All flourishing relationships are a two way street.

Love at 75 is a work of art and craft, of continuously paddling a canoe together. Forward. 

Love is an art and craft both tender and kind and thoughtful,  … very, very thoughtful. Throughout life together those who truly love each other consider the effect of what they do and say on their soul-mate.

Romance lives! My Jim brings me treats and flowers and watches me throughout the day. He tells me I am adorable when I pucker up to share a kiss. Yes, kissing is still a very big deal. 

Our touches are lingering. A continuing communication.  A sharing.  A bond of strength. We are known for holding hands when in each other’s presence. 

Indeed, tears form happily as I realize our children still enjoy holding our hands. Holding hands with each of them from toddlerhood on through early adulthood.  And we thrive in each other’s companionship. One daughter and one son.  Add now our daughter’s husband of 20 plus years, their soon to be 17 year old son and their 13 year old daughter.  Seven of us. 

Seven has been my favorite number since I was a child. 

Why am I writing of our love and marriage on this website? My lived experience with mental illness has tossed challenges in our relationship. 

Sometimes, others have hinted that I have been lucky that my husband stayed married to me. As if we were not worthy of this love and commitment these 53 years! 

But we are braided together, strong, flexible, and happy in each other’s arms.

All healthy lifelong relationships are a two way street. 

My challenges have been public. I have always believed in my heart of hearts that being open about mental illness is essential for reducing stigma. Perhaps my writings have helped others feel hopeful.

And hope is absolutely necessary. Our children, son-in-law, grandchildren and our sons’ close friends all have an enlightened, accurate and knowledgeable appreciation of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other brain disorders.  

Jim and I have grown together since our first date, May 1965. Paddling and correcting our course as needed in a life enhancing way. Sometimes we paddled along the lake shore. Or perhaps we meandered down a river and explored a cove filled with stunning Venus fly trap plants, lily pads and wild irises (True story!) Only a few wrong bends but we worked together to navigate our way onward.

My husband taught me early that like so much of life, there is a learning curve with a canoe and a river. Yes, paddling must be learned. It’s not automatic, and if you think it is, you will flounder … maybe tip out … maybe perish, when life’s rapids occur. 

Each river, lake, stream, and cove is unique and a part of life’s journey. Each offers a growth experience. The weather and the landscape, the water and the sky  — and other people canoeing the same water, maybe or maybe not with respect for canoes and water! — are part of our journey and yours. 

Yes, I am fortunate.  And Jim is fortunate to be my husband … he’s always the first to say so!

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments, love is not love
Which alters when it alterations finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempest and is never shaken.”

 – From Sonnet CXVI
    William Shakespere, 1564-1616

Thank you kindly!
Gail Louise

Starting Anew, Here and Now


It is nice to be with you.

It is nice to be back writing and advocating for people with mental illness and mental health challenges!

After a life of major depression and an anxiety disorder I am very well indeed.

I write to lend a hand to those needing a helping hand and to those who are reaching out with a hand.

I also want people to do more than develop empathy. Empathy is passive. It lets people off the hook.

What is necessary is taking action to help others.

After 20 years of teaching families, loved ones and individuals with mental illnesses, these are the 2 nuggets people like you have told me were the most helpful in reaching out to others:

    ~~~ In Greeting, say,  “It is nice to see you!”
            Do Not ask, “How are you!!!”

Asking a question can put people in an uncomfortable position. They may not know what to say, or do not know themselves how they are … Many times, by conventional standards, they may not be successful, accomplished, have relationships that matter, and so on.

Sometimes, and I have experienced this myself, even with relatives, the question “How are you?” may mean, hint, hint: “Have you stopped smoking yet…Have you lost weight yet…Do you have a job yet?”

    ~~~Listen actively.

Your presence and loving concern can mean the world … just by being there. Usually the person you are listening to is not asking you or expecting you to solve their problems. Advice can be off putting. Wait to be asked for advice and do not yourself be put off if advice is not asked.

Follow up is absolutely essential. If you do not follow up in a significant way, your gesture will be just that, a gesture.

Flowers or a casserole or a handwritten note are all good ways to go.

Thank you kindly,
Gail Louise

Judith: Mentor and Friend

Many women have been important to my life, starting with my mother, who passed away about ten years ago. I miss her and think of her daily.

