A Baffled Look

The straight dope on mental health

Month: July, 2012

They Just Don’t Get It

What to do if you’re mentally ill and your family doesn’t support you.

Part 3

Try not to judge them as they judge you. Holding onto resentment hurts you, not them. One way of dealing with resentment is to wish for the offender to have the things you want for yourself. If you’re a spiritual person, then pray for them. I learned this by going to AA.

Try to understand why they want to deny that you have an illness. There’s still plenty of stigma out there and they might believe it. It’s also hard to accept that something is wrong with your child’s brain.

Reframe the situation by understanding that they may feel they are being blamed and they may feel defensive about it. A woman in my bipolar support group had the same experience that I had. Her psychiatrist blamed her parents. Her parents accused her of badmouthing them to her psychiatrist.

There may be other family members who have a mental illness and your family may have had bad experiences with them. They may be afraid that they’ll get the illness too.

It might be true that your family mistreated you, but it’s up to you to accept them as they are. It won’t be as painful if you come to accept them, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with abuse. My next post will be about distancing yourself from toxic relatives. That may prove the best strategy.


They Just Don’t Get It

What to do if you’re mentally ill and your family doesn’t support you.

Part 2

If your family has a problem with you, then it’s their problem, not yours. Think of their judgments as none of your business. You can’t change them; you can only change yourself. If you expect nothing, then you won’t be disappointed. Don’t take it personally. I realize this is difficult. Your reaction to this affront is your responsibility. For example, if you don’t like what you’re hearing from someone, change the subject or walk away. You didn’t ask for your illness, so don’t blame yourself if they are blaming you.

I learned to take this perspective by going to twelve step meetings and therapy. I know a lot of community mental health providers don’t offer therapy because they don’t have enough in their budget for it. Most therapists don’t take Medicaid or Medicare, but twelve step programs are free. If you don’t have a substance abuse problem then look for a therapist that offers a sliding scale for payment. If you have a college near you, see if they have a community counseling clinic. If you’re a veteran, try the VA. If you have none of these options, talk to your friends.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to find friends who support you. I once had a friend who insisted that mental illness is a social construct and discouraged me from taking medication. Needless to say, we’re not friends anymore. I got tired of arguing with him. I found a group of friends by going to support groups. If you don’t have support groups in your area, find people who share other interests with you. Explore your options and be resourceful.

They Just Don’t Get it:

What to do if you’re mentally ill and your family doesn’t support you.

Part One

First of all, you aren’t alone. I see this situation in a lot of the support groups I attend. I’ve noticed that the people who are having the hardest time coping with their illness almost always have difficulty getting support from their families. My own family was perplexed when I first became ill in the 1980s. It didn’t help that my psychiatrist at the time blamed my parents for my illness. It put my parents on the defensive and they kept asking me what I was telling my psychiatrist. I don’t know why my psychiatrist blamed my parents. I mostly talked to him about my relationships with my peers at school. Years later, when I was finally accurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I told my parents that it wasn’t their fault and that I probably inherited the illness. After that, they became very supportive.

So try to find a support group that understands you. It’s done a world of good for me. There are many support groups around where you can share your experience with others who have been going through the same thing. You can find support online if you don’t have groups in your area that meet face-to-face. A few places you can search for either face-to-face groups or online communities are Meetup.com


The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)

Another tactic is to list all the supportive friends in your life along with their phone numbers and email. Maintain contact with your friends. That way they’ll be there for you when you’re having a rough time.

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