When you are living with someone with a Mental Illness the thought of entertaining family or friends can feel over whelming and very stressful, especially if they are due to stay a while.
This is particularly true if your loved one needs a certain routine, things in a particular place or done a certain way.
There are periods during the year which naturally lend themselves to having occasions where family or friends come to stay for a few nights or perhaps longer.
If you have children, childcare can be particularly challenging, and you may have your parents or in-laws staying with you to look after your children whilst you go to work.
It doesn’t matter how much you love your guests, when you have people under your roof if can be a very stressful time.
It maybe that they know about your loved one’s challenges and perhaps they don’t. Either way the extra pressure placed upon the family unit can be immense.
Here are some survival tactics.
If your loved one needs a certain structure prepare for how you will accommodate this with others in the house.
Do you need to plan for a certain timetable or having things in a particular place? For example, Perhaps allocating your guests a specified area of the house in which they can relax and have their own space would be helpful. During this time prepare your loved one for this area being out of bounds if untidiness upsets them.
Define the house rules. Etiquette dictates that when you are in someone else’s home you adopt their house rules. This is often easier said than done, particularly if its parents who are coming to stay.
Parents or In-Laws often bring their own structure and preferences with them. If this isn’t something you can accommodate then it is best to find a way to explain that under your roof the house rules need to be respected. Again, this is particularly important if your loved one’s illness is affected by changes to these rules.
Unfortunately, these conversations can create conflict, however the conflict may be preferable to the impact on your loved one’s wellbeing.
It may be easier to have these conversations on neutral ground rather than in your home.
Give and take or pick your battles
When there are more people living together than usual, there must be give and take. It is important to recognise when you should speak up and when to just let it go.
If you are in a state of stress the small things can start to bother you.
Try and recognise that these are small things and don’t try to address them, let them go if you can as they don’t matter. It’s the big things that compromise your family values and rules which you need to address.
If you try and address everything you will create conflict but more importantly you will exhaust yourself and end up becoming more stressed.
Get your own space and time to decompress
You still need to be a Rock to the person you love and meet the needs of your day to day life, so if it becomes too much when you have guests to stay; get your own space!
Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself and go for a walk, shut yourself in your bedroom and read, anything which gives you some time away and time to decompress.
The decompressing is essential for your own wellbeing and stress levels so don’t be afraid to do this. Most people will understand and may follow your example.
Do something together
If your loved one is able to get out of the house, then look to do an activity together. Visit a country house with large gardens. The feeling of space will be helpful for everyone’s wellbeing.
If they are unable to leave the house, perhaps the rest of you can go so that you can all get some time and space.
They think they know best
Okay so let’s deal with the elephant in the room quickly.
If it’s your partner who has a mental illness and it’s his or her parents who are coming to stay, they may feel that they know better.
They may not think you are doing enough, or the right things or they may even blame you for their child’s condition.
Please try not to let this get to you. Easier said than done I know.
Remember that each generation is different and has different ways of doing things. It’s only now that we have really started to talk about Mental Illness. For earlier generations it wasn’t really spoken about.
I know my parents didn’t talk about it and still have
difficulties in doing so. They often prefer to avoid the conversation all
together by changing the subject or walking away.
Alternatively, they may be looking for a reason for their child’s Mental Wellbeing and may be blaming themselves. Its not uncommon relieve that feeling of discomfort by deflecting how they feel onto someone else; you.
Parental roles often feel they can judge and give advice, that this is their role and indeed helpful. The challenge here is that this advice is given upon seeing only a small moment of your life and not the full picture.
You need to decide what to do with this advice. You can take it onboard (it could be helpful) or you can thank them and explain why that may not help.
The point is that they will do what they can with what they have, and they love their child also. It’s the same as you doing what you can with what you have.
Try and step back, take a deep breath and don’t feel judged, you know you are doing the best you can.
The power of Neutral Ground
If it’s too much at home then it can be very powerful to come out of that environment.
For example, if the purpose is to have some time together then look to have that time elsewhere.
Perhaps rent a house or better still goto a hotel. The trick is to have the ability to move to somewhere which isn’t where one party lives. For example:
Staying in a hotel means you have the space away from each other and meals are catered for. Each person can choose what they want to eat according to their own preferences. They can live how they want to live in their own hotel room and when you come together as a unit it is to relax and enjoy each other’s company without the pressure of being in someone’s home environment.
This isn’t always possible as it comes with additional cost and the ability to go away, however if it can happen and you want to spend time with family and friends it is by far the least stressful approach.
It’s not forever
If it all becomes too much, don’t forget they will be going home, it’s not forever and you are amazing!