Learning to let go
Learning to accept change means learning to let go.
How to let go
You are probably familiar with the popular expression “letting go.” It refers to a form of surrendering control that we can use in different areas of our lives. This concept can be explained and applied in different ways. Therefore, it is important to understand and explore the avenues that can allow us to… let go!
What is letting go?
To fully understand the concept, you must understand that the opposite of letting go is taking control. However, when your loved one is dealing with a mental illness, your first instinct is to help them, even if it means forgetting about yourself. This may be a voluntary reaction, or it may be related to social, cultural or moral pressures.
From your point of view, your attitude is one of responsibility since you are “helping” your loved one to manage and organize their life, in light of the symptoms that they are having to deal with. Although the situation is demanding, it is also comforting in that you are in control. That being said, expressions like “I need to…” and “I have to…” may be part of your everyday vocabulary.
When considering events that concern your loved one, it is important that you distinguish between what you can control, what you can influence and what you can neither control nor influence. This first step is beneficial in helping you let go, which in turn helps keep you from burning yourself out. Because continuously and obsessively thinking about a problem is often inefficient and does not help solve it. However, if you take a step back from the problem, you may see solutions you had not previously thought of emerge.
What are different ways of letting go?
Here are a few ideas to get you started. You may also want to enlist the help of someone you trust. When considering the suggestions below, to get into the mindset of grasping for control, it may help to think of all the times your interventions with your loved one did not produce the desired results, thus leading to disappointment.
- Acknowledge the emotions you have about what is happening to you.
- Acknowledge the ineffectiveness of trying to control what you cannot change or influence.
- Acknowledge how much energy is wasted and how your well-being is affected by your actions.
- Be willing to give up the idea you were holding on to.
- Be willing to forgive yourself.
Letting go means that you may need to make changes to accept your limitations and uphold your values. To master this concept, you will have to give up some control over the other person without giving up your goals and objectives. Don’t forget that letting go is compatible with taking action, but it will sometimes involve taking different and adapted actions.
To illustrate this concept, imagine a fly trapped in your house. Seeing the light from the window, it rushes toward freedom but crashes into the glass. Although ineffective, it will repeat this strategy for hours until it eventually succumbs to exhaustion and death. Don’t be like the fly. Be open to trying new solutions in order to free yourself from what is holding you back.
Is it possible to take care of myself?
Like most support providers, you face many challenges and responsibilities that may cause you to forget to take care of yourself. The desire to see your loved one’s condition improve means that your generosity may come back to haunt you. As you probably know, neglecting yourself and taking on too much with your loved one has its limits and, above all, its consequences. So, take time to work through your own suffering and, even if it is difficult to do so, make taking care of yourself a priority.
It may be time for you to take a step back to acknowledge your limitations and set boundaries. Those lending support to their loved one with a mental illness can easily dwell on worst-case scenarios. These “what ifs” can lead to anxiety and high levels of concern. But you can take care of yourself by setting boundaries and finding ways to ease your anxiety. To do this, you will likely need help. Tell yourself that this is normal.
A few tips to help you feel better
- Clearly identify your needs and rank them in order of importance to you.
- Be clear about your expectations and make sure your loved one is aware of them.
- Listen to your loved one’s reactions and then voice your opinion.
- To lighten the mood, add some humour to your exchanges.
- Take a break from the situation. There are no quick fixes.
- Be sure to balance your time. Don’t neglect activities that bring you joy. You need them now more than ever.
- Do not take on unnecessary responsibilities. In doing so, you deprive the other person of learning new skills. Do not underestimate your loved one’s abilities.
- Learn to live with life’s ups and downs.
What is the key to well-being? This is a difficult question because there is no instruction manual. Like most people, you probably wish your days were longer so you could get more things done and solve more problems.
In this never-ending race, it is important to remember that you need time for yourself to rest and relax in order to find meaning in your life. Set aside time just for yourself and engage in activities you enjoy without your loved one around. Remember, the best way to help is to maintain balance in your own life.
How can I learn to live with the situation?
Learning to live with your loved one’s mental illness requires a very important adaptation process. Some will refer to it as a grieving process, others will talk about acceptance of the illness and resilience. No matter how you describe the process, it is important to find ways to cope with the situation as calmly as possible. As in dealing with any problem, certain steps will need to be taken before you find your comfort zone.
Mental illness usually begins in early adulthood. This means that you may have imagined what your loved one’s life would be like, regardless of your relationship with them. Many things will not be the same going forward.
Your feelings of discomfort are likely related to your apprehension about mental illness, your feelings of helplessness in seeing your loved one suffer, your grief over your loved one’s loss of enthusiasm for life, your sadness related to the dreams you had and the pride you felt for them and the instability taking place in your life. Know that these are normal reactions. During this painful situation, you must take care of yourself. You should not feel guilty. You have a right to be angry and sad.
Getting through it
You will experience a state of emotional shock where all sorts of questions will arise. Why me? Why my loved one? Why? You need answers to your questions.
At this stage, you will not believe what is happening to you. You may cling to the idea that everything will go back to the way it was before. You should, therefore, treat your reality as an ally rather than an enemy.
Be gentle with yourself, because in addition to being grief-stricken, you are probably placing unnecessary guilt on yourself and feeling like you are up against a huge challenge. Your suffering cannot be measured or compared. So don’t compare your approach to anyone else’s. It’s better to surround yourself with people who will offer support without judging you.
Rest assured that, with help, you will learn to navigate this challenging new reality. You will discover strengths you didn’t know you had and identify ways to regain balance through realistic expectations.
Things to remember
Living with another person’s mental illness is about taking a step back from the situation and incorporating new ways of taking care of yourself into your everyday life. Take care of yourself, because you won’t be able to help if your own physical and psychological health is in bad shape.
Source : L’Accolade santé mentale