Dealing With the (Possible) Inevitable: Difficult & Unsupportive Family

My last post talked about me forgiving my mother for everything that happened growing up. Someone brought up trying to do something similar with their family, so I thought it would be good to write about dealing with unsupportive or difficult family members.

It’s unfortunate, but a lot of us have faced the consequence of losing some level of support from family members because of a mental illness, a bad decision, or almost anything else. While having Borderline Personality Disorder hasn’t changed some of my family members’ thoughts of me, it’s made others in my family cringe, and others think of me as more “messed up” than they originally thought.  It hurts and I’ve had to choose to let go of a lot of contacts because of the state I’m in. But the good news is I’ve survived it and I have something to take out of the experience: tips to cope.

These are tips that have worked well for me over the past several years. It hasn’t been an exact science, but they’ve put me over huge hurdles I wouldn’t have been able to surmount had it not been for them.

  1. Accept that it’s not your fault or your responsibility for the way your family member(s) act. Everyone is responsible for controlling his or her own actions. You didn’t choose to have your family member(s) not support you – those individual people chose to not support you. This is extremely important to realize and once you do, everything becomes easier.
  2. If you want to break away from the members that don’t support you, do it slowly. Chances are that the family members you’re trying to get away from are people that are extremely close to you and have been in your life for a significant period of time. If so, you need to adjust to not having them around you or knowing what your daily business is. Number 4 goes hand-in-hand with this.
  3. If you don’t want to break away from family, slowly transition to the relationship you want to instead. For example, if you go from gushing every detail about your life to your mom to just simply asking what the weather is like and go on your way, you won’t get the relationship you want. You’ll circle in a loop that’s similar to the cycle of abuse – tension, breaking point, reconciliation, and the calm. You’ll feel anxious about not contacting this person, you’ll break what you’re trying to do, you’ll start to feel better having talked to them, and then you’ll be content not talking to them. It’s a cycle that will be hard to get out of and you’ll only be hurting yourself.
  4. In some cases, get physically away from the difficult and unsupportive people. For me, not living in the same house as my mother when I turned 19 helped me transition a lot easier. It made the difference between living normally and becoming suicidal. Also, it saves you from any further harm if you’re being abused and controlled (in which case you need to leave as soon as possible).
  5. Know what your limits and rules are and stick to them. It doesn’t do you any good if you try to remove yourself from an unsupportive network, only to relapse and go back to it. Discover what your triggers are, what you can/can’t handle, and what your conditions for a relationship are and then proceed to get what you want.
  6. Discover other support systems through friends, other family members, co-workers, doctors, church congregations, etc. You need a support system and that’s why you’re trying to get away from the system that’s not supporting you. Discover what helps keep you going. There’s a multitude of options available to you.
  7. Heal yourself. If you make the transition of cutting off these family members, you will most likely feel a lot of emotional pain because these family members are close to you. Time is really the best healer in these situations, but find other ways to heal. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Read an uplifting book. Treat yourself to a full body massage.

I hope these tips help you get rid of any toxicity in your life. These tips can also be applied to friends or any other kind of support system that’s not helping support you. The good thing about them also is that they’re not time sensitive.

Just be patient with yourself. You deserve it.

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