Can’t Convince Grandma I’m Mentally Ill

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

about 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with both dysthymia with major depression, and post traumatic stress disorder. My mother left not long after. she was abusive and convinced my dad to be abusive. I spend most of my free time with my grandma, who lives about 25 miles away. since I am blind, I either get a taxi there or someone drives me. While talking with my grandmother sometimes, she acts like my mental health issues are nothing to worry about or be careful of. she is a wonderful person, yes, but she can be judgmental and opinionated, 2 things that almost always set me off. For example, she’s of the mind that you can get over dysthymia like she did with her major depressive episode. She does not seem to hear me when I try to explain what the doctors have told me, saying things like “what to hell do they know?” and claiming my mental health diagnoses are a “fashion in medicine”. I feel that she will understand my feelings, but I do not know how to talk to her about them. She really is the only family member who cares about how I feel. She has a friend who has dysthymia+mdd, and often complains about how negative this friend is when she’s not around. I wonder if she does this about me. when I ask her, she says no, but of course she would.
is there a way to make her realize I am sick and that no one is making it up, it’s not just going to go away or I’m just going to force my way out of it?

A: My guess is that your grandmother doesn’t accept talking about your diagnosis because she loves you and doesn’t want to think anything is wrong with you. You’ve said she is stubborn and opinionated. Yet you continue to argue with her. Why? Why is it so important to convince her that your are ill? Why not focus on the good relationship you apparently have with her and enjoy your time together? With all you’ve been through, you need comfortable time with someone who loves you a whole lot more than you need to win this argument.

Many people do recover from depression and PTSD. It takes time and attention but it can be done. It’s not about “forcing yourself.” It’s about taking care of yourself. Work on your mental health issues with your therapist. Read what you can about your diagnoses and figure out ways to support your own healing. Eat right, exercise, and find things to do that give you joy. Start and end each day by counting your blessings. It will help. Really.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Apr 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Can’t Convince Grandma I’m Mentally Ill. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/04/17/cant-convince-grandma-im-mentally-ill/