How To Relate To A Mentally Ill Parent
At any age, parent-child relationships can be difficult. When a child grows up, new challenges arise. Two people may be in love but see the world differently. Parents often don’t want to hear about the pain or trauma they inflicted on their children, and children, even as adults, don’t always know how to express themselves. When a parent has mental health issues, grown children may feel trapped.
This is all too familiar. My father has been depressed since I was a child. When I was young, he didn’t have the words to describe his experience as a black man—and who could blame him? People on the margins were too busy surviving to talk about mental health. As my father grew older, he had more time to communicate effectively with me. I realize we’ve been getting along for months. Sometimes, we need a break.
It’s common to develop an inner voice when your parent has a mental illness or addiction. You tell yourself that you can diffuse the situation by remaining silent. I’ve learned that the best way to approach my father is with love and guidance from a therapist. Stacy Cesar, MHC-LP, offers advice for people dealing with traumatic family dynamics.
“Having a parent with a mental illness is difficult, especially if you live with them,” Cesar says. “In such an emotionally charged environment, it’s critical to check in with your body and feelings,” she says. “You are not alone in this,” she says. “Know what outside help you have.” That could be therapy, a support group, or yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and exercise.
Set and enforce limits
Boundaries, according to Cesar, are healthy and essential for mental health. “Boundaries are rules you set to protect yourself in adult relationships,” she says. “They set expectations of how you want to be treated.” Consider this example: “Whenever you say _____, I feel bad. Please do not call or say this to me in the future. I’d be grateful. This language bothers me. “
People who can set boundaries with friends and coworkers often struggle with family. “It is becoming more difficult to set up with family,” Cesar says. She acknowledges that setting boundaries may be uncomfortable at first, but it is necessary.
You may find your family member unresponsive or defensive when you set boundaries, she says. But you must enforce those boundaries. “Stability is key,” Cesar says. If you set boundaries consistently, they have two options: “I either follow these boundaries and keep this relationship” or “I do not follow these boundaries and lose this relationship.”
Compassion, Cesar advises. “You’re figuring out how to be present for yourself and someone else. It requires patience, self-awareness, and mental work. ” Cesar advises being kind and patient with yourself, as well as speaking to yourself in the mirror. « Tell yourself, ‘I am doing well and utilizing the resources at hand.’
Know when to stop.
It’s possible that a loved one’s mental illness causes you to struggle with your own mental health. “Having inappropriate outbursts, feeling down/sad often during the week, not being able to perform at work, sleep disturbances, change in appetite, anxious, racing thoughts, and so on,” Cesar says. It’s clear that the problem isn’t going away.
If you haven’t started therapy yet, now is the time. “A qualified therapist can help you process your emotions. This often uncovers triggers, “he says. She also suggests pausing the relationship for a month (or more) until the symptoms subside or disappear. You can then decide if you want to reopen yourself to the relationship, Cesar says. “Whatever you decide is fine. Regardless of how much you try or love the person, you can’t do the work for them. “
Keep your parents in mind.
Nobody is perfect, including parents. While you can not cure your parents’ mental illness, you can help your Mentally Ill Parent. Ideas:
Keep your distance. Talk to your parents about mental illness. Ask questions and discuss them. Families rarely discuss mental illness openly, leaving everyone on edge or unsure of what to do.
Plan your time.
After the talk about your parents’ mental health, plan a fun activity together: a walk, lunch, cooking, watching a movie, yoga, etc. Use your parents’ love language.
Help them heal
Make sure they have access to therapy and, if necessary, a doctor to manage their medication. To avoid negative emotions, try to communicate openly about appointments.
Connect with others
Does Mentally Ill Parent have community support? Books, support groups, cooking and running groups, extended families, and community centers can all be examples. Ensure they are linked. Like everyone else, being a part of something feels good.