Someone posed a question to me recently. “Say you’re a caregiver to someone with a mental illness. What have you lost? What do you need?” Interesting way to phrase it, but I get where she is going with it.

The right perception is what you need most. If you believe that caring for someone with mental illness has caused you to lose things, then your perception becomes your reality and it can cause you to lose everything – your freedom, your own sanity, ability to work, etc. And once you’ve gone that far, it’s easy to believe it’s costing you your other relationships, your physical health, your hopes and dreams, etc. You can truly become a “prisoner” and “victim” to someone else’s mental illness.

The truth is, loving and caring for someone with mental illness (or any exceptional need) can be very difficult, and what will be required of you is to learn to “let go.” The root cause of most stress is simply holding on tight to the hope that things will go exactly as we imagine, and then we complicate our lives to no end when they don’t.

Mental illness, cancer, disability, dementia are all uncontrollable, surprising conditions, but when you let go, you allow yourself to make the best of what you’ve got. A big part of healing (yours and the person you are caring for) relies on your willingness to let go of what you think your life is supposed to be like right now then make peace with what it actually is, and begin to heal from there.

It’s all about finding the strength to embrace life’s inevitable changes, to trust in a power greater than your own, to learn as you go, to realize that every experience has value, and to continue taking positive steps forward every day.