Embrace your fears — be open and honest with your family member with depression
Millions of Americans will experience depression at one point in their lifetime. Some will have chronic depression while others will have a brief episode lasting several weeks to years. What does this mean in the context of how we conduct our life with people we love who happen to suffer from depression or other mental illness?
Do you tip toe around?
For many family members there is a tendency to tip toe around and put their own life on hold, hoping for better days to come. Somehow being silent feels easier than possibly upsetting the person with mental health issues. My own feeling is that we, as family members who care, we must be able to speak our own truth, even in the face of anothers illness, medical or mental health related. The more we persist in pushing difficult things away, they more they reappear in our lives.
Here’s an example of internal voices telling us not to communicate
When working with a client some years ago, I learned that her greatest fear was telling the truth to her husband (who had long term depression issues). Her truth revolved around her need for time alone, improved communication between them, and more intimacy. Her fear was, that if she asked for these things directly, her husband would think she was just “being a woman,” or that she was “needy”. Most of all she worried that she would somehow MAKE his depression worse.
Your feelings matter!
The idea of being open and honest with a family member who happens to suffer from depression, panic disorder, or other mental illness stirs up a similar kind of fear. Most caregivers weigh the relief they “might” get from sharing their thoughts and feelings, with the “guilt” they might feel from burdening their loved one with their feelings and their own “needs”. You’ve heard the expression: “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”…I believe that as long as you come from a place of kindness and truth, communication is always a good thing. Beginning a sentence with “I feel” is a good starter!