Living in a family with mental illness, it can feel impossible to find peace. Even when I find a way to be stable and healthy while living with bipolar I disorder, mental illness and its effects still run rampant through my family. Countless times, I have looked at my doctors and asked them, “How do I find peace in a family with mental illness?” Their answer is always the same: “Give up trying to find peace in your family. Instead, find peace in yourself, in your own life, on your own terms.” As I order my own world, I find a greater level of peace when dealing with my family, despite the havoc mental illness may cause.
When I am overwhelmed by the family drama encircling me, I immediately recognize that as my cue to exit the scene (Mental Health Relapse–When Not to Go Home for the Holidays). When I struggle to leave the situation, I remind myself that I must leave before the drama starts undermining my mental stability. If I try to stay and make things right, I always end up becoming compromised. I always end up sacrificing my own mental stability and wellness for a peace I can never keep. That’s a way not to find peace in my family with mental illness.
Ground Yourself to Find Peace in a Family with Mental Illness
When I begin to deal with the chaos in my family by putting my tried and true grounding techniques into place, I am able to keep my mental illness in check and my life stable. Here are a few things I have found to find peace in my family with mental illness:
- Find a safe person with whom you feel comfortable working through your feelings. Often, I realize, it’s scary to share details about family members to outsiders because families with mental illness can have a lot of shameful secrets. But being able to work through the family events causing me turmoil is best done with someone who does not have a “stake in the game.” A trusted friend or therapist can give me outside perspective when I’m struggling to make sense of things (What Do I Talk About in Bipolar Therapy?).
- Get rest. When I am overwhelmed, the best thing for me to do is go to bed. So many of my struggles with family can be downright traumatic. The best way for my brain to heal and for me to get my footing again is to sleep (Stability in Bipolar Disorder Requires Routine).
- Get back to your routine. Family drama can knock me off my feet more than any other kind of drama. Often times, my coping skills turn into mush, and I find myself staying up too late, drinking too much, eating junk food, anything, just to feel better. But the best way I’ve found to feel better is to force myself into that wellness routine that always helps me feel grounded and healthy (Taking Care of Myself is the Best Way To Care for My Family).
- Surround yourself with positive, healthy people. Nothing makes me feel more like a loser than failing at relationships with my family. But if I only have those complicated relationships in my life, I will inevitably feel like I’m failing most of the time. That’s why I need people who are positive and healthy to share my life with. I need places and communities in which I can succeed at relationships. I need people who love me outside of the realm of mental illness, who can see good in me and help me see that good in myself (With Bipolar, You are Always Know Who Your Friends Are).
- Refrain from revisiting the people and problems in your family until you have a chance to heal. I realize that being removed from family, no matter how messy the situation, can be troubling. But when I remove myself long enough to ground myself, maintain my own mental stability, and heal from the pain my family has caused me, I am better able to maintain my own peace as I move forward with my family in the future (Cutting Ties with Family? What to Consider Before You Do).
It has been such a journey for me to realize that my family cannot be well enough or sane enough or kind enough for me to find peace. Peace is something I can only find within myself. And I must be brave enough and strong enough to take care of myself and my mental illness so that I can find peace in my own heart and live that out in my family.