Isabel B., a neighbor and 4-H leader when I was growing up, was my second role model. I remember Mrs. B. was also active in the Farm Bureau Federation in Wisconsin. The Farm Bureau was, and perhaps still is, the largest organization serving as an advocate’s voice for farmers. My parents were dairy farmers. They also operated a small hybrid seed business (corn and oats), along with raising six children. It was a very, very busy life. So was Isabel’s.

As I look back, Isabel was ahead of her time. She would have been recognized as a career woman today. She was smart, perceptive, bold and energetic, and she made a big impression on me. I wish I would have told her so years ago, before she died.  My memory also reminds me that although Isabel had many talents and accomplishments, in speaking of her the community always appended their judgement:  That they saw her as a poor housekeeper!

I didn’t meet Judith until the late 1970’s. She was a full professor at the University Of Wisconsin-Madison’s college of Agriculture, in the department of Nutritional Sciences. I was employed as clinical instructor in dietetics serving the upperclassmen working on their practicums.  Judith taught the senior class on therapeutic nutrition – that plus her research, of course! – While I located, planned, and coordinated these student dietitians in various hospitals across the county. I supervised the students and Judith supervised me, as dietetics program director.

She also mentored me through the early months, cluing me into departmental politics, advising me when I had various problems with students (or they had problems with me), and critiquing my work.

Several years later, I told her about my past depression.  When work was done that day, we had a heart to heart talk and she invited me to her home for dinner. I was speechless but grateful and moved. Judith made us each a filet mignon, a real Caesar salad, and American fried potatoes. I can still picture our working in her kitchen together. That same night Judith told me that the recurrent depression I had inherited was a disability and only that. She said I could certainly not only survive with the illness, but thrive in spite of it, just as her grandmother had adapted to life with serious arthritis. It was my first encounter with someone who considered mental illness a disability, just as other illnesses and conditions can be disabilities. Her message stuck with me and fortified me.

Years and life have passed by since.

In the 1980’s, my depression reoccurred in a major way. It was interfering with every aspect of my life, work, home, parenting, etc. My psychiatrist and I tried many medications and found none of them effective. He then recommended that I be hospitalized for a work-up in the psych ward to determine if electric convulsive therapy (called ECT; and referred to as shock therapy by many) would be safe for me. I agreed.

I was granted leave from my work. Judith went to bat for me with the University, pulled strings, and saved my job for me. Unfortunately the ECT treatments didn’t relieve my depression. A few months later I was hospitalized again: I was suicidal. Again I was granted leave.

What was most meaningful to me was all the additional support Judith gave. She visited me regularly during both hospitalizations. She made food for my family (oddly, no one else did). I recall the meals were prepared in an electric skillet, already cooked, so that all my husband had to do was plug in the skillet and slowly reheat the food. Throughout this period Jim dealt with long commutes and the normal pressures of work, took care of our children, laundry and everything else, including a visit each night during my hospitalizations.  It was going to be difficult for him to get me to out-patient ECT treatments as well. So Judith arranged for my colleagues to drive me from our home to the out-patient clinic for each treatment, and then return me home as well!

Slowly I recovered and we picked up our lives again.

Time passes. Judith retired and moved to Arizona. We kept in touch via mail and email.

And time has continued: Last year, 2018, I developed cancer in my right jaw and gums. My husband alerted all our families and close friends, including Judith, of my upcoming surgery. Thankfully the surgery went well.  But after recovering from the neck resection, I began six weeks of radiation therapy. While the radiation was aimed at my right neck, rays necessarily passed through my lips and mouth. My mouth erupted in radiation sores; eating and drinking was difficult.

During all these months I had been receiving cards from Judith. The cards were delightful! But one message was different. When I read it I was thunderstruck.  My friend had been dealing with cancer for years. Several surgeries. She had never revealed or even mentioned these illnesses to me!

Judith now told me that she had been through radiation therapy to many parts of her digestive tract. She knew the misery. I received weekly cards from her during treatment, sending me tips for easier eating and swallowing. And, via mail, she laughed and cursed with me about radiation therapy and these damned illnesses. Her favorite repeatable admonishment was “Keep Plodding Along (KPA)”.

The last time I heard from my mentor and friend was the end of October last year: Judith was having another surgery, this time a mastectomy. I continued to correspond, but have not received any replies.

Some people we encounter in our lives are kind, thoughtful and go out of their way to make a difference in our life. Judith is and was that person for me.


She was my maid-of-honor.

She was present at the birth of my son; years later she was present at his graduation from high school.

My favorite photograph of her is when she held my son at his baptism celebration; lovingly, tenderly, carefully, and as a mother would do.

