how to love someone with mental illness
Start writing a post
Health and Wellness

7 Truths About Loving Someone With a mental illness

This time, it was all about her: the one whose life was turned upside down as she not only watched her daughter fight, but as she also fought alongside her, doing anything and everything she could, but never feeling like it was enough.

mental illness
Author's Photo

I'm the mom--I'm supposed to be able to fix it. But I couldn't; I can't.

I sat there across from my mom, the pain in her eyes evident as she looked at me, a desperation in them that made me want to give her some sort of reassurance, that made me want to comfort her and make her believe it would all be OK.

But I couldn't.

This time, I was just there to listen. No fixing; no consoling; no words at all, save a few here or there to encourage her to continue.

This time, it wasn't about me. It wasn't about my struggle, what I went through as I fought for recovery.

This time, it was all about her: the mom, the one whose life was turned upside down as she not only watched her daughter fight, but as she also fought alongside her, doing anything and everything she could, but never feeling like it was enough.

It was about her own struggle, the insights she gained and the lessons she learned as she herself faced the demon of her child's life:

1. All the small things became big things

Every phone call incited fear of what was on the other end--were you OK? Were you drinking? Were you feeling hopeless and alone?

Not to mention, every meal not eaten was a potential relapse. Were you skipping more than just your morning snack? Had you really eaten dinner like you said? Were your clothes fitting just a little too loosely?

The once small, normal things in daily life that usually wouldn't warrant a second thought became issues, became not normal.

2. You can't fix it

As a parent or loved one, the natural instinct is often to fix the issue, to be the protector.

I was supposed to figure out everything, she said. I was supposed to be the one who could take care of you, who could take away the pain.It wasn't just feeling helpless, but genuinely being helpless.

I had to learn that this time, it wasn't about fixing it for you. I couldn't. It was about being there in any way you needed, doing whatever needed to be done. I might not have been able to take away the pain, but I was NOT about to let you walk through it alone.

3. The fear doesn't go away

It doesn't matter how long it's been; the fear doesn't go away. Seven years later and as far into recovery as you are, I am still scared.

Scared of what? I asked.

I still fear that one day, it will be too much. You will succumb to your illness, unable to fight it anymore.

I still fear that it will take your life.

4. You want your kid to have a normal life

I wanted you--want you--to worry about normal things, to be able to make normal mistakes.

I want you to worry about making grades in college, about how to respond to the cute guy's text, about what you and your friends are going to do this weekend.

I want your mess-ups to be procrastinating until the last minute on a huge paper, spending too much money or saying something hurtful to a close friend.

I don't want you to have to worry about if you will be able to make yourself eat or if you will ever fully come out of the depression and anxiety.

I don't want you to have to worry about slipping, about relapsing… about dying.

5. You want them to feel loved and accepted

One of the hardest things is to watch you as you fear the reaction of others, to hear that you worry about not finding a man who will love you, eating disorder and all. As your mom, that hurts my heart more than you can know. I want to take away that fear, that insecurity, to show you who I see.

But again, I can't. I can only continue to help you fight to see the real you, the you beneath the disorder.

6. You are going to mess up

I have learned a lot, sure, but I still mess up. In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. Should I force you to go to therapy? To inpatient treatment? Should I hand feed you and physically stop you from exerting yourself too much?

Then as you began recovery, it was learning what to say and what NOT to say. Do I respond when you ask if you look fat? Do I answer honestly when an outfit isn't flattering?

And perhaps the hardest--how do I know what's really going on? How do I decipher what you are really trying to say when you say you feel big, when you feel gross? Is it depression? Are you lonely?

Half the time, I said the wrong thing, reacted the wrong way. I got mad when I shouldn't, said things out of fear when I should've remained calm, got irritated when I didn't think you were actually trying to recover. But I learned--I am still learning. We are still learning, together.

7. Always look for hope

You can't stop.

As a mom, my role was so much more than physically taking care of you. I had to fight for you, had to believe that there was hope, even when I couldn't see anything but darkness. I had to push forward, to lean on friends and our church to provide hope and strength when the strain began to wear on our family, when the internal struggles your dad and I had threatened to erode our marriage.

But I knew that I could never give up. I could never stop trying to find some semblance of light.

Because I knew that as soon I did, as soon as I let that light go out, I could no longer be what you needed, no longer support you in the capacity necessary for your recovery.

Which would mean you would flounder. After a while, you would relapse. And then, you would be gone.

I would be gone.

Without hope, none of this--you, how far you have come, the woman you have become, the life you have gotten to live and the future you are working toward--would be possible.

I sat back from my computer, allowing myself to finally look at her again. The look in her eyes from before, the one swimming with the endless dark nights and terrifying times, had been replaced by another one.

This one was more subtle, more soft. A smile pulled at the edge of her lips as she looked right at me, looked into my own eyes filled with a myriad of emotions.

Hope, she said, fully smiling now. That's it.

Through all the darkness, through all the hurt and pain, hope must endure. It must.

Because one day, that hope becomes more.

One day, that hope becomes genuine belief.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments