Loved ones of family members and friends often struggle with the question, “Could I have done more,” “Is this happening because it is my fault,” “If I do this, how will it affect my child’s life,” and/or “What if I try one more time to help?” What individuals fail to realize is that until the individual who struggles with severe mental health stares death in the face and chooses to live, there is minimal help to be received.
It is all too tempting to believe and accept that you can save a loved one’s life by sacrificing your own—being physically separated from partners, enormous financial debt, moving cities/schools, etc. Being in the emotional mind makes it difficult to reach the wise mind, the mind that recognizes that this loved one may also need them in the future when they are emotionally better. If a loved one has sacrificed everything, this can lead to significant feelings of guilt and shame for the individual in recovery. Likewise, by always trying to protect a loved one from adversity, individuals grow up without learning adequate coping skills and their character development can be negatively impacted—making adulthood more challenging (e.g., underestimate abilities and can’t make decisions).
When that need to fix, rescue, sacrifice, and please arises, be patient with yourself, breathe, and focus on doing the best you can to love your child while also fulfilling your own needs and desires. Also, consider asking yourself where feelings of guilt and fear are coming from—both emotions that can lead to over-doing in order to feel relief (e.g., working late at work may lead to saying it’s OK for the child to stay on the computer or to wash the dishes for them).
If you feel like you are over-doing and taking too much responsibility in someone’s mental health journey, ask yourself “do you feel more pain than your child shows,” “are the same battles being fought,” “whose problem is it,” and “what have I done in the past to swoop in and take care of it?” It may be time to step back and take a different approach or path—such as coaching and teaching rather than doing. Remember, difficult moments often lead to life’s greatest lessons and opportunities for personal growth.