I got to know her best when we were both adults, after her move to The Windy City. Ellie loved the bigness and sophistication of Chicago. It was a good fit.

We would have great long phone conversations, very fun, amusing and encouraging of one another. We planned one day to open a small restaurant together. The menu would be simple: Homemade soups, sandwiches, and salads – our favorite foods.

Several times Ellie, and her then partner, arranged for my husband and I to stay at luxurious hotels when we celebrated our wedding anniversary or visited Chicago’s Art Institute. They also hosted us at their apartment which she had beautifully and tastefully decorated. I remember her loving to add color and texture to furnishings through the use of throw pillows. I regaled in the gorgeous works of art mounted on the apartment walls.

Once she arranged an elaborate spread of food for a colleague and myself when the two of us attended a conference nearby. Ellie gave up her bed to my colleague and I that evening, while she slept on the sofa. My colleague, not easily impressed, was impressed!

Perhaps my fondest memory involves my daughter, then 16, coming to Chicago to find the right accessories for her prom dress. Ellie took us to her favorite downtown department store and helped  purchase jewelry and shoes.

Ellie was my sister. She passed away two years ago this month. I miss her and will never forget her.


The past few weeks have been a hard time and a difficult holiday season. Depression took firm grasp of my mind and darkly colored the days since I last wrote.

This blog today is dedicated to my deceased Great Aunt Lydia. My mother told me that Aunt Lydia was the only relative kind and gutsy enough to accompany mother to the state mental hospital in the 1950’s, visiting my father when he was committed to that facility. I’m impressed by Lydia’s support and I regret I hadn’t leaned this fact while Aunt Lydia was still living.

Love also goes out to those who helped me through these days: My husband, Children, Son-in-Law, and grandchildren, and for the encouragement and support from my brothers.

“It’s Looking A Lot Like Christmas”

Jim and I have fond memories of and admiration for the many, many special holidays that our parents provided all the years they were healthy. Christmases were joyous whether or not the preceding months had been difficult or pleasant for them. What an enduring gift!

This season we’re enjoying many Christmas traditions:  The festive wreath and evergreen trees – three this year (Yes, three trees!), decorated with old and new ornaments.  Outdoor lights glowing in the night for all; especially our lighted “Peace on Earth” sign. This proclamation a family tradition and prayer.  The many beautiful, rich and inspiring recorded melodies. Christmas services – this year we’ll attend Gail’s paternal grandparent’s church.  Holly.  Mistletoe.  Colorful poinsettias and flowering cyclamens.  The wonderful challenge of finding just the right gifts for our two fine children, terrific son–in-law and beloved grandchildren.  Grandmother’s ceramic Christmas tree (Alright, four trees).  All of us together preparing and serving delicious holiday meals.  Jim’s hot cocoa, and if I’m patient and persevering, my homemade large German Gingerbread House – this I’ll bake and frost featuring delightful Christmas candies and home-baked cookies!

Our blessings are too many to name; good health to be sure, but always beginning with loving family and friends.

Our wish for you is peace in the Christmas spirit; hope and joy in the new year. Hallelujah!

How about Our Rural Neighbor’s Mental Health?

Those of us who live and work in cities often forget there is a whole other way of living alongside our own metropolitan or suburban way of life: A large part of the US is still rural. According to US census bureau director John H Thompson, rural areas cover 97% of our land area and contain 20 percent of our people (60 million people).

Rural America is facing a health crisis.  Although the prevalence of mental illness is similar between rural and urban residents, rates of suicide are not.  Suicide rates (Reference – See chart attached) have been growing in the US as a whole since 2000; increasing by nearly 30 percent for both adults and children. That alone is cause for concern.  But the suicide rate in rural areas has increased by more than 40 percent in the same period.  Data from:  Trends in Suicide by level of Urbanization – United States, 1999 – 2015

Growing up in the country and on a farm in the 50’s and 60’s gave me some firsthand appreciation of rural health concerns, including mental health. My father became ill with was what then called a “nervous breakdown”. It was something shameful and no one talked it. It was all a personal failing.  Besides, the work never stops, how could one take “time off” to recover lost mental health?

I think about this issue every time I drive on our nearest rural county highway. I wonder about the health of my rural neighbors. Most of the farms are family farms and their appearance suggests times are tough.

A report entitled The Stigma of Mental Illness in Small Towns notes another of the barriers contributing to the rise in rural mental health problems is that many residents believe that that “I should not need help.”  Or simply don’t know where to go for assistance. Many times there is no mental health professional near and it is a significant burden of time and distance to travel for help.   

