Stages of Dealing: Changing Emotions

The sudden burst of anger shook the entire household. Where did that come from? What triggered it?

It’s not your ill loved one ranting and raving; it is you.

Changing and conflicting emotions are not unusual when you are trying to cope with the overwhelming reality of mental illness in the family.  When you begin to realize your loved one has a chronic condition, when reality sets in, your mind and body will react.  That reaction is not always what you expect.

Your emotions can suddenly move from frustration to anger to resentment. Or, on another day, you will feel an overwhelming grief. (We will discuss grief in another post.) Other days you will feel great sympathy and compassion for your loved one, while you question your ability to cope with the symptoms. You come to a point where it seems too much to handle.

In many ways, this is a good thing, although it is definitely disconcerting. The upheaval of emotion comes when deep down you begin to accept the reality of the illness. Your mind and heart are confused, so they go off wildly on their own.

When the anger or the deep sadness hits suddenly, you may not know what to do or how to handle it. You may not recognize it is happening. You may question even your own sanity. Be assured it is normal. And, this too will pass as you learn more about your loved one’s disorder.

During these periods of shifting emotions, some people will question you – “Why do you put up with it?”  Advice offered by people, even counselors, who don’t have knowledge or understanding of mental illness can further distress you.

Learn all you can about your loved one’s illness. Find the support of other families who understand what you are going through. Don’t try to ride the waves of emotions alone.

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