roller coaster of emotions

When you first learned your family member is living with mental illness, you and other family members may have experienced a range of emotions. Common ones include: shock; fear; sadness; guilt; anxiety; confusion; compassion; understanding; and even anger. Some families are relieved to finally learn a reason for the changes they see in their family member. Others hope the diagnosis is wrong. Some families may feel anger and resentment, especially if they feel powerless in changing their family member’s situation.

All families and family members will have their own reactions, their own emotions and feelings. Talking about them can help families to cope. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel the way you do. Feelings and attitudes will also likely change over time.

You and your family members may feel you are riding an emotional roller coaster. Understanding and acknowledging your feelings, as uncomfortable as it may be, is important. Explore where your feelings are coming from and how best you can deal with them. Many families have found joining a support group or talking with other families who are also dealing with mental illness helpful.

When Suzanne learned her son, Charles, had depression, she was in denial. She was sure he just needed time, love and care to be “back to normal.” When the reality of Charles’ illness had sunk in, Suzanne was angry, embarrassed and ashamed. She talked about her feelings to very few people, opting to keep it pretty much a secret.

When Charles began to get better, she started to think that the experience of the illness was behind her and her son. Then Charles suffered a relapse. Suzanne was devastated. She realized though that she wanted and needed to better understand the illness in order to support Charles. Through learning about mental illness and joining a support group, she and Charles began to feel more optimistic that his illness could be effectively managed.

Resources to help:

Grieving and mental illness

Mental illness, especially when chronic, is often associated with a number of losses for everyone affected by the illness. These losses may include: