People often ask me if they should give up trying to support the person they love who is living with a mental health, alcohol or other drug problem. And I always say, 'never give up', because change is possible. In fact, change is inevitable, even though it doesn't always feel like it. Especially if we are drowning in sadness, and grief and loss for what could have been. Or when we are just keeping our heads above water trying to cope with psychosis, drinking, drugs, needles, bongs, lies, stealing, crime, hospitals, self-harm, suicidal threats... Sometimes, it can all feel too much and thoughts of giving up on the person directly living with these issues come to mind. Especially after trying for so long to make change happen.
But you know what? Change is possible and family members can influence change when caring for someone with a mental health, alcohol or other drug problem. We can't make the person change. But we can influence change. And this influence takes the shape of making some changes ourselves and modelling what a healthy life looks like. It means reaching out for additional support. Taking time out for ourselves. Spending time with a friend or a partner. Returning to old habits and loves, like going for a bush walk, or going to the beach, or the gym, or that art class. We can influence change in others by what we do. And as our own stress levels go down, and our sadness lifts and our obsession with mental health, alcohol and other drugs subsides, then everything starts to change. It doesn't mean that all of the problems disappear. But it does mean that our capacity to cope strengthens and grows. And this is a good thing for the people around us and for us. Self-care can influence change in others.