Our Family Suffers Our Mental Illness Too.

This is a difficult post.  I have a family member with mental illness, and I myself have recovered from severe clinical depression, a mental illness.    There I said it. Mental illness.  The stigma is humiliating when you call it what it is, but until you do, you can’t deal with it, nor can our society as a whole.

After all, IT ISN’T OUR FAULT we have the genes we have, IT ISN’T OUR FAULT that our symptoms work to shut down our higher order thinking centers and our perceptions of realitybut even our self-judgment is ruthless, much less the judgment of others. it scares people, and this makes our own denial huge to try to overcome.  We know there’s something wrong with us, but we think it’s in our character, that we just have to “try harder” to make our lives work.

Go ahead, practice.  “Depression.”  “Anxiety”  “Mood Swings.”  “Mental Illness.”  What pictures come up each time????  But also, what remedy comes up?  You don’t just “snap out of” diabetes or cancer or hearty disease.  You might snap out of anxiety or mood swings, but you don’t just snap out of mental illness.

My children (and my spouses) suffered because of my depression and my grown children still have not forgiven me for it.  They keep solid boundaries to keep me at a distance, though I am a different person today.  I can’t really blame them, it’s good self-care, though I grieved continuously about it for years.

Another family member suffers from bipolar disorder…and I do mean suffer..but everyone around him suffers too, including his infant daughter and former spouse…and everyone who loves him and wants his life to follow the path called “normal.”  The rest of the family views him as a pariah, want nothing whatsoever to do with him, but even having to hold that boundary hurts them too.  After all, we are family.

It is difficult to come to terms with mental illness, especially since it seems to become your identity, both to yourself and to other people who suffer the effects of your illness. It incapacitates you in so many ways, most hidden to yourself at the time.  You struggle with your own demons (dragons, I call them), but you also struggle with the effects of the illness on your ability to work, have relationships, especially intimate relationships, and raise your children – and the blowback that comes to you from failures in any of those areas just feeds the dragons of fear, anger, depression, self-doubt, hopelessness.  So many people – far too many people – commit suicide to end the struggles.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I have found real recovery and am very grateful for it.  My children are finding their own recovery, in their late thirties. My own recovery didn’t start until my fifties. The young man with the infant daughter he adores?  He is affected more profoundly by his illness, and I have to pray that by some miracle both he and his baby daughter find recovery sooner than we all did – he is in his early twenties and if you are a praying person, he and she could use a prayer – the Universe knows who you mean.

If you suffer from a mood disorder, which is a mental illness, yes, you have to face it, I want you to know that there is help and HOPE, and that if you can’t bring yourself find professional help for your own sake, please seek it for the sake of your family.

hugs, gerry

7 thoughts on “Our Family Suffers Our Mental Illness Too.

  1. There comes a desperation to be “Normal” for the ones you love and for yourself. People just do not understand that you cannot control what your brain does or does not do in the terms of “happiness” and “sadness”. It is not a purposeful weakness or desire to be abnormal and the center of attention. If anything you wish it was the opposite. That you could be the one that adds to the joy in the room, not take away from it. I will keep your family in my thoughts and the young man and his infant daughter.


  2. Thank you Gerry for posting such a deeply personal post. There should be no humiliation with the diagnosis of mental illness, like you said, it is an illness. And this illness does affect everyone close to the person. It is a very helpless feeling when someone you love suffers from any form of mental illness as those of us who do not, want so much for them to have the peaceful, content feelings. Prayers for the young person and his infant daughter, and also for you to continue your journey to peace. Much Love ❤


  3. Thank you for your honesty. It takes courage for a professional to “admit” such things, though of course as you know it should not. There ought not to be any stigma at all about telling people that you or any family member suffers from depression or bipolar disorder, but as someone who has had schizophrenia diagnosed for decades, i surely understand that there is! (I have strong feelings, however, that bipolar II is way over-diagnosed with disastrous consequences…for the country as a whole. But that entails a much longer discussion. It is just that the umbrella has now covered so very many people that nearly everyone who used to “have” depression” now fits the broadly defined picture of bipolar disorder for no reason except that t he DSM has redefined it! This would not matter so much if the meds used were not so powerful and also destructive and often quite useless….as i said, it is a long discussion that is frequently that wanted, so i will shut up. In any event, bipolar I is the same as it ever was. Again, thank you for your post and also for the follow at Wagblog!

    Pam W


  4. It takes a big person to admit to the damage they may have caused in life to others close to them. I think this is as hard as accepting that one has a “mental illness”. This takes bravery. It’s interesting that we social workers often have a lot of our own work to do, isn’t it?


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