Have you ever felt hopeless or overwhelmed when trying to help a family member that lives with a mental illness? If so, it may be a sign that healthy boundaries are not being observed.
Lisa Marotta is a practicing cognitive behavioral psychologist in Edmond and has a family member with a mental illness. She said there are wide variations in functional mental health, and by identifying the places where someone has trouble taking care of their self, you can identify the symptoms of mental illness.
Without practicing healthy boundaries, there is a tendency for caregivers to experience burnout. Boundaries as essential for families, Marotta said.
“The constant negotiation and development of a healthy relationship with at least one person who isn't very healthy requires a good understanding of boundaries,” Marotta said. “[With] all mental illness there is some difficulty with relationships. As a family member, being aware of what your boundaries are helps you in deal thing with someone whom you dearly love, but may not be as clear in their boundaries because of their symptomology.
“If we surrender our boundaries to the other person who struggles, we start to lose some of our mental health.”
Marotta said it’s not a good strategy to give the person who had a hard time with a skill the power to upset your balance and stability when his or her stability is fragile.
Another common mistake is waiting too long to communicate. Many of us were taught to tough out problems, “To suck it up,” Marotta said, but we might feel guilty about meeting our own needs first. This tends to backfire and result in an overcorrection that will create more problems.
"Learning what fills your reserve is important," she said.
As a caregiver you should focus on making sure your own health is taken care of first. This is like prevention. Being in good mental shape will help you deal with a crisis. Being realistic about what is possible will help you decide how to set the boundaries, and planning and finding support will also help avoid a crisis or help during a crisis, she said.
Marotta said she will be sharing her special insight at the first of a series of talks called Ed Talks, which are sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness the Edmond North-OKC Affiliate. Ed Talks, mental health topics to inform and promote an understanding of mental health and resources, will be held at Lord of Life Lutheran Church located at 15400 N Western Ave in Oklahoma City, at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 12.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.namiedmond.org or call 405-408-0886.
If you are dealing with a family member who has a mental illness or addiction, you need to be especially aware of your limitations or boundaries in order to meet the demands placed on you. The book “Boundaries: When to Say yes, How to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life” by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend was originally published in 1992 and is also considered a good resource.
Jean Williams is a NewsOK Contributor and a volunteer with the Edmond North-OKC National Alliance on Mental Illness. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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