Saturday, March 30, 2013

Family Matters

When my friend Vicki had her accident last year, the Mood Disorders Association of BC had to find a lot of heads that fit into the hats that she customarily wears, and that was no easy job. Vicki is a tireless hard worker who has applied herself to many, many tasks in and out of the office. One of her jobs is to facilitate our Family Support Group on the second and fourth Tuesday night of each month.

Because I am familiar with a lot of members in our other groups, our office manager, Catherine, asked if I could think of anyone who could warm Vicki's chair for awhile, and since I only had three MDA meetings to attend in a busy week, and only two to facilitate at that time, of course, I volunteered to do it.

Catherine gave me as stern and as serious a look as she knows how to give...and it's a good one. She reminded me that all of our groups are facilitated by people who are peers to the other members, and she asked me if I had someone in my own family that I had been supporting. Shamelessly, without a blink or a blush, I replied that Sheral has an obsessive compulsive disorder. That was my ticket into the Family Support Group.

Now, you need to understand that the most dramatic and disturbing (to her) manifestation of the Tall Lady's OCD is her scrupulous attention to locks. When she was working for Autogas, she was often the last person to leave the premises, and had to set the alarm and lock the doors. This meant that after she had turned her key, she would need to rattle the door as hard as she could, and would bump it with her hip to ensure that it had not come unlocked spontaneously. After long, hard payroll days, she might have to repeat this action three or four times. On nights that she was especially tired, she would be halfway home when she had to return to check the door again.

Since the members of my Family Group are pretty sharp, it didn't take long for them to see through my subterfuge and find me out for the imposter that I am. They belong to a group of people who are dealing with the problems of family or of friends. Their children or spouses behave badly to them, and may even blame them for making their lives worse.Occasionally, the group members find themselves thinking that they have been dragged into a private hell of someone else's design and creation. They came to the group looking for ways to fix the lives of the people they love, and they stay because they have found friends who understand what they are living through.. They are used to deceptions, and they soon found out that I was not one of them, but was one of those other people - the ones that they'd left at home.

Sometimes, in our other groups, we complain that our significant others, our co-workers or our parents just don't get it. They have no idea what we're going through, and they're not willing to make any allowance for our problems. I was surprised to find that our families need a support group of their own to talk about the same issues. I am honoured that they let me stay to hear their perspective, and to share mine when they ask for it.

We all have something to bring to the discussion, and many of us come armed with our little aphorisms. The person who has been longest in the group might show the card she carries in her wallet, which reminds her and the rest of us that "It's Not Your Fault". My co-facilitator will take a cotton swab out of her purse to encourage all of us to "Quit Taking It Personally". When I am asked, I will tell the new folks that my family "didn't break me; they can't fix me".

My co-facilitator sits in the pilot's seat more often than I do these days. She really belongs there, and she drives the group well. I keep going because there is much that I can learn from these wise and caring people. Even though they know my dirty, little secret, they let me come back. I think that they like me, that they respect my opinion, and they value my unique perspective on their concerns. Of course, it may just be that I have the keys and the alarm code.

After all of them have left the office, I turn out the lights and I go to the alarm panel. Each time I open the flap over the keypad, I worry for a moment that I've forgotten my code, but I never do. My next concern is that I won't get out of the door before the countdown ends, but I always have.

I shut the door behind me and turn the key in the lock. I turn the door handle to the left and to the right, then to the left again. Sometimes, I have to do this three or four times, to make sure that my crafty lock has not come unsecured of its own playful accord, and so far, it hasn't. Often, if I'm sure that no one is watching me, I bump the centre of the door with my hip.

Be very, very well, my friends.

1 comment:

  1. Where is the 'like' button. Well done, again, Lee. How do I convince Kurt to go to this group? He's been very resistant to groups of any sort, so far.