Tough Love Doesn't Work On My Mental Illness

March 28, 2020
Your tough love doesn't work on my mental illness. Period. Your dismissive attitude towards me  doesn't work on my mental illness either. I head the words "snap out of it" or "man up" or "other people have things worse than you". But, these words don't encourage me. They only make me feel worthless and hopeless and that I am a DIY project that needs fixing. 
My mental illness is exactly that, an illness. It doesn't just 'disappear' when I want it to or  because you say it's time to "snap out of it". If it worked just like that, I would have waved goodbye to it almost six years ago. 
When people say its time for tough love, what they are simply saying is that my mental illness is inconveniencing them or that maybe they don't believe it even exists. 
I cant just wave a magic wand to push my mental illness aside to do everything you wish me to do. Just like someone cant forget a physical illness.
There are many complexities to a person's mental illness, including years of learnt behaviours, chemical imbalances in the brain and at times trauma. Treatment can be a long and difficult process and even some mental illnesses don’t just go away after treatment. They have to be managed for the rest of the persons life. 
If you push someone with a mental illness to hard it can actually send them in a downwards spiral. I know this all too well unfortunately. Its happened to me more than once over the last six years. I've been pushed into situations I haven't been ready for and have ended up resulting in breakdowns, ultimately ending in relapse. 
For instance when you push someone with an eating disorder into eating things or challenging behaviours that are too big an anxiety to them and their disorder, you only end up reinforcing their fears and their intrusive negative thoughts and this can ultimately set them back in their recovery. 
Or, when you push someone who self harms to stop. This can lead to sneakiness and them not being open and telling the truth, the same can be said for someone with an eating disorder. 
I've several times went cold turkey with my behaviours in an effort to recover, but ended up breaking down and slipping up. Sometimes going cold turkey can be very very overwhelming and can set us back. Sometimes small goals are better. 

Though, exposure therapy is a great technique for eating disorders and self harm, it isnt just as simple as going to face your fears head on. There is a LOT more to it. Its taking small achievable steps, like I just said. whilst working through all the intrusive negative thoughts. whilst dropping all the learnt behaviours to "cope". Its about going small till you are ready to move onto the bigger things. 
For others, managing their illness may be getting the right medication and adjusting it to the right dose for them. Though not everyone with a mental illness is on medication. It might be other forms of therapy or, it is sometimes situational and will unlikely go anywhere until the situation has changed or stopped. 
Right now, for me I am at the stage I'm doing therapy and also adjusting my medications to the right level. This is after an eight month hospital admission (not everyone with mental illness has to go into hospital). 
Where are you on your road with mental illness just now? I would love to know and this is a safe space to talk about it.
Becca x


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