Getting Back on Course

I’ve done some soul searching about the blog over the past few days. I’ve been asking myself, “Why did you start the blog to begin with? What was your intent?”

Honestly, I’m not sure at the time I’d completely thought it through. I’d just moved my sister who has bipolar disorder 100 miles across the state so I could help ensure she got the care and support she needed. I was learning a lot about mental illness, stigma, and the challenges of navigating our federal programs and the mental health care system. I was convinced she could be healthier but she was at a place where she just couldn’t do it on her own. I was making mistakes, recovering from them, trying one thing then another. It was a crazy, messed-up time. And in the midst of it all, I thought there must be others like me. There must be others who are trying to figure this out and maybe we can all help each other.

But then I started the blog and it seems more often than not my posts have been for my own benefit. A form of free therapy. You know, getting my thoughts organized, stepping back and trying to view what just occurred more objectively, trying to figure out what the hell happened in my family, getting things off my chest, and just generally recording the journey. Whether this has helped anyone else in the blogosphere, I don’t know.

I’ve thought a lot about the audience I’d like to serve through the blog. My desire is to build a network of followers who care for and about loved ones with mental illness. A number of you follow the blog because you know me or Jerri, you know what a big thing this journey has been for us, and you care. Thank you for that. It means a great deal. You offer a tremendous amount of support to me and I can’t imagine being on this journey without you.

Some of you follow because you have your own struggle with mental illness and my perspective as a family member helps you better understand your own family relationships and challenges. Many of you have your own blogs and are far more experienced at this than I am. Some of you have a huge following. You’ve got this blog thing figured out. I can so learn from you.

And some of you (although I think potentially only a small percentage) follow because, like me, you have a family member, a sibling or a child, who has a mental illness or another disability which affects your family in similar ways. You are actually the ones I theoretically started the blog for and I fear I haven’t delivered a lot of content of value to you.

These are purely my perceptions. They may or may not reflect reality so I’d like to hear from you. Tell me about yourself. What attracts you to the blog (if you are, in fact, attracted) and why do you continue to check in? If you don’t like to publicly comment – no biggee. You can email me at trophydaugher@nc.rr.com.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to seriously contemplate the mission and vision of Trophydaughter. I plan to develop a mission statement to guide my posts moving forward.

When I started this venture, I had somewhat of a if-you-build-it-they-will-come mentality. Obviously, that’s not the case. After a year and a half of blogging I still have less than 100 followers. Not that this thing was ever about the numbers for me (despite the fact that us trophydaughters are prone to measuring ourselves 🙂 ) but I do want to make a difference so I’d like to increase my readership. I’m also concerned the audience I most want to reach isn’t that active in the blogosphere. Specifically, siblings. Thoughts on this, anyone?

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21 Comments on “Getting Back on Course”

  1. Mairead says:

    Hi,

    I just discovered your blog today and began following it. I found it through the NAMI website. This blog really attracted me because I am currently caring for my sister who is struggling with mental illness. My parents basically set me up and allowed me to be her primary source of emotional support since I was 12-13. When I turned 18 I moved out of my parents dysfunctional household and my sister and I got our own place. We’ve been on our own, supporting one another ever since then. Unfortunately, my sister’s anxiety and depression worsened to the point where she could no longer hold down a job. For the past 4 years, I’ve been supporting her emotionally and financially. It is hard work and can be very draining. But I love my sister more than any other human I’ve ever met. I can honestly say we are best friends and I would never consider doing anything other than supporting her in her struggle. Still, being a caregiver can make one feel very alone at times. It is good to read your blog and know I’m not alone. I look forward to reading more.

    • Hi Mairead! So glad you found me – one of my primary reasons for starting this blog was to meet other sibling caregivers like you. We are either a rare breed or a very private group – it’s hard to find others doing this, that’s for sure. I’ve been supporting my sister for about the same amount of time. Are you in the US? I ask because my sister qualified for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). It would relieve some of the financial pressure if your sister could qualify. I’d love to hear more of your story. Hope you will continue to share. You can also contact me via email at trophydaughter@nc.rr.com. I don’t check that box regularly so if you do reach out, leave a comment here saying “you’ve got mail!”

