During my episodes of schizoaffective disorder, my parents frequently canceled plans with their friends due to my mental health. They didn’t know how to address this with their friends and eventually, they wound up telling some of them about my mental health. Years ago, this was a major problem for me and it was very anxiety-provoking.
In retrospect, I can understand how my parents didn’t want their friends to think they were avoiding them therefore they told some of them about my mental health. It was a new situation without any protocol. However, a part of me still disagrees with what they did. I was going through a really adverse time in my mental health. Along with this, I didn’t have any friends and I felt incredibly awkward any time I left the house in the town I had grown up in.
I felt my parents could have made up something or figured out a way to still connect with their friends. I was given an answer that this was the only way when there were many other ways this situation could have been resolved. At this point in my life, I can forgive them for the lack of skill they handled the situation with. However, at the time it was very damaging.
I found the whole situation crossed my boundaries and I didn’t talk to them for two to three weeks afterward. The illness was mine and my personal information belonged to me, and my parents hadn’t respected that. They never asked me who I wanted to know about the illness. There was an assumption of power and control over my life and my information. This very assumption had been a recurrent theme throughout my childhood and into my mid-twenties and this was a major component of my mental health struggles. My parents had constantly assumed they had the right to make decisions for me and when I was finally out on my own I didn’t have the ability to fully think for myself. I didn’t have agency or the ability to navigate the world and this was disabling and very distressing and amplified my symptoms.
Along with all the symptoms, fear, and social dysfunction that the illness was causing me I had to deal with stigma as well from people I had known my entire life. Knowing that other people knew about my mental health immediately caused me anxiety when I ran into people and just being out in public was difficult. People whom I had been close to now seemed distant and I felt I couldn’t connect to them. A big part of my mental health struggles has been lacking the ability to trust people and connect with them. During this time having my trust broken was damaging. This added to my loneliness and my unwillingness to leave the house and reach out to others because it seemed as if any time I’d leave the house there would be nothing good to gain from it.
A major component of working on my mental health has been developing autonomy and the dignity of risk. Being denied the right to make mistakes and learn from them was far more damaging than having the dignity to fail and deal with the consequences. During my late teens, I was in a state of mind where I was constantly searching outside of myself for answers because the implicit message throughout my childhood was that I had to defer to my parents or anyone other than myself for advice and that I wasn’t capable of making decisions on my own. This deferment caused me to outwardly search endlessly for answers that I needed to turn inwards for.
When I finally started turning inwards and asking myself how I felt, what I wanted, and how I wanted to live, my life began changing. When I was given the freedom to think and feel emotions for myself, independent of what others wanted me to do, I found I had far more clarity than I could have ever dreamt of having. One of the most major components of recovering and living a full life after my mental health episodes was developing as a person, developing independence, autonomy, and a belief system and morality of my own.
I know my parents were trying to help, but I realized I’m a different person than they are and I have to do what works for me. I realized that my truths don’t have to be their truths and everyone is free to explore and create their own truth without intersecting and acquiescing to anyone, while still being in good rapport with each other. The liberties of having the dignity to fail and the dignity of risk pushed me away from them until I found independence and I was respected as an equal.