A study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics in 2015 analyzed data on US youth suicide rates from 1996 to 2010. It found that the rates of suicides for rural Americans aged 10 to 24 was almost double the rate compared to their urban counterparts. This was attributed to social isolation, greater availability of guns and difficulty accessing healthcare

It seems that the stigma – that mental illness is shameful – may be felt more acutely in small rural communities. And there is a lack of anonymity there.

Again from The Stigma of Mental Illness in Small Towns:
“We as a society have a hard time asking for help, so it’s hard enough to ask for help without feeling that everybody’s going to know it,”……”Your neighbors don’t have a clue in a city if you’re to get some help. But everybody in a small town will know if your pick-up is parked outside the mental health provider’s office.”(same reference; quote by Dennis Mohatt, VP of the behavioral health at Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and director of the WICHE Center for Rural Mental Health Research.

The upshot is that rural citizens with mental health needs enter care later in the course of their disease than do their urban peers; enter care with more serious, persistent and disabling symptoms and require more expensive and intensive treatment response.

A policy brief by the National Rural Health Association, The Future of Rural Behavioral Health, February, 2015, makes the case that rural needs can be met by behavioral health reforms addressing the availability, accessibility, affordability and acceptability of services. (new reference). “ Three-fourths of counties with populations of 2,500 to 20,000 lack a psychiatrist and  95 percent lack a child psychiatrist.” Primarily due to this shortage of mental health professionals, primary care caregivers provide a large proportion of mental health care in rural America and may lack the training and experience to handle serious mental health issues.

What would help the situation?

  • Increased emphasis on rural practice during professional training
  • Rural community residents, such as school counselors and members of the clergy, should receive educational material and information from Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies concerning available resources for mental health issues.
  • Programs like Mental Health First Aid (MHA) may be useful in providing basic training to providers and other community resource people and reducing the stigma in the community.
  • Paraprofessionals and emerging professions can also augment the mental health workforce. One example is the emerging field of Peer Support Specialists. Peer Support Specialists themselves have personal experiences with mental illness and can offer invaluable perspective to patients in acute care settings.

And we all need to be more supportive of our rural neighbors.

Suicide is frightening to talk about… Part 1

What might we experience as a Suicide Survivor? _________________________________

(This, the first in a series of postings on suicide issues, is based on a very real need for me and my family to know how to support people experiencing the death of a loved one by suicide.

The people left behind when suicide has occurred face not only grief, but a complicated grief, full of many questions and challenges.  We who are left behind are often referred to as suicide survivors…..)

Most of us have experienced the death of a loved one. And we can appreciate that the grief that follows is always difficult, even though it is an instinctual and helpful reaction. Suicide survivors too, are left with grief and feelings of loss, sadness, and loneliness after the death of a loved one. Yet these are often magnified by feelings of guilt, confusion, rejection, shame, anger, and the effects of social stigma and personal trauma.

As suicide survivors we are plagued by the need to make sense of the death and to understand why suicide appeared to our loved one as their only option. We may overestimate our responsibility, as well as guilt for not being able to prevent the tragic outcome. Survivors may replay events up to the last moments of their loved ones’ lives, looking for clues and warnings that they blame themselves for not noticing or taking seriously.

We might recall past disagreements or arguments, plans not fulfilled, calls not returned, words not said, and ruminate how if only we had done or said something differently, perhaps the outcome would have been different. If it is easy for we who are suicide survivors to get caught up in self-blame, it may help to understand that many (most) people who complete suicide were struggling against mental illness when they died.

Suicide survivors sometimes feel rejected or abandoned by the death. Survivors may see the deceased as choosing to give up and leaving their loved ones behind.   Also survivors can feel bewildered, wondering why the relationship they had with the person was not enough to keep them alive.

Anger is a common response: Directed at the person who died, or at themselves, or perhaps at other family members, at professionals, at God or the world in general. “Why did my loved one not seek help or feel our love and concern?”

Suicide is stigmatized. The bereaved may find it difficult to talk to others about their loss because others often feel uncomfortable discussing a death by suicide. This can leave the family/friends feeling isolated. For all of us, talking about a loved one’s death is vital for our recovery. Stigma concerning suicide poses an unwelcome barrier to the healing process.

Finally, survivors of suicide find themselves at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior than are other bereaved individuals (Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, Vol 14, No. 2, 2012).

Suicide is frightening to talk about… Part 2

What can we do to help support suicide survivors? ___________________________________

Individual counseling and suicide support groups can be particularly helpful. While there are many grief support groups, grief support focused specifically on suicide appears to be much more valuable for suicide survivors.

As Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, Vol 14, No. 2, 2012 reports, “For many friends and family of a suicide victim, participation in support groups is felt to be their only access to people whom they feel can understand them, or the only place where their feelings are acceptable.”

As the support group talks together, we who are suicide survivors may obtain assurance that we are not alone in our feelings. Others, we find, have faced similar experiences and have survived not only intact but often able to better bear their grief. The bonds that form among participants can be very strong as they offer each other mutual support. Also there is practical advice for such real-life obligations as dealing with legal issues, talking to others (including one’s children), developing fitting memorials for the deceased, coping with holidays and special events, and setting realistic goals including care for one’s self.

Successful suicide support groups share the characteristics of other successful groups:  They provide accurate information, give permission to grieve, help normalize emotional and behavioral episodes that are out of keeping from one’s usual personality and deportment.  Most importantly, successful groups convey to survivors that they are not alone.

Please note, a support group may be especially effective for children who have lost a parent or family member by suicide.

Support groups can be found on Web sites of such groups as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) which host directories for hundreds of suicide support groups in the United States.

Suicide is frightening to talk about… Part 3

Here are some tips for supporting a grieving suicide Survivor


*Accept and acknowledge all feelings

(Let the grieving person know that it is ok to get angry; to break down. It is ok to cry.  Grief is emotion, so we suicide survivors need to feel free to express our feelings without fear of judgment, criticism or argument.)

*Be willing to sit in silence.

(It is a true comfort to a survivor to simply be in your company. Offer eye contact, a squeeze of the hand or a reassuring hug.)

*Let the bereaved talk about how their loved one died.

(Those grieving may need to tell their story over and over, sometimes in painful detail. Repeating the story is a way of processing and acceptance. Pain lessens with each retelling.)

*Offer comfort without minimizing the loss.

(Again, the emphasis is on listening and asking the other to tell you how they’re feeling. Avoid hollow reassurance.)


Just as we might in the aftermath of any death, we may offer to –

  • Shop for groceries or run errands
  • Drop off a casserole or other food
  • Stay to take phone calls or receive guests
  • Help with insurance forms or bills
  • Help with housework like cleaning or laundry
  • Watch their children or pick them up from school
  • Drive them wherever he or she needs to go
  • Go with them to a support group meeting
  • Accompany them on a walk, lunch, or movie


* Our ongoing support may be more important at this time than ever.

(Stay in touch with the grieving person, periodically checking in, dropping by, or sending letters or cards.)

(Don’t make assumptions based on outward appearance; some may be struggling on the inside.)

*Avoid saying things like “You are so strong” or “You look so well”.  Also avoid comments like “He/She is in a better place now.” Or “This is behind you now; it’s time to get on with your life.”

(These comments are well intended, but put pressure on the survivor to keep up appearances and to hide true feelings.)

*The pain of this loss may never fully heal.

(Life may never be or feel the same. You don’t get over the death of a loved one. The suicide survivor may learn to accept the loss. Pain may lessen but sadness may never completely go away.)

*Offer extra support on special days.

(Holidays, family milestones, birthdays and anniversaries often reawaken grief. Be sensitive on these occasions. Let the person know you are there for whatever they need.)


*It is common for a suicide survivor to feel depressed.  Or to feel confused and disconnected from others, or that they are going crazy.

(If the bereaved symptoms don’t gradually fade —or they get worse with time- this may be a sign that the grief has become a more serious problem, such as clinical depression.)

*Encourage suicide survivor’s to seek professional help if any of the following warning signs are observed after the initial grieving period:

  • Difficultly functioning in daily life
  • Extreme focus on the death
  • Excessive bitterness, anger or guilt
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Hallucinations
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Constant feelings of hopelessness
  • Talking about dying or suicide


*Families often feel stigmatized and cut off after a suicide.

*From the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, July 2009, Left Behind After Suicide:

“If you avoid contact because you don’t know what to say or do, family members may feel blamed and isolated. Ignore your doubts and make contact. Survivors learn to forgive awkward behaviors or clumsy statements, as long as your support and compassion are evident.”

Grief works at its own pace.

What to decrease: four things that hinder mood disorders

“There are a few things you can do that improve mood problems, and a few things you can do that make them worse.”
– Bipolar, Not So Much, Chris Aiken, MD and James Phelps, MD

As doctors Aiken and Phelps explain in their book, mood disorders affect family and friends.  Moods are catching.  And yes, you may find your friend or family member’s mood is contagious.  In my last posting I talked about things their book recommends to enhance communication; such as showing emotional warmth, being emphatic, and making positive comments, etc. (Read my March 14th 2017 post, “What to increase: four things that help mood disorders” to refresh your memory of the those helpful tips.)

Today I will emphasize the “…few things you can do that make them worse.” The authors explain that the brain is wired to react to negative events more than positive ones, so it is important to decease interactions that I talk about below.

But be patient with yourself!  What matters is getting it right most of the time.


One. Beware Critical Comments (These are comments that point out fault and pass judgment. Sometimes they are criticisms aimed at suggesting poor motivations.)

It can be difficult, but watch the use of the word “should” in your mind and words, say Doctor Aikens and Phelps. They continue, “…try not to communicate that things ‘should’ be different. They aren’t.”

Look at your expectations, and ask: Are they realistic? If your loved one is having an episode and you haven’t lowered your expectations for now, you may need to. Critical comments spring from a mismatch between ideals, expectations, and reality.

The authors make a great suggestion, “If you cannot lower your expectations on an issue (you are not alone in that), lower the frequency with which you remind them about it.” Dr Phelps and Atkins recommend you schedule weekly opportunities to talk about your concerns rather than bringing them up unexpectedly throughout the day.  “The brain follows a psychological law called intermittent reinforcement, which means it reacts to random comments as though they are happening all the time.”

Rather, check in with your loved one! You are encouraged to ask about ways you may come across as overly critical. “Bringing this up at the weekly meeting can keep them from feeling like it’s a weekly complaint session with them as the target.”

Two. Avoid Scrutinizing Moods

While you want to monitor for relapses when someone is in recovery, too much focus on this may come across critically.  The authors recommend, “In general, you should respond to your relative’s emotions just as you would to someone who never had a mood disorder. Don’t be too quick to evaluate whether each emotion represents a new episode or medication reaction.” Again, the medical doctors  recommend asking: Ask your loved one how they’d like you to share your observations.

Three. Be Careful of Overinvolvement

Overinvolvement can happen innocently and unintentionally.  You want to take an active role in your relative’s recovery.  While it is a natural and caring reaction,  too much involvement can stress your relative. The authors state ”Mood disorders can cause people to feel guilty, controlled, or like they’ve lost their self. Overinvolvement from relatives can intensify these feelings.” Strive for positive support.  There is a fine line between positive support and overinvolvement.  For example, driving your son to his psychiatric appointment is supportive when he’s too depressed to start the car.  But the same action can be overinvolvement when he’s entering recovery.

Another hazard: it is easy to get hooked on the ups and downs of your loved one’s mood, trying to determine if what you did that made the illness worse or better. You may be taking on too much of the responsibility and burden for the illness on yourself.  Remember: But be patient with yourself!  What matters is getting it right most of the time.

Four. Steer Clear of Hostility

To avoid hostility, the authors write, watch out for beliefs that blame your loved one or that question their motivation. Dr. Aikens and Dr Phelps  cite the following examples:

  • “He wouldn’t be like this if he tried harder.”
  • “She doesn’t want to get better.”
  • “She just wants an excuse for her behavior.”
  • “He may have a disorder, but he has more self-control than he lets on. I’ve seen him change around his friends—-he’s like a totally different person with them.”

This last example is particularly important. The experts write that when someone has a mood disorder, their worst face usually comes out at home or with family. “This tendency for symptoms to vary in different settings causes two problems. One, it makes the family think that their relative with mental illness has more self-control than they actually do. Blame and hostility follow. Two, families are prevented from seeing how their relative is improving.”

Beware Critical Comments. Avoid Scrutinizing Moods. Be Careful of Overinvolvement. Steer Clear of Hostility.  Whew!

In the last two blog posts, we reviewed both interactions to increase and those to decrease. The Interactions we discussed here have been given as guideposts to family and friends.  However, they are guideposts and suggestions only, not a guide to perfect care. Dr Aikens and Dr Phelps remind us that what matters is getting it right much of the time. They clarify, “It’s the frequency and duration of your actions that matter to the brain; just as the skin is affected by how long it’s exposed to the sun.  …Focus on the basic principles above and respond to the rest with grace and acceptance.”