Trying to help people who don’t want to be helped is draining and unproductive. It certainly was for me until about a dozen years ago. That is when I began heeding my father’s guidance to modify the approach of my spiritual work, and to choose to help those who specifically asked for my help.
The immediate result was an uplifting shift in my energy as I engaged with people who were truly ready to hear and act on the guidance being offered.
But last year I discovered firsthand, that this small gem from my father’s wisdom treasure does not apply when trying to help a family member who is unable to recognize or understand they have great need to be helped.
Last May I learned one of my sisters is tragically in the grip of mental illness. This has impaled her on the fence of delusion.
Unable to convey to someone they even have such a problem — now how is one to best proceed?
Last June, as a last resort, I turned to the court to help me help my sister. The process has engaged me for the better part of a year, put great strain on various parts of our family and come at considerable cost. During these difficult months as I willingly took on more and more of the tasks necessary to help my sister, I tested my own strength and patience.
Many who have had a similar experience — of a court’s slow and deliberate dance toward justice — know how arduous a task it is. The legal process, as it drags on, requires that you go to the well of unconditional love to replenish energy to remain focused.
It also requires moving to a spiritual place where faith, love and hope converge. That place is called patience.
I have been sustained by this well of infinite energy for many tasks. It exists for everyone to draw from.
Small successes along the way have also helped.
Getting the court to finally appoint a professional conservator to handle all of my sister’s legal and financial affairs was one of the first significant victories. I say victory because it silenced the unproductive debates within the family about the severity of mental impairment. The great weight of the court to appoint a conservator — to any person — is the equivalent of a shout that says there are huge problems that can no longer be denied.
It is also a victory in that this court edict means my future actions to help my sister can continue.
Most victories, just as with each choice we make, come with tradeoffs. My relationship with my ill sister has become fractured because she cannot understand even the simplest of reasons for why I have involved the court to help her. It will likely become even more fractured as further evaluations are conducted on her that will likely lead to a treatment plan and long-term care arrangements, as I pursue becoming her legal guardian.
Faith, love and hope are what abide as I walk this path of patience, with my sister totally oblivious of all of my efforts to help her this day and for all the days of her future. Yet that is oftentimes the bittersweet way of the unconditional path of love.
Unconditional love is much like walking a forest trail, with thin rays of light guiding the way through dense trees and unimagined dangers around the bend. Sometimes the winding, strenuous ascent of unconditional love even takes one through unexpected land mines of family strife and the courts.
Faith and love bring me light and show me ways to remove obstacles that create or sustain delusion. In the place of my sister’s dangerous fantasies, a new reality is being created for her by the court. This new reality is on the greener side of the fence where hope resides, where she can no longer be impaled. Where wounds can heal.
— Giselle M. Massi © January 2006
UPDATE February 2016: Several months ago my mentally ill sister was removed from her home by a court order and she was placed in a nursing facility. This happened because my sister’s court-appointed conservator proved to the judge that my sister’s finances had become depleted over the past ten years. The conservator testified there was not enough money to continue the expensive upkeep of my sister’s deteriorating home. It took proof of the lack of money — and not the concern for my sister’s deteriorating mental and physical well being — to make this change possible. It is true that after more than a decade of seeing my sister’s health collapse, and with real concern for her safety, there is great relief knowing she is no longer living alone and unsupervised. But she still has not been granted a guardian per the constraints of mental health laws. My advocacy work in this area includes the completion of my novel published in 2010 called “Just Dance the Steps.” It incorporates some of what I have learned from this personal journey of faith, hope and unconditional love. A feature film script is in development.