The Support of Family

Dear Reader,

We are brought up to believe our parents will always be there for us. But we get to a point where we can look after ourselves. It’s at this point, in our relationship with our parents, that things change. And whilst I always thought my parents would be there for me (and I’m sure if I could get over my fear and told them the truth, they would be to an extent) there comes a time when you start to realise what’s best for your parents, what is gong to upset them and what they really need to know and sometimes not telling then things is actually better for them than telling them everything.

I have never considered my parents old. Earlier this year my cousin got married. I met an aunt, I have never met before who flew over here for the wedding. She’s 10 years younger than my dad. Looking at pictures I took on the day I’m really starting to notice how much older my dad looks, and it’s not just him. My mum too. They are both almost 60, and inevitably people change, it’s hard to notice the passage of time on people you see so regularly. I’m not naïve enough to think that they will be around forever, I know they won’t, but leading them to believe I’m happy and doing ok is a big deal to me. Whilst I am sure I am far from what they wanted from their offspring, Leading them to believe that I am happy is at least something I know they can feel good about and I hope it helps them to think they did a good job because my depression isn’t their fault and I wouldn’t want them to blame themselves for it.

I think my parents both suffer from terrible mental health problems I think my dad is severely depressed, I think my mum suffers from some form of anxiety and I honestly think Asbergers syndrome. Whilst this environment may have contributed to my own mental health problems, I don’t believe it is the cause of them. As a child I wasn’t allowed to play in the street until I was 10, my mum was convinced I would get hit by a car or taken by some weirdo. When I was invited to people’s sleepovers she would make excuses for me. Which in a way I’m thankful for because I didn’t really want to go, I didn’t like people. But whilst that was her anxiety, part of it was mine to and I don’t know who’s influenced who’s really. She would bribe me out of going to parties by buying me toys. One time we went to 3 different cities to buy a specific Pokemon toy that she was used to bribe me to not go to a friend’s birthday sleepover. My dad is fairly indifferent to pretty much everything, he is not an alcoholic, but he does have at least one drink every day. I believe he is severely depressed and has been since before I was born. He is very silent. I worry about my dad. Every Sunday he will drink a bottle of wine in the afternoon and sleep all evening/night. He smokes a lot. But they aren’t the things I’m worried about. Im worried that one day everything will get too much for him and he will hurt himself and make it look like an accident. My dad is a very smart man. He won’t change. I don’t expect him to, but as a family who rarely discusses their feelings. It’s sad to think we all suffer from such horrible mental health issues.

My parents have been brought up to believe mental health conditions don’t exist. It’s a generational thing I guess. When one of my cousins died of cancer aged 20 a few years ago, his older brother attempted suicide. I found out through my grandparents, My mum and I had gone to visit them one Sunday. “He tried to commit *suicide*” suicide was said In one of those whisper/mouthed ways. They spoke of how it wasn’t fair on my aunt and uncle who had already lost one child, or the family who were still dealing with my cousin’s death, “how could he be so selfish?” they said. I didn’t say anything at the time, I was 18 and struggling with my own mental health, I did not want to give the impression that I wasn’t ok or that I too was going to be “so selfish” But my cousin was obviously going through a very difficult time, he had lost his brother. And I know now that in that moment when you want to end your life, you don’t consider the feelings of your entire extended family, you just want the pain to stop. Maybe he wanted to see my cousin again, and was thinking about the afterlife, my family is religious, I personally am not. Or maybe even worse, he felt like it should have been him, he should have died and his younger brother should have been ok. I would understand those feelings because when my cousin passed away, I felt (and still do) that if someone in my family had, had to die it should have been me, the one who wasn’t happy, the one who has nothing going for them. My cousin was judged because my family didn’t understand mental illness and instead of being supportive they never spoke of it again. They covered it up as a “moment of weakness” something he did in an emotionally unstable bout of “insanity

From what I can assume from stilted, hushed conversation I have overheard. My youngest aunt was once put on antidepressants briefly, a few years ago. My family talked about like it was some kind of weakness, like she was being “silly” because she had everything going for her, a husband, children, a nice house, a job. They weren’t sympathetic. In fact they pussyfooted around her for a few months and avoided asking her if she was “ok” almost completely. This all happened at least 10 years ago and I don’t have any particularly vivid memories about it besides the lack of empathy my family showed.

