Dealing with mental illness in a loved one generally requires a lot of patience, understanding, and empathy.
When that mentally ill person in your life is a parent, it can lead to a mess of emotions. As a child, you may be too young to understand why your mom or dad is behaving differently from parents of other children around you.
As a teenager, it can be difficult to handle your own physiological and psychological changes along with the challenges that arise because either or both of your parents is mentally ill.
As you grow older still, you start becoming concerned about repeating the same behavior patterns. You want to learn to heal and move on, and to prevent the same mistakes from happening so you don’t end up giving your own children the kind of childhood they’ll need to later recover from.
So how can you cope with a mentally ill parent, while also taking care of your own mental well-being?
1. Listen to them.
While you’re busy growing up, your parents are growing old. So take out time from your routine, set aside your phone, and be there for them. Try to listen without judgment and without getting triggered yourself. Just being heard can help them feel less alone and aid their recovery.
In addition, rather than seeing them as just your parent, try to view them as an entire individual with their own set of challenges and hurdles that have impacted their mental health.
This understanding and clarity will allow you to let go of your anger toward your parents and make peace with your childhood.
2. Help your parents get help.
You can’t replace a therapist so try to get them the professional care they need. Everyone deserves to live a mentally healthy, fulfilling life and it’s never too late in life to get the help you need.
While considering professional help for your parents, their own resistance and stigma around the idea of seeing a mental health professional will likely be the biggest hindrance you’ll face.
One solution is to sit with them, validate their struggles, and help them through the process of finding a suitable therapist. You can even accompany them to a few sessions, if that will make them feel more comfortable.
3. Learn when you need to take a step back and take care of your own mental health.
When you feel as if you’re losing control over your words and emotions, breathe deeply and try to calm down so you don’t react in a way you’ll regret later.
It can be hard to behave rationally when you’re overcome with emotions to words and actions that remind you of the pain and confusion you’ve felt in the past, but getting defensive or verbally aggressive will only result in more mental distress.
In such times, it’s better to take a step back and take care of your own mental health first. You can do this by practicing grounding techniques, reaching out to someone who can sympathize, and learning effective emotion management.
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4. Unlearn unhealthy thought patterns you internalized from your parents.
If you feel like a certain aspect of your personality or behavior is history repeating itself and you’re concerned about not repeating any such destructive patterns in the future, it’s best to seek help from a professional therapist or coach so you can heal from your own wounds.
You’d be surprised at the insight you gain regarding the root cause of certain thought patterns when speaking one-to-one with a mental health professional.
This is an investment for yourself which has a positive and lasting impact on all areas of your life, including your close relationships.
5. Forgive your parents for the love and care they weren’t able to provide when you needed it.
Parents are human, and just as imperfect as us. They did their best in light of their own life circumstances and upbringing.
When you grant forgiveness and compassion to your parents, you’re able to extend the same grace toward yourself as well, which is an essential part of healing. You’re able to learn to let go of old grudges and move on, focusing on the here and now.
6. Remember the status of parents in Islam.
After Allah (swt) and His prophet (saw), your greatest loyalty and service is to your parents. Regardless of their mental state, your parents are still your parents and you have a religious obligation to be as kind, respectful, and obedient to them as possible.
It’s not always going to be easy. In fact, dealing with your parents’ mental illness and its impact on their behavior might be one of the biggest struggles of your life.
But remember that when the struggle is greater, the reward is also multiplied many times over. So seek help through patience and prayer, and keep trying your utmost to fulfill the right your parents have over you.
How do you cope with mental illness in a loved one? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.
P.S. If you feel lost, unbalanced, and distressed, click here to request a FREE 1-1 consultation! Care Nest coaching is holistic, heart-centered, and aimed at helping you become the best version of yourself possible while staying true to your values and goals. 🦋
Khadija Khan is a wife, mommy, certified life coach, and Islamic counselor. She is passionate about helping Muslim women reach their goals in all areas of life. She writes about things like Islamic spirituality, relationships, parenting, and personal development. Continue Reading…