Finding Gratitude When Mental Illness Takes So Much from You
Finding gratitude when you or your family member lives with mental illness can seem so hard. The holidays especially can feel like a real season of loss for families with mental illness. While “normal families” seem to celebrate all the traditions that film and commercials dictate, families with mental illness cannot take on such busyness and chaos without negative repercussions or a mental health relapse. But, rather than see our alternate celebrations as a loss, finding gratitude during the holidays helps us see the better side of mental health struggles.
Finding Gratitude in the Midst of Middle Illness
Don’t Compare to Typical Families
First of all, nobody’s normal. Everybody is dealing with something and that so-called normal family down the street may be totally dysfunctional behind closed doors. Don’t let some fantasy of someone else’s perfect life lead you to disappointment and feelings of loss.
Learn to Count Your Blessings to Find Gratitude
Our family has four members who suffer from mental illness of one sort or another. We’ve had many years that the holidays fell in the middle of someone’s crisis. Consequently, we’ve learned to find the blessings in our situation even in the face of disaster. Did my daughter have a total meltdown? Yes, but it only lasted a few minutes compared to the hour-long episodes she used to have.
Is my other daughter in the hospital on Christmas? Yes, but at least I know she’s safe. Is my son too anxious to open gifts? At least he could sit with the family for dinner. Did we need to pass on the extended family’s Christmas party? Yes, but here’s our small family, sitting together, telling stories and genuinely enjoying each other.
Look How Far You’ve Come
By counting blessings, it becomes easy to see the progress that family members have made during the year. Yes, there may be fits and starts. And yes, this may have been a terrible year for some of us. But, there is always a nugget or two of hope amongst the rubble.
Did you find a medication that worked? Is your new therapist helping? Did you make it through the grocery store without a meltdown? Did your daughter stay in school? Did your son find work? Did you cross off 10 ways that didn’t work and are now closer to finding a way that does?
Mental Illness Helps You Zero in on Life and Sometimes Helps You Find Gratitude
Trust me, I’m no Pollyanna. But, over the years, the thing I’ve found about having mental illness in our life is that it blows away the chaff and forces our whole family to concentrate on those valuable grains of wheat. We don’t have time for pettiness or manufactured drama. We don’t have the energy for people who put us down or judge us.
So, instead, we zero in on each other and look honestly at the hills and valleys in each other’s lives.
And that kind of mindfulness has made us all better people, more compassionate people, more aware and informed people, less judgmental and more understanding people.
It’s true. By living deeply in the world of mental illness, we’ve “lost” some of the trappings of the season. But, in its place, we’ve discovered a depth of meaning, a richness of accomplishment, and an infinite amount of love for each other and our struggles. For us, it’s a good trade-off. We have found gratitude.
Traugh, S. (2017, December 25). Finding Gratitude When Mental Illness Takes So Much from You, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2017/12/finding-gratitude-in-the-middle-of-loss
Author: Susan Traugh
Thanks Susan. My daughter spent Xmas in the hospital, which was so hard. But we were grateful that we have grandparents who can stay with our younger child so we can visit, and that there are caring people who were there to take care of her, even on Christmas Day. I look forward to reading more of your blog posts.
Hi Julia, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to reply; I just saw your post. I'm so glad that you worked things out over Christmas and have a support system to help you through this difficult time. I wish you the best on your journey and thank you for your support of this blog.
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