But it’s things like this that truly scare me about telling my family anything about my mental health problems and that is a truly sad state of events. I know enough about mental health to diagnose more than my immediate family, my grandmother is quite clearly depressed. But as they don’t believe in the “weakness” that is depression they won’t acknowledge it. My family is not the most emotional, my family isn’t particularly supportive or open about anything. It’s a difficult environment to have been bought up in. I have never felt comfortable talking to anyone in my family and I thought that was down to my Aspergers, but writing this I have realised that it is more than that, it’s just an unfortunate series of circumstances that I have to live with.

As Always,

The Elephant in the Room

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36 thoughts on “The Support of Family

  1. It must be very lonely not to be able to discuss this with your immediate family and to feel so strongly that they wouldn’t understand. No one can ever fill that void, but I hope you have someone real in your life (i.e., physically, emotionally and mentally present) with which to share your thoughts.

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  2. Interesting that you talk about family with depression. I have never touched on the subject with mine. Both my mother and grandmother had/have mental health issues, both attempted suicide. Grandmother was put in an institution as back in those days these issues weren’t addressed and fortunately my mother got help. When I say help I mean hopelessly addicted to meds and has been for around 30 years. My dad left when I was 6 and he hasn’t the capacity to understand. I live with it. Tried meds, didn’t like them. I think, or at least hope I get by knowing that episodes pass, no matter how hard or messed up things get. I don’t tell my mum I have it, that would just make her feel worse than she already feels about my childhood. Growing up with a parent with mental health issues is hard on the soul, for me at least it was. However, I have come to terms with it. Mostly! 😉 peace.

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  3. What a beautiful sharing of your heart and soul..Glad we have a place like this to safely discuss these thoughts and feelings. I think it is wise not to share these things with the generations who can’t or won’t embrace feelings. Mental illness is scary to many including those of us who are affected. Seems like only those who are touched by this are the only ones willing to speak up or be concerned. I wish there was a register that we could sign up with where we could offer to listen to people in real time when that kind of sharing is needed, Or for us to call when up against the wall. Sort of like a crisis clinic for the mentally ill. Maybe one already exists. I have just recently crawled out from under the rock of shame in coming out to the world on Face Book. Right now Blogging about our journeys is a resource that at least is helping us to cope and not feel alone.

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  4. Dear god your post rings true and honest which is an especial gift you have for explaining the inexplicable. It is sad that some of us suffer in silence because we know our families cannot cope with the truth. You are more than your parents could have hoped for; a true, brave individual. If they cannot see that they are missing something, which does not make you any less a person. Makes you more in fact. Our health, both psychical and mental is inherited. You have touched people and opened a difficult subject. Bless you

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  5. This took a lot of strength to write, and I’m really glad you’re able to talk about it. It’s so important to let these things out. Your not thinking of mental and emotional issues as weaknesses is strength all by itself. It’s so hard to live in a family that thinks the opposite way you do, especially about things like this, but at least you have a really good perspective on it, which is more than can be said about lots of people with similar situations. You deserve a pat on the back just for your openness and understanding of yourself, your problems, and your understanding of your family. And thank you for sharing – we are all here for you.

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  6. This is a painfully true post. I have to deal with the same crap in my family. Once I told my mom I was depressed, hoping for support. You know what I got instead? “Suck it up and put on your big girl pants, your to old for this!” I need help, but I’m obviously getting none from my family, so I now pretend I am perfectly happy. The sad part is my parents are buying it. ;(

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  7. Thank you for writing this. I had parents who acted just like this. Till today I never heard of any other parents who bribed their children to stay in the house. Are childhoods are almost identical except my father has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, he is just as silent as your father though. I don’t fell as alone after reading this. Thank you!

