My brother recently expressed his fear that mental illness has made him a burden on our family. This completely broke my heart, and I was pained to tell him that it isn't true. If you need to hear that message too, let me remind you today -- mental illness does not make you a burden.
Mental Illness in the Family
I've been learning in therapy that so many of the things I've accepted as "fact" all my life are actually subjective beliefs passed down from my family. I loved the challenge my therapist set me this week of deconstructing my family's beliefs on various topics, including mental health.
Family expectations can be draining for a lot of reasons. Depending on what kind of family you come from, there’s a whole bunch of different unwritten rules about the types of lives we “should” live. My brother’s mental illness challenged our family expectations in a major way, and when I reflect on it I see that he changed our family culture for the better.
There is nothing that causes a flare-up of my anxiety quite like having to say goodbye. It feels like the worst thing in the world I could do is to give up a good opportunity, but sometimes in life, I have to take a risk. This article is going to be about how I diminish the anxiety I feel when I have to say goodbye.
Defining your role in mental health support can be tricky in a family situation, especially if you have some sort of professional healthcare background. I had recently qualified as an occupational therapist, and when my brother was diagnosed with chronic anxiety and depression, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be more than just a sister because of that. I wish I could take that back.
I was raised by parents with mental illness. My mother has been diagnosed with a few mental illnesses, and if my father had not passed away at such a young age, he would have been diagnosed as well. Due to this circumstance, I was raised under certain conditions that others were not exposed to. This article is intended to bring attention to some of the characteristics in the childhood of an individual raised by parents with mental illness.
I feel a growing responsibility to normalize mental health discussions outside of dedicated platforms, such as this blog. For people like my brother who live with chronic mental illness to exist stigma-free, we need to demystify the topic of mental illness in the wider community.
A family is comprised of a group of individuals, so it's no wonder there are going to be disagreements now and again. However, in my family, some disagreements have a way of becoming a family meltdown that can cause rifts and a lot of tension between all the members. Here is a guide to surviving a family meltdown.
Supporting someone in denial about their mental health can be a very delicate situation. A friend of mine is living this reality at present -- her partner is exhibiting clear symptoms of mental illness but is not able to have a conversation about it just yet. Supporting my friend has reminded me of when my brother was also in denial about his mental health before he received a diagnosis. Here are some of the things I learned through that experience.
Having a mental illness can affect the meaning an individual experiences in life. I have had multiple family members with mental illness say they don't feel as though they can have an equally meaningful life as their neurotypical counterparts. That's just not true. Here is an article about how to find the meaning of life, written from the perspective of people that suffer from mental illness.