I know my illness affects those around me. I know that I have said and done things that have hurt my loved ones. I am sorry for that.
Today, I saw a post on a site from a family member of someone with mental illness (no one related to me) that said something to the effect of, “What about the family members, we deal with them all the time, we have to suffer all the time!”
I actually had two reactions to this:
-In one way I was actually mad. You deal with it! Think about me! I DEAL with it. I LIVE with it. Think of what goes on in my head. How much I struggle with it. Think about how much I hate to do the things I do and struggle to not do them and fight with myself and feel depressed and manic and suicidal and have no idea what is going on in my head a lot of the time.
-And then, there was a part of me that agreed with their comment. Yeah, they do have to deal with us. They deal with our “drama” of our emotions and ups and downs and hospitalizations and medication changes and whatever else we might be going through.
So what can family members do to help them when they are having a hard time with us? There are some things that family members can do to help them cope with having a family member with mental illness. This will allow them to keep from the anxiety, frustration, exhaustion, and burnout that can occur from the caretaking and worrying of their loved ones.
1) Avoid placing blame – You cannot change anyone. You are not a magician. Just be supportive of yourself and your loved one and look toward the good things.
2) Take time for yourself – set aside time each day for yourself. Even if it is just 20 minutes that you can get away at first and slowly build up. Practice meditation, read a book, get out in the sun, go for a walk, do something you love to do. This will give you some time to relax.
3) Set limits (boundaries) – Learn to say “no.” If your family members are asking to much of you, just say no. Take care of yourself first.
4) Educate yourself – Learn about the mental illness. Sometimes it helps just to know about what is going on. If we understand what the person is going through we are more empathetic about their situation and often get less frustrated when situations occur and know what to do during a crisis.
5) Find a support group – NAMI has a Family to Family Support Group where family members and friends of those with mental illness can come together for support. NAMI also has a Family to Family Course that is 10 weeks which helps educate on different mental illnesses. DBSA also allows family members to attend their support groups alongside those that are mentally ill, so it is a mixed support group. There are also support groups for those with mental illness through both NAMI and DBSA that you can get your loved ones involved in as well if they are willing.