Today is mental health blog day for the American Psych Association and I am here today to extend compassion and understanding to all who are loving and caring for someone who has mental illness. There is still stigma involved in acknowledging that someone you are related to has symptoms of mental illness. Many adults who have family with mental problems feel as if it brings shame onto them because their family member has an illness. Feeling healthy inside means beginning to see yourself as a person separate from your loved one; a person who may be affected by your loved one’s behavior but did not cause it and should not be judged for it.
It is not always easy to tell your friends about your situation but it is a milestone when you can say in a matter of fact way…”Before I introduce you to my (mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter), I should explain to you that my loved one has (addiction, bipolar, OCD,dementia, PTSD,depression,anxiety, etc. etc. ). Then go on in a matter of fact way to explain the situation and what can be expected. Talking openly about the issues lets others know how to relate to you and your family member and that there is nothing to feel embarrassed or awkward about. Open and honest discussion of the situation lets others know that they can discuss this with you, begin to gain an education on relating to others who may be different and learn about mental illness as well. For many of my clients, getting to this matter of fact acceptance of the situation is a therapeutic milestone in itself. Releasing shame and stigma is possible and relating to your family member with compassion, limits and boundaries begins to create a new stance from which to operate. My heart goes out to all of you who are caregivers today.