Lyndon Goodley is a Family-to-Family teacher with NAMI Champaign. Learn why he encourages dads, not just moms, of those living with a mental illness to take Family-to-Family.
Lyndon, you have a daughter who lives with Bipolar Disorder. How is she doing now?
My oldest daughter has been living with Bipolar Disorder for over 4 years now. She lives in another state, works two jobs, uses public transportation and for the most part is managing well enough. She is not on medication and not interested in trying meds at this point. She is showing a willingness to talk to someone (i.e., a counselor, etc.) and acknowledges that she is living with a mental health condition. She maintains communications with at least someone in our family, usually several times a week, but sometimes it can extend a week or so between our conversations.
As a father to a daughter with a mental illness, what do you find to be your biggest challenges?
My biggest challenge (still) is not rushing in to try to fix things but to only provide guidance and occasional financial support when she asks me to do so. It is that really letting go and trusting God to work with my daughter in due time. I am finding that when it comes to fixing things, I take the “Less is More” approach – it gives her a chance to “figure it out” for herself.
As a Family-to-Family teacher for NAMI Champaign, you’ve probably noticed that while there are a lot of moms in the classes, dads are in the minority. Why do you think that’s the case?
Not sure I have an answer for that. Family dynamics are so different in each family. Perhaps it is just that fathers, in general, dealt with emotional issues differently than mothers. It might be a pride thing, in that fathers (like me) think we are “supposed to fix family problems” and when you can’t fix mental illness, it can be a bitter pill to swallow. It can be cultural, as well. Growing up in my family, we never talked about mental health issues – ever! As I have learned more through teaching the Family-to-Family course, I realized that mental health conditions were present but not recognized. I shared with my own counselor that until my daughter developed Bipolar Disorder, I thought of mental illness as the “Easter Bunny” – something one hears about but never actually sees.
What would you tell a father to encourage him to be part of Family-to-Family?
Quite simply, if you really want to help your loved one living with mental illness then 1) don’t blame yourself, your loved one, or anyone else; and 2) get some help. Family-to-Family can provide you with vital information and critical skills to help you interact effectively and compassionately with your loved one. It also provides the opportunity to speak with and learn from other fathers who are going through the same thing that you are. Family-to-Family was instrumental to our growth as a family in interacting, accepting, and continuing to love our daughter as a whole person.