      • Mairead says:

        Yes, I am in the US. My sister’s disability claim has been denied, but we have a lawyer and her case is being appealed. Unfortunately the lawyer said appeals can take 12 to 20 months so we are stuck waiting, and waiting, and waiting. She has me so she isn’t on the streets with no income and no way to take care of herself. But seriously, how do people manage if they don’t have friends or family willing to help them during that time period? It amazes me how long they drag out the process of getting help to those who need it.

  2. I just started following today, because I find your blog so honest about a subject that is not talked about very much. I myself suffer from depression, and while it is pretty manageable, I can relate to the stigmas out there about mental illnesses. I think it’s very important to become aware of how our society treats these individuals and to support them as well as those around them. I think what you are doing for your sister is a very beautiful, compassionate thing and will continue reading to encourage both of you through your ups and downs. Thank you so much for sharing! Good luck!

  3. Anon in VA says:

    I follow your blog because I have a schizophrenic brother, and while my parents care for him now, I will be caring for him someday. That’s a terribly difficult reality for me because he was abusive to me growing up.

    I find your blog to be so valuable as I haven’t found many written by siblings caring for siblings. I remember one post, and forgive me if I am mischaracterizing it, but what I recall was good advice about being careful about how you talk about your mentally ill sibling at work, if you talk about them at all. That really stuck with me. It helped me think twice about talking about it, and I have been more careful as a result. Reading that post came at a truly pivotal time when I was reeling from recent events with my brother and I was tempted to talk at work just to vent. I am so glad I didn’t, and that is because I read your post. So thank you. And please keep blogging. I wish there was some kind of blogger ring of siblings caring for siblings so we could more easily find blogs like yours.

    • Hi Anon,

      Yeah, what’s up with that? Where are all the sibs? I’ve searched too – if you’ve found other blogs, please share. The caregiving sites say that the percentage of sibling caregivers are on the rise. Maybe they just don’t do blogs. Trophydaughter is on Facebook but maybe I need to expand to twitter. I’m trying to figure this out.

      Have you explored Sibnet at all? It seems like most members have siblings with physical disabilities but there are some like us who frequent the site. They are pretty active on Facebook. The sibnet FB site is closed but if you’re interested, as a member I can submit your email and they will allow you to join. If you’re interested, email me at Trophydaughter@nc.rr.com.

      It was for sibs like you that I originally created Trophydaughter. I’m doing some research on sibling caregivers and may write a series of posts on topics relevant to sibs very soon.

      I think the post you’re referring to is this one: https://trophydaughter.wordpress.com/?s=Glass+ceiling. And yes it was an eye-opener to me to hear how one coworker perceived my openness on sibling caregiving and its impact on my career advancement. But honestly, I think companies do this all the time. They hold back women because of our family “obligations.” Even in today’s society where fathers are actively involved in their children’s lives, men are not seen as “distracted” by family obligations. Because they have wives for that. I’ve said for some time now that what I REALLY need is a wife. Stan says he’d like one too :-).

      • Anon in VA says:

        Thanks, Teri! Funny you say that about the “wife”! My colleague and I have that joke, but she says “I need a butler!”

        Thanks for mentioning the Sibnet FB page. I just sent a request to join, so I will see if they add me, and if they don’t I will contact you. I haven’t found any other sibling blogs like yours. I bet they are out there, I just haven’t found them. I do think there will be more sibling caregivers, particularly as the boomers retire. I tend to think NAMI could do a better job of making sibling caregivers a focus area, at least in terms of its website.

  4. Georgina Fierro Keene says:

    Terri, I read your blog primarily because I want to know what is going on in your heart and mind. I care about you as a friend, and I know your journey with Jerri and family has been very challenging. So by reading your blog, I feel I am connecting with you. Additionally, I have a couple of friends who have bipolar siblings or daughters. Reading your blog helps me to better understand and support those around me who struggle with the pain associated with mental health disorders in their families. Plus you are an outstanding writer!

