Today I have the privilege of sharing Yasmin’s story about the impact of her sister’s mental illness on her family.
Yasmin’s story reinforces the idea that mental illness does not exist in a cocoon. Mental illness is very much family disease because your loved one’s struggles impact the entire family.
Yasmin’s cultural and religious background add another dimension to her story. Her Muslim faith and cultural ideology influence her family’s approach to supporting her sister.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the impact of mental illness on a family through Yasmin’s eyes.
Hi, I’m Yasmin, an Egyptian-American Muslim born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I love watching movies, hanging out with my friends, writing, and listening to music and podcasts. I also love traveling, meeting new people, and stepping out of my comfort zone.
I am currently taking a gap year after graduating high school in 2020 and plan to attend college in the fall. I am passionate about mental health and a variety of social justice issues. My dream is to become a psychiatrist, so I can help people dealing with mental health issues and help end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Identifying the Problem
I always knew that something was going on with my sister, but I never really knew what it was. When I was about 14, she started going to therapy. I found out about her diagnosis a bit late, mainly because I was still young.
When we were younger, we spent two years in Egypt with our extended family. Prior to our arrival in Egypt, my sister was always extremely outgoing, cheerful, and filled with excitement.
During our stay in Egypt, there were many issues that occurred that took a huge toll on her personality and mental health. The events affected her more than me and my brother, mainly because she is the oldest, and she was more aware of what was happening and has a better recollection.
When we came back to America, she became withdrawn and would always isolate herself. She was often disconnected from everyone and would spend hours or even days alone in her room without speaking to anyone.
She was always shy and quiet, but sometimes she would become extremely hostile and aggressive. We could never really predict how she would feel or why she was feeling a certain way.
Seeking Professional Help
I wasn’t completely involved or aware of when my sister first sought help. The first time I remember knowing that she received professional help was when she saw a therapist near our home when she was in high school.
She saw a school psychologist for most of her time in college. She still sees a psychologist but has changed multiple times because it has been hard to find a therapist who is a good fit for her.
My sister was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. The diagnoses did not surprise her, but it made her question why she felt this way, and she often questioned why God had put her through these struggles.
My family has always been supportive, although sometimes it is hard for my parents to know exactly how to support her because they have no experience or knowledge of mental illness.
Her Sister’s Treatment Protocol
My sister has taken medication, although sometimes it worsened her symptoms or created other symptoms. She wanted to stop the medication because of the side effects, but the withdrawal was also extreme, so it was a lose-lose situation.
My sister currently does psychotherapy and is planning to do cognitive-behavioral therapy. She uses prayer as a form of therapy and to develop her relationship with God.
Islam recognizes mental illness as a real and valid problem that affects many people. They encourage us to seek help and to find cures for illnesses, including those that are not necessarily rooted in spirituality.
As Muslims, we believe that God doesn’t give us anything that we cannot bear, and we also believe that everything happens for a reason. These two mindsets are meant to help people struggling make sense of the difficulties they face.
My response to my sister’s mental illness has been equally balanced between encouragement and spirituality. I try my best to encourage her to seek help and work on herself. I am supportive and loving to help ensure that she gets better. My faith helps me cope with everything and be more hopeful that she will get better.
The Impact of Culture and Faith
I think culture played a large role in my sister’s ability to embrace professional help. Culturally, seeking professional help for mental illness is taboo, so it was hard for her to be open about it at first.
My sister’s faith has played two roles in her journey. It has helped her push through and get better, but sometimes it affects how she views the world, and she becomes resentful. She has resented God at times and questioned why she is being tested this way.
We believe that everything God gives us is a test that we can make it through, but my sister believes God has given her a test that she can’t bear. As a result, she is angry at God sometimes.
Despite this, she is still trying to build her relationship with God because it is important to her. She wants her relationship with God to guide her and help her through her struggles.
Impact on a Family
The hardest part about having someone in my family who struggles with mental illness is the uncertainty that accompanies it. With mental illness, it is difficult to know for sure how the other person is feeling or thinking at any point in the day.
It’s hard to know when they are struggling, and as a result, it makes it more difficult to help them. Sometimes it is a challenge to not feel guilty or blame yourself for not being able to help them or make them feel better, although I know it isn’t necessarily in my power to do that.
It is difficult to watch someone you cherish feel bad about themselves or say negative things about themselves and not being able to convince them that they are beautiful, amazing, and so much more.
Yasmin’s Life With Her Sister Today
Things have gotten worse for my sister over the past couple of months, so my family has been trying to make sure that someone is always with her. We watch over her to make sure she doesn’t feel too bad or overthink things.
We also try to do daily or weekly check-ins and ask her how she is feeling. Some weeks will pass by and everything will be great, and then suddenly one day things will be bad again, so it is a very sensitive time right now.
What You Should Know
I wish everyone knew how important it is to treat mentally ill people with kindness. Most of the time people are struggling silently, and although it might not seem like it, any negative experience can bring their world crashing down.
If you know anyone that is struggling with mental illness, please be supportive. Sometimes it might be hard, but that’s why it’s so important. You should always remind them you love them.
If someone you love has mental health concerns, I suggest that they reach out for professional help because every person’s struggle is unique, so they need a special solution.
If you only have one takeaway from Yasmin’s story, I hope it is that mental illness is a family issue. Someone you love can’t have mental illness without it having repercussions in your life.
The impact of mental illness on a family will be unique to the family’s dynamic. Some families may rally around their loved one, like Yasmin’s family has, or others may ostracize the person because of a lack of understanding about mental illness or because of cultural or religious ideology.
I hope this post encourages families to embrace the difficulties their loved one is facing, so they can be a positive force in that person’s recovery journey.
For more information on depression, read the National Institute of Mental Health’s informative article.
For more information on anxiety, read the National Institute of Mental Health’s informative article.