Tag Archives: family therapy

How Did Everyone Ignore My Mental Illness Growing Up???

I recently read a wonderful post written by the Musings of Fred.  It discussed how the signs of mental illness in minors are often ignored.  This post hit home with me.  It was extremely true for my particular case growing up.  Not only were my signs of mental health issues ignored, but even when they came to light, they were just not addressed. 

Why does this happen?  Why does it take so long for parents to step in and get help for their children?  Honestly, I don’t have the answer.  I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist.  I have done no research whatsoever.  So I am not here to give some scientific answer.

I just I just wanted to give my thoughts.  And I wanted to see what everyone else thought. 

For me, I honestly hid my emotions and feelings of depression quite well.  I am not sure my parents actually knew up front.  My mom did find a suicide note when I was in 6th grade though, and she asked me about it, and then it was never talked about again.  Some teachers asked me about my depression, but again, did nothing.  One teacher seemed to care, but he abused his power and molested me.  This is when it all came to light – my 8th grade school counselor found out about the molestation, she told my parents, I was cutting and I was suicidal.  My school counselor urged them to put me in therapy.  I did not want to deal with anything and did not want to go.  My parents never discussed anything with me and I was never put into therapy.

My mental health deteriorated over time, Deteriorated a lot, suicidal thoughts were awful, life was awful, my parents never stepped in, teachers never stepped in.  No one seemed to care even though everyone seemed to be aware. 

I think a lot of people were in denial.  How could I be having problems?  My grades were still perfect 0 straight A’s in fact.  I was in all AP classes.  How could someone doing so well in school really want to die, how could they be destroying their lives – they had a bright future.  I don’t think my parents wanted to believe that I had been molested.  I don’t think they wanted to believe that their child had a mental illness.  I don’t think my teachers wanted to get involved and as some told me, I always seemed to be better at the end of each semester when my grades mattered. 

I told people I didn’t want help when I was younger, and yeah, I was scared of getting help because of what my teacher did to me.  I had told him about being depressed, and he took advantage of me.  But I also longed to not feel the way I was feeling.  I wanted someone to save me from my mind and how much it was torturing me.

I hope that people quit ignoring the kids and adolescents that need help.  I hope that those that are reaching our for help, and those that are silently suffering because they don’t know how to reach out for help or feel they cant, can receive the help they need.  Too often people do see the signs – teachers, pastors, friends, and family, they do see the signs – but the blind themselves to them.  They don’t want to believe it could happen in their kid.  They are too preoccupied with their own problems or work.  They think it is just a phase. 

We can’t look the other way anymore.  I truly believe if someone had helped me when I was younger, I wouldn’t have had such a hard time in college, I would be suffering as much as I am now.  Yes, I said I didn’t need help then, I said I didn’t want therapy then.  I was 13 or 14 though.  I didn’t know what I wanted.  I was scared.  I didn’t want my friends to judge me.  I shouldn’t have been able to make that decision, I was a kid. 

If you want to know more about warning signs in kids from preschool to the teen age years click here.

When You Have a Family Member With Mental Illness

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.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Having PTSD has made my life extremely hard. Waking up from nightmares, going into panic attacks in the middle of the day, suddenly having a flashback, having horrible social anxiety as if people can just tell about my past and are judging me, guilt about things that happened, and even the awful thoughts about suicide.

While many tend to relate PTSD to veterans that have come back from war, often PTSD is related to other traumas that civilians have experienced – such as childhood abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape, natural disasters, or violent crime (anything that might have caused physical harm or the threat of physical harm).

There are three stages of PTSD. You can experience one stage at a time or multiple stages at a time:

1: Re-experiencing
-Nightmares
-Flashbacks

2. Avoidance
-Staying away from places, events, things that are reminders
-Numbing your emotions
-Having trouble remembering the event

3. Hyperarousal
-Being easily startled
-Being on edge

I did not understand how I easily got through life from 8th grade – 12th grade without having any problems despite being sexually abused and then suddenly fell apart after my rape and other issues in college. Upon talking to my therapist I realized I had been in the avoidance stage at those times and so I had numbed myself and avoided things that reminded me of the situation so I wouldn’t have to face it.

Children will deal with PTSD in similar stages, but they will also have slightly different symptoms as well. Bedwetting, acting out, and being clingy might also occur.

There are different treatments for PTSD:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Talk Therapy

Group Therapy

Family Therapy

————
I currently am working with a therapist at a crisis center that specialized in trauma therapy. We are doing talk therapy at the moment, but focusing on different techniques to help me process through the trauma – rewind techniques, collages, etc. I couldn’t talk at first, but slowly as I have begun to trust her more, I have opened up more. It has been extremely hard, but I know that it is for the best.

As easy as it might be to try and forget that it never happened, eventually the trauma might come up and haunt you eventually. Some people can work through it on their own, but many cannot. It is always good to work with a trained professional and talk through it with them. Let them help you process through your thoughts and feelings about what happened and how you are dealing with it. Having a good support system will also help you out a lot. I did not have therapy as a child and I avoided talking about my traumas with anyone until I completely broke down. Twelve years after my first trauma and 8 years after my second trauma, I am finally facing them. Even though it has been incredibly hard, I know it is the best decision I have ever made because it is going to pay off in the long run for my mental health.