty. We have to relearn trust, and that is not an overnight journey. For some of us, with some relationships, that may never happen.

I'm anxious to hear what my friend and mentor Larry Fricks has to say about the topic at the DBSA 2007 National Conference this August in Orlando. He's slated to present a session titled "Rebuilding Relationships After Mania." In this workshop, he'll reference current research and personal anecdotes and offer strategies for repairing and redefining relationships after a tumultuous manic period, highlighting the importance of the mind/body/medicine connection in the rebuilding process."

Join me if you can. I believe we are stronger together-as we learn from each other-than we are trying to figure all this out by ourselves.

In the meantime, if I have learned nothing else by listening to my peers, I have learned that with patience, persistence and time, it is possible to do amazing things-including rebuilding relationships lost because of the ravages of our illnesses.