Friends and Familys’ Inability To Cope With Your Mental Illness


Before my Complex PTSD and Trauma was triggered watching Leigh Sales interview Cardinal George Pell on the 7.30 Report on the Royal Commission in 2012 where he said “the Catholic Church wasn’t the only cab off the rank with child abuse !”, I had a fulfilled life, was happy working in our own business with four happy children, two at University, one doing the HSC, one in the first year of high school and in a very happy marriage. Life was good and with those words, my world came crumbling down and I descended into oblivion. My life as I knew it was snatched from me and it is only the love and strength of my marriage that has remained. Friends bar one have not coped. They have gradually fallen by the wayside one by one. It’s tragic, sad and a sad indictment on the understanding of mental illness in our society. The SANE Organisation conducted a surveyed which concluded “Having a mental illness can make it harder to maintain relationships for a variety of reasons. Stigma and misunderstanding in the community about mental illness can mean people are reluctant to engage with those affected. The minute someone knows you have a mental illness, you are treated differently”. SANE

It hurts really badly that friends you have supported through thick and thin cannot support you. Cannot visit you in the clinic, visit you at home. Accept that, yes, you have tried to commit suicide but it does not mean you do not love your family any less. Why can they not educate themselves about your illness like you did about their breast cancer? Why can they not drive you to a psychiatrist appointment like you drove them to a chemotherapy appointment? Cannot do coffee this week? Suddenly it has been five weeks. Then you realise you have not seen them for five months. Dinner party invitations reduce and are then not non-existent. The phone stops ringing. Has stopped. Except for one loyal beautiful friend who has not given us up and stays in touch all the time and we have wonderful normal time with her and is invaluable to our family. We need the support but we also need the normalcy of her life and want to know what is happening for her, her husband and children. We cherish that. So if you have a friend going through mental illness involve her/him in your life. It is the best support you can give. Do not be afraid of their illness. It is not contagious !!!

Yesterday was yet another reminder of the stigma of mental health in our family. My husband’s family could not cope with my Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Unfortunately, with those disorders for me come self-harm and suicide attempts so as you can understand my children and husband need support and his family have provided none instead blaming me for my condition believing I am selfish. They are of the conviction that I am to blame for what has happened to me and my condition. They have provided no understanding even though Complex PTSD and DID has been explained to them and the fact that I was abused as a child.

Yet another Christmas passed without hearing from them or seeing them. We have given up trying to contact them. It is futile. The ball is in their court. It wasn’t doing us any good only harm, hurting my husband each time he had contact with his sister when he realised how little understanding she had of our situation. It cut deeply that she could not offer kindness to our children. We are reminded of this every Christmas and can’t escape it as Christmas is so much about family and togetherness.


  1. That sounds so emotional. Christmas will br over soon, start fresh for 2018. It is so difficult when people especially family members do not inderstand.

  2. erin, I know it hurts. but you have the love of your husband, he cares, you care about him too, your love will conquer, i’m just sorry your family cant be supportive. xxx

  3. Erin ~ As I read your story my heart broke for you, your husband and your children. All of you have said or done no harm- to anyone, at all, yet because of the weakness, denial, and/or inability within others and void of inner strength to educate themselves, so that your family can move beyond this- at least for the next generation- your children’s generation, your family still has to endure this. I have been accused of being too empathic at times and I guess that is what prompted me to comment. You are a tremendously strong person and you are very blessed to have your husband and your children. Together you are weathering the holiday seasons, and I hope you all find strength in each other. Many have trouble finding one or two, that will stand the test of time with them. I truly pray that all people begin to look outside of themselves more and look around to see where they can make a positive difference – and it can all start with reaching out and helping someone, in some way, somehow. Let’s all work to really have better quality of character- as human beings, so our hearts are softer to the people who deserve gentle kindness- to the people who have already experienced and lived through the unimaginable- they deserve a world where all cruelty is behind them.
    Erin, thank you for sharing your story. It truly does help me feel like I am not alone. I- my mental illness- is said to be to blame for the holidays being ruined- because I wanted to keep to myself and not bother anyone I guess is what is why. Not too sure because I am having cognitive/comprehension problems along with everything else so unsure.

    This is my first visit to your site and the first article I chose to read. I This is my first visit to your site and the first article I chose to read. I am 47 yrs old and began a downward spiral in Aug. The severity of it is leading to disability retirement after 20 years from a career I have always imagined lasting at least another 10-15 years.

    Initially, after going to several doctors- neurosurgeons as well, many tests seem to point vaguely point in a few directions (even brain MRI discovered Chiari Malformation I) however it wasn’t until the extensive neuropsychological testing did the real root of alot come out. Denial is SO strong- that the neuropsychologist told me I needed to explore treatment for Stockholm syndrome in early Nov and I just remembered it TODAY!
    I began googling, found writings you have written – I called my sister in Boston, she’s now researching (said omg- makes total sense!) and I am not only bookmarking pages but heading into a direction of addressing this. My emotionally abusive father is still in my life but I began distancing myself a few weeks ago- which added to holiday “problems “. I have to take care of myself now. Trying to care for him led me to my current mental state and disability retirement at 47. Him or me. He would pick himself. I have to pick me.
    Thank you so much for tolerating my ramblings. Part of my current mental challenges, that, believe it or not, I continue to work on.
    I discovered you while reading an article/ guest blog you wrote on

    • Thank you for taking the trouble to comment and for opening up so candidly. That can’t have been easy. Like me you haven’t travelled an easy road. I hope you found the article on Stockholm Syndrome useful. I will be doing a podcast with Surviving my Pad in February so maybe you will find that interesting. I do hope you find distancing yourself from your father helpful. It won’t be easy but sounds necessary. Be brave and be the strong woman you know you can be. Stay in touch. I’m here any time you want to correspond. All the best Erin

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