My mother is an amazing person. She cares for and loves me to the best of her abilities. However she is not perfect. In fact, she is not even my therapist.
Often times, I interact with my family as if they were my medical caregivers. When I self-harm, their confused and angry response terrifies me. Times when I need consoling, they might be warn out and unable to listen. The way my Aspergian brain works still bewilders and annoys them. Thus, I am left longing for therapy from people who (despite their love) do not have the training or energy to give me that.
My mother in particular has pointed out numerous times that she is not my therapist. Although I know that, turning to her is what I do in stress. That is probably fairly normal for a child to do. Families, at their best, support and love one another in times of joy and pain.
Yet, parents and siblings of people with health problems face more challenges than typical families. Mental, psychical, and emotional illnesses can create barriers and struggles. The people that you are most close to cannot be the primary care one receives. Doctors, therapists, nurses, and others are needed. This can be painful for everyone involved. Not having my family understand my thought process or – worse yet – able to handle my behavior is difficult. It makes me feel alone, bewildered, and afraid.
Family members should not be expected to be medical personal. After all, we would not think a mother could cure someone’s cancer or find the right glasses prescription. Why should they be able to calm a suicidal person daily or present the right coping skills? These might seem like simpler tasks, but they take great energy and education.
This is not to say that parents and siblings cannot help one to cope with their illness. Comforting, standing by one’s side, listening, even giving medication or other such support are all ways that family can caregive. Not being medical personals does not reduce their role in their loved one’s health and life.
The other important note in this is that medical personals are not family. No matter how close I felt to dietitians or therapists, I knew that they were not the same as my friends. These people see you for a set period of time instead of all day. There is not the same interaction or deep love. The relationship between patient and caregiver is important but cannot take the place of family.
Overall, the fact that my family cannot be my therapy team is hard for me to remember. When I desperately need comfort and no one knows how to calm me, the world seems to be falling apart. I need to realize that although my parents and siblings love me, they are not perfect or trained to assist me at all times. That does not diminish our bond. It simply means that I need to learn how to care for them by not expecting them to heal me.