When your loved one with mental illness tells you this, you panic. Your first instinct is to say they have to be on it. You might even digress to yelling the reasons why. Because you remember the last time your daughter went off her meds. She spent so much money and ended up in jail and it took her months to work out of all the issues. This scenario could work for any mental illness where medication is necessary to keep your loved one stable.
Take a deep breath and resist lecturing.
Instead, ask your daughter a question, with patience and compassion, ask her why she doesn’t want to take her medication. Allow her the grace to talk even if you’ve heard why one hundred times. Be patient. Be quiet. Nod. Make eye contact.
When she finishes, reflect back what she has said.
“Thank you for sharing your thoughts. So you feel as if you don’t need medication anymore, you are tired of taking it, you worry you won’t be as creative and don’t want to be tied to daily medication anymore. Do I have that right?”
Allow your loved one time to respond and make corrections. It’s important to be patient, and make sure your loved one feels heard.
Once she has confirmed that you have it about right, that you understand what she is saying you need to be even more patient to rebuild that trust. Learning how to communicate with a loved one takes some work. It’s not hard but the process represents a shift. Ask more questions. You can respond with something like below but I’m going to recommend you read a book, a good one, that helps you learn how to rebuild your relationship and increases chances your loved one will stay on medication.
“You expressed to me after that how humiliated and embarrassed you felt. It broke my heart to see you suffer so much. And I suffered, too. I also felt anger even though that’s not fair. That helplessness is devastating and I shout and overreact and have not respected your point of view and I want to hear that now so I will ask you more questions. And I’m going to start by asking you what it is that is important to you. What are your goals? ”
Sometimes they might have to go to the hospital first to get stable and then you have this conversation. But you need to feel it through their eyes and visa versa. What I want you to know is that it helps if you come from a place of compassion and understanding and the patience that goes with that. It’s tough. Education helps. You deserve that and your loved one does, too.
This is the book to get to learn to rebuild your loved ones relationship with you and inspire compliance. What you’ve done before has not worked. Why go down that same path? This book is recommended by NAMI, National Alliance of Mental Illness.