When someone is struggling every day because of their inability to maintain employment, relationships, or to accomplish many daily tasks most of us don’t give a second thought about. Maintaining self-esteem in mental illness is a daily obstacle when surrounded by others who are going to work, socializing, shopping, going out to eat, etc., constantly reminding the mentally ill of their less than ideal circumstances.
Even when a mental illness has been properly treated, the majority of those with mental disorders are cut off from predictable, satisfying, and fulfilling activities that make life meaningful.
Maintaining self-esteem in mental illness
The lack of flow in a person’s life with a mental disorder threatens their mental well-being, causing them to feel the need to protect their “core-selves” in order to survive living life. Maintaining self-esteem in mental illness generally becomes the main focus as they desire to return to the life they once had.
Behaviors of the mentally ill often don’t make sense
Many behaviors of people with mental illness don’t make sense. When they refuse medications or reject family and community support, it is difficult to understand. These adverse reactions are often related to their struggle to maintain a portion of dignity and self-respect in the face of stigma, and lack of success. Those who are mentally ill are simply trying to feel safe by protecting their self-esteem and self-worth.
Maintaining self-esteem in mental illness by using defensive coping strategies.
Here are defensive coping strategies those with mental disorders commonly use striving to maintain self-esteem.
|Controlling/Manipulation||Anger and attack||Rejection of friends and family|
|Blaming others||Drug and alcohol abuse||Doing nothing|
|Resistance to change||Refusing services||Denial|
|Running away||Refusing medication||Quitting a job|
|Relapse||Abusive criticism of others||Sleeping|
|“I don’t want to talk about it”||Defensiveness|
Wow, that is a long list! I found it interesting that it didn’t matter if a loved one had been diagnosed with depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, bipolar II disorder, or schizophrenia, everyone in the class specified their loved one was employing most if not all the defensive coping strategies striving to preserve their self-esteem.
Coping strategies also used to feel safe
Because of confused thinking patterns, maintaining self-esteem in mental illness is “thought-to-be” accomplished by implementing defensive coping strategies striving to protect their fragile “inner-selves” from further damage and to help them feel safer.
Feel left behind along with a loss of self-control and self-reliance
Anyone who has lived with someone who is mentally ill understands how difficult it is to live with these defensive coping strategies from morning till night. I recognize those with mental illness feel they have been left behind while they are trying to climb out of the hole they are stuck in. They feel a loss of self-control and self-reliance which is scary.
LOTS of Empathy and Love
“Empathy is the intimate comprehension of another person’s thoughts and feelings, without imposing our own judgment or expectations.”- NAMI Family to Family, 2013, pg. 7.11
The mentally ill need a tremendous amount of empathy and love which they may reject sometimes. I try to compliment and thank my son, Darrell, often. He usually responds positively to these affirmations. The more difficult it is to love a person, the more desperate they are for love. Maintaining self-esteem in mental illness is more probable if treated with sincere love and empathy. I wrote a complimentary blog post about practices to attain emotional empathy if you would like to read it.
Coping Tips Living with Mentally ILL by a Mother
I also shared some other coping tips in a previous blog that I have found helpful.
I wrote this blog after attending and then paraphrasing materials from Class 7. – NAMI, Family to Family, 2013, pg. 7.11-7.12
Featured top photo by John Sting