the importance of separating the illness from the person

March 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

No matter how much I wish I could change the mental health of members of my family and my own husband, the fact is that I cannot. Their mental health is their responsibility. There is nothing I can do to change it. Believe me, I have tried! Perhaps a sign of my own increasing mental health and maturity is realizing that this is true, and there is no faint hope clause that is going to make it possible for me to change their minds.

Just writing this out helps me to realize how futile my efforts have been over a lifetime of trying. I have been attempting to change other people’s mental health. I have tried appeasing, manipulating, arguing, raging, withdrawing, and isolating. When these failed, I turned my anger and frustration on myself. I tried eating, exercising, co-dependence, sex and romance, work, drugs, and alcohol. When my abuse of substances and relationships proved utterly destructive to my own well-being, I had to find other, more creative ways to release my pent-up emotion. I tried counting, hair-cutting, and compulsive lock checking. I got stuck in academia for 10 years. My house is in a constant state of renovation. I can safely assert that none of these things has changed the mental health of my immediate family members or my husband.

And so I arrive at my next stage of development. I can love these people but I don’t have to love their mental illness. I don’t have to change it, but I don’t have to love it, either. But I can love them.

I do feel a little better about the whole situation with this new perspective.


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