    • Awww! It means a lot, Georgina, that you care and are interested in what’s going on in my life. We need to find a way to see each other more than, like, twice a year! Hmmm – so you bring up another thing I hadn’t thought about. How the content here might help others support their friends who care for family with brain disorders. This is very helpful. Thanks you! Look forward to seeing you soon.

  5. VIvian Ryan says:

    Terri: I started reading your blog because of my friendship with you and continue to read it because the subject matter is not just about mental illness. It offers great insight on relationships, patience and unconditional love. You are such a gifted writer. Please keep writing.

    • Hi Vivian! Your support and friendship mean so much to me. I hadn’t really thought about the broader relationship aspect. Interesting. And thanks for the ongoing encouragement on my writing. I can get so hypercritical about my stuff – I wish I could see it through your eyes!!!

  6. Chris Roberts says:

    I follow you because my wife and I have two children (now adults and parents themselves) who battle mental illness. I also have a sister who has struggled with mental illness all her life. I appreciate the perspective you bring to dealing with these issues and empathize with your situation. I find it helpful and encouraging to know there are many who deal with issues similar to what my family has faced over the years.

    • Chris, I’m glad you’re here. Your comment is very helpful as I think through the type of content to share. Sounds like you might have some learnings to share yourself. Ever consider writing a guest post?

  7. Christina says:

    I follow although I don’t know you personally, or deal with a family member with mental illness because I have a background with parents that is similar to yours. Sometimes I feel that you are describing my mother (or my dad — Stockholm Syndrome? Um, yeah, I totally get it) and it helps to have someone else describe things that I can’t always put into words. And my sister was eclectic (but not mentally ill) before she died 7 years ago, and so sometimes I connect with your relationship with your sister, as well. Reading this blog gave me the push I needed to join a boundaries class, and I am looking into getting back into therapy. I also distanced myself from my mother, although she doesn’t understand that it is no longer about my childhood, but how she treats me now, as an adult! So, thank you for writing and being do darn honest, which can be oh so hard for us trophy daughters!

    • Christina, thanks so much for your comment. See, this is exactly why I asked the question! Duh, the blog is “Trophydaughter” – how could I forget about my fellow trophysisters? Sadly, I think there are a lot of us out there. Not that we reveal ourselves to just anyone.

      I’m also thrilled (and frankly more than a little relieved) the blog has been a positive force for you. My mother, too, doesn’t understand my issues, although rooted in the past, are very much present day. It’s not what she did back then but current behaviors – manipulation, control, shaming, threats, and intimidation. I understand why she is the way she is, but empathy only takes you so far. At some point, you have to protect yourself. Developing/strengthening boundaries is incredibly important. Good for you. You go, Girl!

  8. Cathy Alford says:

    Terri,

    Per your request, I follow your blog because:

    1. You are my friend and i want to support you.

    2. I think you are a fabulous writer so i will read whatever you serve up.

    3. I truly want to understand mental illness better.

    4. I want to be a resource to others and conclude resources available in NC are probably available in Ga . Frequently, the women I work with via my grant, need these services and may or may not know about them.

    5. And, because I truly care about you, Jerri and your family relationshops.

    So, please keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

    Hugs,

    Cathy

  9. Well, I am one of those reading because I have known you and Jerri since we were little kids. I don’t have a lot of answers on how to increase your readers. But you made me think about the fact that some friends/family of mine do have mental illness in their family and I should suggest joining to them. They don’t live in NC, so they may have an easier (or harder) time getting help, but I will suggest your blog to them.

    If you think you may have started this for your own therapy, then so be it. You certainly haven’t hurt anyone else by doing this. In fact, you do make us more aware of the problems involved. So, you are having a positive impact.

    • Thanks, Codi. Sincerely appreciate your support. Please do recommend the blog to anyone who might be interested. My experience is that very few family members talk openly about mental illness and what they’re dealing with but most are relieved when you initiate the conversation. I have a coworker with a recently diagnosed daughter and he stops by routinely to chat now that he knows my story..


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