Why Does my Loved One Have a Mental Illness?
Why does my loved one have a mental illness? Is there something I could have done to stop this from happening? I tormented myself with questions like this when my brother first became unwell with anxiety and depression — and guess what? They only made things harder.
Searching for Answers About my Brother’s Mental Illness
Mental illness is an extremely complex and multi-faceted thing. There could be genetic factors at play — my brother and I are both adopted so we don’t know if these conditions run in his biological family. There could be environmental factors at play — stressors or trauma that my brother has been exposed to could have triggered the mental illness. My brother’s condition was likely caused by a combination of these factors, mixed with a million other things.
I could speculate all day about why my loved one has a mental illness. I could drive myself crazy picking apart the tiny details of our shared childhood, and completely beat myself up for times when I may have inadvertently created circumstances where his symptoms could have been exacerbated. However, I think I’ve already wasted enough time doing this.
Redirecting Thoughts About my Brother’s Mental Illness
Nowadays, when I find myself agonizing over why my loved one has a mental illness, I force my brain to change the record. I turn it from a question into a statement — « my loved one has a mental illness ». This is a fact, it’s something that I can’t turn back the clock and change. The only fruitful line of questioning I can go down is « now what? »
Rather than questioning why my loved one has a mental illness, I question what I can do to be a better supporter. Instead of beating myself up about whether I played some part in my brother becoming ill, I question how I can play an active role in him living well with his condition. Instead of picking apart details of times I did things wrong that could have exacerbated my brother’s symptoms, I question what state my own mental health is in and how I can proactively improve it.
At the start, it took a while to redirect my brain into asking these questions — but now that I’ve been using this technique for years, the switch is almost automatic. As soon as that horrible voice in my head starts asking why my loved one has a mental illness, the kinder voice takes over and gently guides me down a more helpful line of questioning.
Are there any unsolved mysteries around your loved one’s mental illness that you find yourself obsessing over? If so, how do you handle these feelings?