It's a strange irony that the skills I learned from being part of the team here at HealthyPlace are the reason that I'm leaving my position. Hear me out, and I'll try to explain what I mean.
Mental Illness and Media
I've been overwhelmed recently. My social world is reopening post-pandemic, my work is busy, and I'm back at college in the evenings. While these are things that I'm very grateful for, having such a busy schedule leaves little space for me to relax and regulate myself. Last week, my boss said something to me that completely challenged my perspective. She suggested that I take all the supportive skills I've learned from my caring roles (both for my brother and in a professional context) and offer them to myself.
It's very important to take other peoples' trauma seriously, but sometimes, families struggle to do so. I made a video explaining my experience with family trauma and gaslighting.
It can be difficult to strike a balance between respecting a family member's right to confidentiality about their diagnosis and recognizing your own need to vent.
Explaining a family member's diagnosis to others can be scary because you never know how they're going to react. Sometimes it works out really well. For example, my fiancé couldn't be more understanding of my brother's chronic mental illness. Not only is he accepting of the way this affects our family's lives, he is also proactive in thinking of ways that we can better support my brother. Not everyone is like this, though, which is why explaining a family member's mental health diagnosis to others can be so challenging.
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.
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.
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 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.