Communication

Communication

It was difficult much of the time to communicate with my daughter. She would either be quiet and non-communicative, or she would be angry and yelling at me. When she was quiet and withdrawn I learned to just sit and be with her until she was ready to talk. When she was angry I would often respond with anger until I learned the simple fact that anger either escalates or diminishes based upon the response. I learned to communicate by listening closely with empathy, and not automatically reacting without fully understanding what her immediate problem was. When I calmly responded she calmed down more quickly. I learned several techniques that I have described in an earlier section so I will not repeat them here. A key concept is that communication includes both listening and speaking. We all know that, but often our mind is busy forming a response rather than absorbing the significance of what is being said.

 

Cognition

Cognition

Cognition, or information processing, is often affected by mental illness. My daughter had a tough time being able to make choices and to follow simple sequences of tasks. Her thinking and perception were impaired, and it took time before she regained these skills. Cognitive difficulties were not immediately apparent to me and it was frustrating until I learned that issues like this were common with mental illness. When I recognized that she was not necessarily being lazy or making unwise decisions, that she just simply could not process the information correctly, it was a lot easier for me to accept why she was not helping out around the house.

 

Boundaries

Boundaries

I had to set boundaries with my daughter with respect to the behavior I would allow in my house. I was not being mean, and it took some time before I stopped feeling guilty, but it was necessary. She was slamming doors, shouting and causing me to feel overwhelmed and abused. I knew that if I allowed this behavior to continue the situation would exceed my ability to remain calm and in control. As much as I disliked the thought of having her leave home, the probable outcome of continued escalating disruption was untenable. Setting boundaries introduced some structure and made clear that there were consequences for violating acceptable behavior. I think we all have limits regarding how much we can take, and it is our own responsibility to recognize when we need to set limits and implement boundaries.

 

Advocate

Advocate

I use the word advocate here in the “pleading for” or “support” sense. People with a mental illness often cannot present their own case, or express their requirements clearly. It became obvious to me that I had to advocate for my daughter in many ways. I needed to represent her to ensure she received the care and treatment she needed and to which she was entitled. I had to guide her through handling application forms for services that required them and I attended meetings with her so I could remember information and instructions because she did not have the capacity to do these things on her own. When mental illness strikes, family members or even friends should advocate for the loved one to help them get the care that they need. Mental health care is primarily a voluntary service so advocacy can be essential for supporting a person to get help.

 

Adapt

Adapt

I personally had to adapt to a new reality even though it was my daughter who had the illness. I had to adjust my expectations and plans so I could handle the crises which were now a part of our lives. It is difficult to resign yourself to the fact that your child may not finish her education, get a job or have relationships like her friends. Our hopes and dreams for our children are years in the making and when they are dashed because of something beyond our control, it is easy for anger and resentment to make you miserable. Until I adjusted my thinking and changed my expectations, I was miserable. I had to closely examine my life and become more accepting that I could not control some things. It is important to note that mental illness not only affects the person with the illness, but also the rest of the family.

 

Accept

Accept

I learned to accept it was the illness causing the frightening symptoms, not the person. When I was able to look at the symptoms of the illness and my daughter as separate entities, I was much better able to handle the situation and show empathy instead of anger. This illness was not my daughter; it was just an unwelcome addition that I had to learn to handle. What had become a miserable struggle with constant conflict, was replaced with an educational experience that changed my life and that of my daughter. Blaming bad behavior initially, caused frustration and anger which made the situation worse and was so unfair. Realizing my daughter had no control over the symptoms of mental illness allowed me to see the situation more clearly and use compassion and empathy to heal our relationship.