Love and compassion are our best answers for responding to a loved one when they are experiencing an episode of their mental illness. Here are some other suggestions.
Ask them how they are doing
It’s easy to react to the behaviors and actions our loved ones choose when they are acting out in their mental illness. We want to tell them to stop, or control themselves. Instead, what we are telling them is that they aren’t okay the way they are and they should be feeling something other than they are capable of feeling at that time. These actions and behaviors are not intentional or attention seeking. They are indications that something might be off or wrong. When someone gets cut and cries about their wound, we don’t demand them to stop bleeding. We immediately ask, “Are you okay?” and take action. We know they aren’t okay, they’ve just been cut and are in pain. A loved one with mental illness is learning how to be okay, but that doesn’t mean they won’t occasionally be in emotional pain. We can’t always see the wounds our loved one is trying to tend to. By asking them what hurts, we let them know they are supported.
You Will Get Through This
Sentiments like this too shall pass or these feelings are temporary are helpful but sometimes difficult reminders. With mental illness, emotions can feel like an ultimate reality which may or may not pass. Learning to realize that isn’t true and cope with emotions as passing experiences is part of the recovery process. They are also learning that they cannot get around their feelings, cannot avoid their feelings, and cannot just get “over” their feelings. Instead, they are learning to work through them. Telling a loved one you will get through this helps them remember that there is hope on the other side of what they’re going through and it will take a little bit of work to get there by working through it.
Help Them Identify Their Needs
When we get hungry, we can feel out of control. In extreme cases, which happens to us often, we are so blinded by the effects of hunger that we cannot even tell hunger is the problem. Emotional, angry, unfocused, we feel like we are losing control until we or someone reminds us that we probably need to eat. Suddenly, there is clarity. Feeling completely overtaken by a unidentifiable and seemingly uncontrollable feeling is par for the course in recovery from a mental illness. Identifying the feeling might not be immediately possible, therefore figuring out how to help due to that specific feeling might not happen. Instead, ask them what they need in that moment. Though they might not be able to identify their feelings they might be able to know they need food, water, breathing, safety, or reassurance. Their needs can help them identify their feelings.
Avalon By The Sea is one of California’s only trusted primary mental health care facilities for producing trusted results. Our residential treatment programs promote wellness in body, mind, and spirit, while creating a lifetime of recovery. For a confidential assessment and more information, call us today at 888-958-7511.