When Your Family Doesn’t Support You or Your Mental Illness

When Your Family Doesn’t Support You or Your Mental Illness

Recently a received a message from someone who was very distressed because her family wouldn’t accept her because of her mental illness. Her family hadn’t cut her out of their lives, necessarily, but they didn’t understand bipolar disorder and just waved her off telling her to “take her meds.” They made no effort to support her dealing with her mental illness.

And to this woman, family was everything. She didn’t think she could live without the support of her family.

And while I know that family is critically important to some people, I’m here to tell you: you can live with a mental illness, with bipolar disorder, without the support of your family.

Family Support in Mental Illness

I’m the first one to say that support from loved ones is incredibly important when dealing with a mental illness like bipolar disorder. And yes, those loved ones typically include family. But here’s the thing – it doesn’t have to. Yes, in an ideal world our families would embrace us, support our mental illness challenges and help us to get better, but our world is not ideal. If you have the support of your family through your mental illness consider yourself lucky, because, certainly, not everyone does.

Living with a Mental Illness without Family Support

I lived with a mental illness, bipolar disorder, without family support for a long time. It took years for my mother to come around and be what I would consider to be “supportive.” But I survived all those years. Because while family may be something, family is not everything.

Supportive Loved Ones Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Family support in mental illness is important but it isn't the only thing that can help. Learn what to do when your family doesn't support your mental illness.What matter is not blood relationships, what matters is that people care about you and want to support you through your mental illness. It doesn’t matter to me that my friends are not related to me by birth – they are supportive and that’s what’s critical. And it doesn’t matter that some of the people who are related to me are not supportive of my bipolar disorder struggles. Because you can’t control who you’re related to and the relationships you were born with will not always work out.

Cherish Any Support in Mental Illness

In fact, those that care about you might be professionals – your healthcare team. Certainly a therapist and psychiatrist are quite capable of caring for a mentally ill person’s welfare. Their support of your mental illness journey should be cherished as well as the support offered by your loved ones.

Because placing too much value on one person (or people)’s ability to support you is not a good idea. When you tie your reality to this – you give that person control over your perspective and that’s not healthy. You control your perspective and survival irrespective of what some other person does.

Yes, it would be great if the people we cared about radically accepted us and supported us and our mental illnesses but that just doesn’t always happen. What you need to know is that you can survive, and thrive, anyway. You have it within yourself to stand because others (such as everyone else with bipolar disorder) will always be with you. No matter what.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

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