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  8. I’ve re read your post. I don’t know how old you are, but you have set my maternal alarm bells jangling! You seem to be trying to take responsibility for your parents’ feelings. This is not your job. I really feel for you as I felt that way when I was living at home. I kept my inner life secret. But I am now in my fifties with two children of my own. I have and still do suffer with depression and anxiety and so do they. With the benefit of experience I can say that having learnt to live with it I have been able to help my children learn to live with it and accept it to a certain extent, as you would learn to manage any long term chronic condition eg diabetes for instance. If I had not had to develop the strength required to survive with no support from my own family I may not have been able to be so de termined to be different with my own. I don’t know if this makes sense to you. I am trying to say please persevere. You are strong. You do not know what is around the corner and your experience may be useful sometime in your life. It may even save someone’s life. Remember you cannot be responsible for anyone else’s happiness. You are taking steps to help yourself and people are hearing, caring and responding to you. That makes you special. Try to hold onto that thought. You do not have to believe it, just hold onto it.

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  9. It might be good for you to experience life where you do not feel you have to protect your parents. A space of your own to find out who you are would be ideal but I don’t think you should be alone. Is there anyone you can talk to about your difficulties? Have you ever had any counselling?

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  10. Depression must be faced and treated. It’s not a weakness, it’s a disease, and as a disease there are several things you can do about it, but to sweep it under the rug it’s not one of them. I have seen depression in members of my family, and I know how it hurts. I hope you can find your way to fin treatment for yourself in the best possible way, and maybe find a way to help those in your family as well.

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  11. You’ve discussed openly about the mental problems of your family members. That’s something really appreciable because most people have a ‘hush hush’ attitude towards this. But I think the more one discusses the matter, better are the chances to come up with solutions. Of course, regular medication and a gentle and understanding behaviour towards them are of utmost importance.

    Thanks for sharing this… 🙂

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  12. Hello: I too grew up with two unhealthy parents who could not talk about mental illness. I more or less “raised” myself because they were emotionally unavailable due to their terrible childhoods. I’m ancient – 60+ years old (LOL) and still wondering what my life might have been like if someone had loved and supported me. I have no idea what that feels like. I do know, that unlike them, I’ve challenged the limits of “mental illness” in my own life and although some of those limits will always be there, I’ve done a good job of building a life – not perfect, but my life.

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  13. I can relate to that. My parents are the same. Throughout my struggle with depression, they were unsympathetic and mocked me. There were times when I needed support and I had none, until I reached the point where I decided it just wasn’t worth it. I don’t talk to them about it. What’s the point of having a family then? For me, a family is a group of people who support you no matter what, even if they don’t understand. They didn’t support me and it’s something I’ll never forget. I’m still struggling with depression and I’m doing it alone. It has made me harsh, bitter, and cruel, but that is what happens when you have no support, no one to tell you it’s gonna be alright.

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      • Yeah. I just hope that when people read my posts, they get a look inside the mind of a depressed person, and then try to understand better. They can never really understand but they have to know that their support matters and they have to support. I was in my early teenage years when I got diagnosed and I really needed support then. It was hard and weird, with all the stigma attached to it.

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      • It is, which is why I decided to be open about it. It’s a bit complicated because I’ve had depression for over 10 years and I really want out. There are times when I don’t want to talk, hear, or even think about it. But there is this huge thing I have to do as well: get rid of the stigma. The only way to do it is be open about it. My family makes faces if I speak of it in front of everyone, like I’m telling them “Hey, I’m a crazy psycho.” But I still explain it so people know what it is. The response I get is usually negative. People either change the topic and start talking about something else, or crack jokes at me. It makes me wonder how ignorant and stupid they really are, it frustrates me, but then I don’t really care about what anyone thinks about me.

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