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Tame feelings of helplessness

“Letting go means releasing our hold on things, allowing them to appear as they are and not as we would like them to be.” -Nicole Bordeleau

Accompanying someone living with a mental health problem involves all kinds of emotions and feelings. One of the most difficult feelings we experience is that of helplessness. Sometimes, it can feel as if we have tried everything to help the person get better, put into practice the advice received, been patient… and still failed.

Whether it’s our parent, grandparent or partner who has a mental health problem, we want that person to feel good, accept care, follow their doctor’s or caregiver’s recommendations, eat properly and take part in activities. We also want to avoid relapses, spats, worsening of their condition, etc.

For some caregivers, as their loved one ages, changes in their symptoms may be difficult to understand. For example, for people living with schizophrenia, delusions or hallucinations tend to diminish with age, but difficulty maintaining social relationships, apathy or a tendency to be negative (which are characteristics of the illness), will often increase or become more frequent. This can be very frustrating for caregivers who are not well-informed.

Regardless of their age, one thing is central to helping someone with a mental health problem: you can’t control everything. No one member of the family will be able to cure their loved one or solve all their problems. This is where letting go becomes necessary. For Nicole Bordeleau, yoga and meditation instructor, author and speaker, “Letting go means releasing our hold on things, allowing them to appear as they are and not as we would like them to be.” This is not about giving up or throwing in the towel; it’s about taming our feelings of helplessness, accepting that certain things are outside of our control and realizing that everything doesn’t always happen as we would like it to. Instead of clinging to our negative emotions and striving to control everything, what if we could accept our lack of power over certain situations and focus our efforts on what works?

For example, if our loved one enjoys watching movies with us, and it calms and relaxes them, then that option is valuable in and of itself! Obviously, this doesn’t mean accepting the unacceptable. We should not allow a loved one who has become incapable of making decisions for themselves to become disorganized, despite the cumbersome steps required to demonstrate this incapacity. In this case, it is important to seek support. The same is also true in other situations where offering our help can be more difficult. Friends, other family members or community or specialized housing services can take over and provide support for those living with a mental illness. Putting all the weight on your shoulders can lead to resentment and exhaustion. By allowing the person with a mental illness to be in charge of the decisions and actions that concern them, to the extent of their abilities, and by setting up a support network around them, caregivers can find relief and concentrate on providing quality support to the person they are assisting.

Source : Marianne Cornu, Proche en tout temps

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