Family Matters.

Friday October 4, 2013

Dealing with family who love us dearly when we're depressed can be excruciating. It's a complex and often messy issue with potentially thousands of differing scenario's. I can only go by my own experience and it wasn't an easy one.

About sixteen years ago, a very good and wise friend went to great lengths to help me see that is was time to get help. I was not in a good way. You can trust me on that. I felt tremendous relief but also dread of how my family would react. My fear was not without cause.

My dad particularly felt that I was 'giving in', and said some very hurtful things. It feels painful (not to mention disloyal) recalling those days. It makes my dad sound like an unreasonable or harsh man. He wasn't any of those things, in fact, quite the opposite. I now see that he felt despair and helpless, feeling that he'd lost his vivacious daughter. I wasn't able to put up a facade anymore and he was terrified.

There will be days when we simply don't have the reserves to tutor the ones we love about the complexities of mental health. Yet, bit by bit, they can grow with us. A woodpecker doesn't create his haven, his nest, with one peck. It takes ongoing work.

My parents came to have tremendous understanding and empathy. In a sense, we grew together. As I got stronger and better, so did their understanding and our relationship grew firmer for it. A key factor, I'm sure, was that my parents did want to understand. It was a similar outcome for a friend and her husband, which is perhaps altogether more challenging.

There is no getting round it. It's hard. Finding the balance between educating our family, not rescuing them and yet reassuring them of our love but also knowing when it is futile to express precious feelings - all this, whilst so unwell, is hard to bear. I don't think I'd have got through those times without counseling and the beautiful friend mentioned above.

We could start with small pecks. How about starting with telling them about Moodscope? It may spark a conversation with surprisingly positive results. Whatever the case I believe that ultimately, we become the stronger for not hiding that we can be 'souls accompanied by sadness', which is how the Navajo Indians describe those who suffer from depression.

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