Sometimes with all the hustle and bustle of life, I find myself escaping through literature. Reading is such a fantastic way to get away from it all. Reading is also a wonderful way to learn and relearn. Yesterday, the book I decided to revisit is titled A Balanced Life: 9 Strategies for Coping with the Mental Health Problems of a Loved One by Tom Smith (2008) co-founder and President of the Karla Smith Foundation. I discovered this wonderful and empowering book at a time when our family felt very alone after our loved one’s second hospitalization. In my experience, the mental illness of a loved one can be very isolating for the immediate family as well as their loved one. To break down the walls that seemed to be closing in around us I started attending support group meetings, and I started down the path of mental illness awareness by reading books like A Balanced Life. This book in particular provides informative methods for coping including: medication, counseling, education, self-esteem, acceptance, self care, intentional networks, warning signs and faith. I like the language Smith uses. He has a way of lifting the reader up while talking about a delicate issue. After reading the book the first time I felt more capable of handling situations that seem to come up unexpectedly. Furthermore, I never dreamed I would be in a caregiver role. Now, due to the information I gleaned from A Balanced Life, I feel like I have additional effective tools in my parenting toolbox to assist me in coping with the new caregiver hat I wear.
Today, I revisited the book to garner some strength. You see, I feel like I am on a seesaw. The seesaw I am on now isn’t as fun as when I was younger. When I was a little girl I recall being able to stop the seesaw from moving, especially if I sat on it alone. I would sit on the hardwood seat with legs bent and both knees almost touching the ground. I would move the seesaw plank upwards by pushing off the ground with my feet and then…just as I touched the sky…the plank would lower back to Earth. I had control of the momentum and speed of the seesaw. Years later I find life circumstances sitting on the opposite side of me lifting me…dropping me…and lifting me again. It is difficult at best to find any sense of balance.
I really like Chapter 7, “Intentional Networks.” What stands out to me is what Smith says about doing what you can. Just yesterday while having lunch with a friend we talked about that. We discussed our shared desire to help others. Then we talked about how we each strive to do what we can from where we are at. I really like that concept because then there is no excuse to not do anything. We all have something to give. Regarding what Smith writes though, he is talking about being careful not to expect too much from ourselves, especially as caregivers. I know I have to be careful with that because I have high expectations for myself. It’s so easy to do, but I have to be realistic and realize my limitations. I realize I don’t wear a doctor hat or wear a therapist hat. I wear a mom hat and sometimes a caregiver hat. I must be careful not to burnout. I admit it is hard to do though because…I am mom.
The seesaw of life…
Smith, T. (2008). A balanced life: 9 strategies for coping with the mental health problems of a loved one . Minnesota: Hazelden.