DEAR ABBY: I'm a 40-year-old woman, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder after two suicide attempts. I have tried to get my parents and siblings to attend a session with me so they would understand my diagnosis, but all I hear is, "You don't need all those drugs. You're fine -- just a little different than the rest of us," and, "You have always been 'odd' and we like you that way."
I have given up trying to get their support, but my gifted 14-year-old nephew has been asking questions about my diagnosis. I'm not sure how much to tell him, especially about the suicide attempts, one of which landed me in the hospital.
Any advice about what I should tell him and how to get family support? -- HEARING VOICES IN ILLINOIS
DEAR HEARING VOICES: Tell your nephew the truth. If he is as intellectually gifted as you say, he will go online and start researching. Explain that your condition can be overwhelming at times, which caused you at one point to try to harm yourself, but that it is kept in check with medication.
Your relatives may be reluctant to admit that there is a mental illness in the family, which is why they refuse to allow your psychiatrist to confirm it. However, you may be able to find support from NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. With 1,200 affiliates, NAMI provides grassroots, self-help groups for people with mental illness and family members who are affected by it.
The website is www.nami.org and I hope you will check it out. The organization was established in 1979, and it may be able to help you get through to your family that your problems are not imaginary.