Emotional Difficulties Shared by Families
- guilt and resentment
- shame or embarrassment
- depression and anxiety
- fear of inheriting a family member’s mental illness
- fear of discovery by other (e.g., friends, coworkers)
- angry outbursts or repressed anger
- inability to deal with life unless it is chaotic or in crisis
- overly responsible or irresponsible
- self-defeating thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors
How You Can Help Yourself
- Acknowledge that you have a family member with a mental illness and the effects this may have on you. Acknowledge your feelings and grieve the losses you feel. Remember that you are not responsible for causing your family members problems or for fixing it. Memorize the Serenity Prayer ~
- Develop new ways of taking care of yourself. Recognize your own needs and begin taking care of them. Recognize the stressors in your life and learn ways of managing them. Replace negative thoughts with positive statements and affirmations.
- Stages of emotional response: dealing with catastrophic events (crisis, chaos, shock, denial, “normalizing”, hoping against hope) and learning to cope (acceptance, letting go, ambiguous loss/grief). How do we define the “new” normal?
- Develop new ways of relating to others. Recognize unhealthy patterns of communication and practice new ways of relating with family members. This may include setting boundaries and being respectful of your own limits. Appreciate and enjoy stability in your relationships, recognizing that relationships do not have to be defined by crisis or dependency.
- Educate yourself about your family member’s mental illness. This can help in your understanding and relieve your feelings of guilt, resentment, embarrassment, and shame.
- Explore resource options for your familymember and for yourself.
- Consider seeing a mental health professional who can help you understand how a family member’s mental illness affects your life and help you explore healthy ways of caring for your own needs.
- Join a support group specific to your situation as it will help reduce feelings of isolation. Seeking such support can be especially helpful when family members are either uncomfortable with, refuse to acknowledge the problem, or lack insight.
- Moving into advocacy: understanding, acceptance, advocacy and action. Restoring strength, balance and energy to your life.