Opening up to a loved one about your mental illness

To share or not to share? That is the question. 

Opening up about a mental illness can be a scary proposition and many people would choose to keep their diagnosis hidden through the fear of rejection. In this blog we shall look into the real cost of silence and the best ways to begin broaching the subject. 

When your loved ones live with you they also live alongside your behaviours. Mental illnesses manifest themselves in many different ways and behaviours can range from isolation all the way through to emotionally lashing out.

Every humans behaviour has a purpose. When you feel fearful and have low self esteem your behaviors are generally used to protect yourself. These behaviors fit into one of these three catagories; Fight, Flight or Freeze.

Defensive behaviors with no explanation can seem unusual and extremely difficult for your loved ones to understand and they can often be left feeling you are being intentionally unreasonable, hostile and pushing them away.

Through trying to protect yourself and keep your loved ones from rejecting you, your behaviours have the unintentional consequences of breaking down those relationships that you deeply want to save.

Communication is key in keeping relationships healthy and loving. It is important that not only you are able to express your feelings but that you also hear your loved ones views. Having a family member with a mental illness can be very difficult for them also so this two way sharing is integral.

When opening up about you mental illness it is important to bring along the appropriate information with you. Although there is lots of very useful videos and articles on the web there is just as many unhelpful sources. It is good to find the information which talks to you rather than letting your loved one go find the information for themselves.

Once you have your professional information, the next step is to share your feelings. What are your thoughts and emotions? What behaviour does your family members have that evoke intense feeling?  What behaviour traits do you have that you feel are currently unhelpful to your relationship. After sharing your views it is hugely important to repeat the process yet this time hear your family members perspective. 

People are generally good and want to help , however, can often say things that are unhelpful such as “just get over it” or “cheer up”. The reason for these comments is not generally to hurt or upset you but because they don’t know the best way to help. To combat this it is important to be prepared with practical and realistic ways of how you want your loved one to support you. Again in turn allow your loved one the space to share their views. 

With any relationship attempting to overcome hurdles, it is important to remember that you are responsible for your thoughts and actions and your loved one is responsible for theirs. No human is able to wave a magic wand and make things perfect. For any relationship to work and grow you need to learn to compromise and if you expect others to adapt, you too need to meet in the middle. Keep your goals realistic to save yourself from feeling let down. 

With enough love, effort and consideration you will find the support network you need to begin fighting your mental illness and make active steps out of your intense feelings.

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