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Well it’s four in the morning and I can’t sleep.  And so, since my brain seems intent on not shutting down tonight, I thought I would answer question three in the ‘Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness‘ Challenge that one of my daughters has set me.DD 3

Hi Honey,

Of all the questions that you could ask me, and indeed those which you have asked me, concerning my mental health, this one is perhaps the easiest one to answer.  Because the answer is quite simply, ‘No, you don’t make my mental health worse.’  In fact you help to make it a lot better.

And I am not just saying that to make you feel better honey, or to stop you worrying.  The fact is that it is true.  And I want to demonstrate that to you in some way…

As someone who writes and blogs about mental illness and mental health, and as someone who reads other people’s blogs about mental health. I get to read and to hear about a lot of other people’s experiences, and of their lives, with mental illness or poor mental health.  And as part of that I also get to hear of some of the relationships, even the struggles, that others with mental illness or poor mental health have with their own families.  And these, I can honestly say, seem to range from being excellent to being tragically difficult.

You see, the fact is honey, that we are all unique and we all react to illness in different ways.  And we all seem to react to illness – especially mental illness – within our families in different ways.  Some folk are sympathetic and caring, some are detached and clinical and yet others are even dismissive and judgmental about it.

Think, for a moment, about some of the reactions in our own family to my mental illnesses.  You are all aware of it.  And yet some of you seem to accept it as just being a part of who I am.  Whilst others – or so it seems to me – never mention it and seem to never want to hear about it or to discuss it.

And I can understand that in some ways as, just as your question of yesterday indicated, there is always the fear that it is hereditary.  So, when my mental health is bad, it only goes to serve – to them – as a reminder that the potential threat is there.

I really do understand that, most of the time honey.  But, even so, I have to admit that it does sometimes hurt and does sometimes go to make me feel misunderstood or even unfairly judged and even, (and I am sorry to have to say this) rejected.

You, as these questions demonstrate, are willing to deal with my mental illness and are happy to discuss it.  And willingness to do so – in a non-confrontational and non-judgmental way – means so very much to me and helps me (and my mental health) so very much. And I am so very grateful for this.

Of course there are going to be times when something you say or do will seem to affect me badly, or to worsen my mood or my mental health.  But isn’t that true of anyone?  Isn’t it true that we all – regardless of the presence of any mental illness – say or do things which seem to impact or affect each other? 

That, honey, is normal.  And knowing that our words or actions seem to be having a negative impact or effect on someone, we try to address or correct that don’t we?  We either apologize or we explain ourselves.  Or we simply stop saying or doing those things.  

The presence of mental illness doesn’t introduce the need to be sensitive to someone’s feelings, it just potentially increases that need.

My mental illnesses, I freely admit, sometimes make me more sensitive and sometimes alter my perceptions of things.  So, admittedly, some things which seem extremely trivial or insignificant to you, are – as a result of my mental illnesses – not so trivial and not so insignificant to me.  But we both know that honey, and you understand that and deal with that so very well.

So trust me honey, you do not make my mental health worse and if anything you help make it much better. 

I hope that has answered your questions honey, and I want you to know that I am really grateful to you for asking these questions.  And for the conversations which are coming out of them.

I love you so much,