The Burden of Mental Illness

The Burden of Mental Illness

When I was young growing up, my parents, brothers and sisters and I did not understand our brother, Carlos', behavior. Every time he would say something strange or abnormal such as "hey, Richard, did you see the birds start the engine?", we would get angry at him. "Why don't you act normal?!" we would yell. Carlos would talk to himself out loud, hide the food from our refrigerator in the bushes outside, shove a jar of peanut butter under his bed mattress, sleep naked outside in mid winter. After some time, Carlos became homeless and my mother would cry for days, not knowing what to do. Carlos had Schizophrenia, a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation. To further aggravate problems, my father, also a borderline schizophrenic-type, was certain the government was responsible for driving Carlos crazy. He believed the government was sending gases through the plumbing and so he would plug all the sinks in the house. All this behavior was extremely stressful for all of us growing up.

Flash forward to the present: My roomate, John and I try—but not always successfully—to understand one another. He's obsessive compulsive (OCD) and I'm attention deficit (ADHD). He demands order in the most inconsequential matters (a flawlessly tidy house everyday, properly selected words while speaking, etc. etc.). His behaviors are extremely time consuming and cause him a great deal of emotional distress. He is always overwhelmed with details about everything. I, on the other hand, don't want to do anything (except sleep). My bedroom is in disarray, John's is ordered. Seemingly the odd couple, we do share some things in common. We are both gay, we both suffer from depression, anxiety, panic disorder and high blood pressure. John has the added diagnosis of bi-polar disorder and type-1 diabetes. He wears a 3-day insulin pump to manage his diabetes that requires sensitive and careful handling—which could throw him in a tizzy!

About five years ago, after a 25 year relationship, John lost his partner, Roger. Since I was friends with both of them (met them at a gay bar), John asked me if I wanted to rent the now-available spare bedroom. Everything was going pretty good until a few years ago when I was terminated from my job due to mental health sickness. The company I worked for filed for bankruptcy and I couldn't take the stress imbued by management at work. It landed me in the emergency room. With the help of very supportive doctors, I've since applied for federal disability benefits (for depression, ADHD, anxiety and panic disorder) which was denied but is now in appeal. John has been supporting both of us—but it's really taxing his finances and causing him a great deal of anxiety and grief. I currently receive a federal food benefit of $200 per month which helps—but is very little. I feel like a burden to John, when he could be renting my bedroom and making ends meet. Because I don't have much connection with my family, I've been researching the various homeless shelters in my area to move into—but I don't know what to do. I'm open to any suggestions. (Sorry I went on a tangent in his post!).

8 Replies

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  • I'm not sure about accommodation because I like in the UK. Have you tried talking to John openly and honestly about this?

  • I'm writing down my thoughts about all this as we speak, and approaching him.

  • I think that's a really positive start x

  • Hi there I can't help with accommodation as I'm In Ireland.

    You need to sit down and talk honestly with John, you are assuming he sees

    You as a burden, but he may be happy enough with the situation. Maybe he

    Wants company and doesn't want to live alone.

    I think with his OCD it would not be everyone that would be queuing up

    To share with him

    Really he is the only one who can tell you if you need to move. It's hard

    To feel that you have little choice, explore all your options and maybe there

    Is another way to enable you to be independent .

    Hannah

  • Damn-it, Hannah, why can't you be in the U.S.? Lol! You're right—I don't know if he sees me as a burden—but I certainly feel like it. I don't want to paint an extreme portrait. John has reduced his demands (to a certain degree) and I have increased mine (helping out with various household chores). You're lucky you live in Ireland. They probably have more humanitarian resources available. The U.S. is brutal.

  • Hi there and thanks, I hope I helped you even a little bit. Another

    Perspective always help me too. You sound a bright person.

    Ireland is not great but I think it's not as harsh as USA.

    Stuck around and get to know us here as we do have a

    Laugh as well as supporting each other.

    Hannah x

  • Hi,

    I'm guessing you are asleep now in the US. Welcome to the site and sorry you have been going through a tough time. All you can do is talk to John while you wait for your appeal. Writing it down is a great step and also helping out more, as you can, around the house. He is your friend as well as a house mate so this isn't a purely financial arrangement. It is about more than that. John has his own challenges and so needs more than financial support but emotional and practical support which I'm guessing you provide. Try and think of other ways you can contribute rather than solely financially. In the larger scheme of thing, John may well struggle with having a stranger move into his house.

    Keep in touch with us and good luck,

    Sarah x

  • Thank you, Sara. :)

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