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Why Are My Family in Denial About My Experiences?

Community Member
When I was in my teens, my mental health was considerably more destructive than it is now. My depression was overwhelming, I attempted suicide, formed a drug addiction and developed schizophreniform disorder. Ended up eventually dropping out of school (glad I did). I still have depression but it's nowhere near as bad as it was (no suicidal ideation, can function, more mindful etc), I've been completely sober for almost 4 1/2 years and, after extensive mindfulness practice, my schizophrenic experience subsided after around 5-6 months. I don't talk about it all very much because the past is the past and I'm a lot more concerned with the practice of living in the moment, but I still know it was one of the biggest battles of my life; yet for some reason, my mother and sister always deny it.

My mother even flat-out lies to extended family members when things about the past are referenced in relation to me. She even convinced me, when I was younger and in a fragile state, to lie to my extended family and friends about school because I would've been “harshly judged” and it would've “emotionally burdened” my grandparents.

I understand they’re in denial about my experiences, but why? Whenever, on odd occasion, I’ve had to re-explain certain things to either of them, it’s like talking to a brick wall. And trust me, it’s not a comprehension issue.

Note: they complain about things all the time, whereas I almost never complain about anything around them because I’m scared of sounding like them, and I’ve had fibromyalgia for years. I’m even feeling extremely insecure right now about sounding like I’m complaining here, I just have no one else to say this to. If I say a single thing to them I’m either treated as a hypochondriac by my mother or I'm only half-paid attention to by my sister.

I personally don’t think people should define themselves by their experiences and am very careful not to romanticise things, but these past experiences are still very important to me in retrospect, having played a big part in the development of my understanding of things both emotionally and philosophically. So I find this behaviour from my mother and sister to be very confusing and, if I’m being honest, a little hurtful and invalidating; especially since it’s coming from my family. The amount of courage it took for me to admit certain things to them in the past and they don’t even regard it sincerely. I’m not asking for a trophy, I’m just confused.

Why do you think they do this?
1 Reply 1

Summer Rose
Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi I Have No Idea

Welcome to beyondblue and thank you for sharing your story. Please know that you have arrived at a place of non-judgemental care and support.

I first want to congratulate you on the amazing job you have done to turn your life around. It sounds like you were very unwell and that you suffered terribly with depression. I am so sorry but, at the same time, very inspired by your story. I know it wasn't easy for you. Well done and please keep up the good work.

I can understand how frustrating and hurtful it must be for you when your mother and sister don't acknowledge your illness, your battles or your successes. I don't know them but would hazard a guess that somehow their attitude is related to stigma.

Perhaps your mum was worried that your extended family would find your mental health condition in some way threatening or that news of your illness would make other family members uncomfortable. And then, in turn, that you would face prejudicial attitudes, exclusion and discriminating behaviour from them. Perhaps in some way she was trying to protect you from harm.

It could also be that your mum was afraid the extended family would judge her. She might have worried that somehow people would think less of her as a person and a mother and treat her differently.

Of course this doesn't explain why your mum and sister personally don't acknowledge your illness behind closed doors. So, ask yourself this, Would mum or sister behave the way they do if you had battled cancer? If the answer in your mind is "no", then I think their issues are somehow wrapped up in stigma too. Sounds like they just want to block it out, sweep it under the carpet and pretend nothing happened.

Unfortunately this really isn't helpful to you. And, for the record, in my opinion inappropriate. You have done nothing wrong. You became unwell with an illness. Period. You deserve validation and support.

I believe it might help your recovery to work through this issue with your mum and sister. If you think you'd like to try, how would you feel about organising a family therapy session?

If you can't see this happening then you need to work on you. If they're not going to change, the only thing that can change is the way you react to them. You can learn to let your anger, hurt and frustration go by "re-framing" the issue to see that this is their issue, not yours.

Hope this makes sense. Happy to keep talking if it helps.

Kind thoughts to you