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Day Eleven of the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” challenge set for me by one of my daughters. And I have to be honest here, it is now 11pm and I am totally shattered after a very long sleepless weekend.

And yet I so want to keep up with this challenge and to not let it slip. In truth, no one will mind if I don’t answer today’s challenge today. But it is on my mind.

And at this point my daughter – the one who set the challenge – messaged to check up on me and insisted that I went to bed. So, if you are reading this and are a little confused as to what I have just written it and the fact that it is now technically day 12, it is because I got sent to bed. LOL

DD 11

Good Morning Honey,

Well it is now morning (about 7am) and I have to tell you that I actually managed to get a proper night’s sleep for once. I have my coffee sat next to me, and I am looking forward to the day – even though I know that it is another busy day for me today.

So I thought I would try to answer yesterday’s question – which you wouldn’t allow to answer last night (pout) – and then, perhaps a little later, to look at today’s question.

So what about yesterday’s question…

I think the whole subject of talking about our mental illnesses can be one which a lot of us struggle with.  And yes, honey, there have been times when I have found it difficult to talk to you (and your siblings) about it.  But honey that has not always been because of you. Sometimes – very often – it is because of me.

Having mental illnesses – or more specifically the way in which they affect me – often frustrates me.  And so, in many ways, when my mental health is good I guess I just don’t want to think about them or to be reminded of them.  And of course,  when my mental health is bad, I often can’t discuss them.

Additionally, and just as importantly, I think that there is a kind of conflict here.

Whilst we want and often need folk – especially our loved ones and those closest to us – to understand and acknowledge that we have mental illness (and thus sometimes this makes us do things and at other times stops us from doing things). We don’t, I believe, want to be identified by that mental illness, or its effects on us. 

And likewise, (and I can only speak for myself here) I so very much want to have as ‘normal’ a relationship with you, and to be treated as ‘normally’ within that, as possible.  Although I really dislike that word.

And then there is the way in which having mental illness – and again the things it does, or the way it makes us react or behave at time – impacts on those we love and care for.

I think that because I see how it can affect and impact those I love, I am sometimes reluctant to discuss my mental illness as I don’t want to be thought of as copping out.  Or trying to distance myself from or my failing to acknowledge my responsibilities in what has happened.

And yes, honey, there is also the, ‘how can you understand what I myself don’t understand – so there’s no point discussing it really’ kind of thought pattern that can sometimes go on inside my head.

Honey, all of these things can go towards my finding it difficult to discuss my mental health, not only with you but with anyone. But there is something else which I think it is important that we acknowledge here, honey….

And that is that I truly believe that sometimes we don’t want to discuss our mental health because past experiences have taught us that discussing it, is just not a good thing and just doesn’t end well.

Times when we receive responses like…

“I really do think you just need to snap out of it.  Everyone has problems.” or,

“Look, I know you have mental illnesses and yes that must be really tough on you.  But they aren’t going to go away and no amount of talking will change that now will it?”  or,

“Look, can’t we talk about this some other time?  I mean, it’s not like your mental illnesses are going any where>”

And how about those times when the person you have discussed it with, uses it to make you the target of their jokes.  Or then goes around telling everyone what a freak you are.  Or times when something you have said is then later thrown back in your face later.

Honey, all of these things can go to making it difficult to talk about our mental illness.  And it is perhaps worth mentioning that because mental illness can often intensify or magnify feelings or reactions. Having to deal with those things which I have just mentioned can be so incredibly difficult and they can have such a damaging effect on the mental health that we are trying so hard to keep stable.

All of these things – and of course the age old social stigma attached to mental illness – can lead as person with mental illness to be reluctant to discuss it honey.  And all of those things have probably – in some way or another – contributed to why I personally sometimes find it difficult to discuss my mental health with you or with anyone else, for that matter.

I have spoken before in my answers about the sense of separation, even of alienation, that mental illness can bring to a person.  And honey that is very true and so very real.

But honey, look at where this question came from.  It came from a desire for you to know more.  A desire to actually discuss my mental illnesses, to understand my mental illnesses in a positive and informative and healthy way.  And I have to tel you honey, that this is so precious, so encouraging to me.

So, “Do I find it difficult to talk to you about my mental health?”  No.  I used to.  But then you reached out and opened up a communication about it.  And I could not even begin to express just how much that means to me.

With all my love.