Living with a mental illness is difficult – not only for the sufferer, but for caregivers, friends and family.
In this edition of Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke talk how it can be isolating and disheartening to interact with someone who has depression, dementia or any other mental illness – and they offer some ideas that can help.
One of the struggles in caring for friends and family with mental illness is that we have no idea what we’re really dealing with. Unlike seeing someone with a broken bone, we don’t see mental illness. It's more like a cancer in that it affects the whole family and it lasts for a long time.
Another reason is that it is causing our loved ones to act like someone we don’t know. They may say things that might hurt us or do things out of character. Many times friends and family shut down, turn away and avoid conflict – but avoiding unpleasant interactions can further isolate someone who's suffering. So what do we do?
The Two Guys explain that stepping back and changing our expectations can help. If we tell ourselves this person is not in a good place, and we are here to listen, then we are less likely to take things personally and be hurt.
It is also good to expand your social network if you are in the caregiver role. It's easy to become isolated, especially if a spouse or partner is suffering. Friends and support systems can give you perspective and energy.