Quarantine & Family Dysfunction

In a perfect world, we respond to crisises adaptively and eventually discover silver linings. Outwardly, most of us adjust to changing circumstances readily. Our internal experience is often a very different matter. For those of us in recovery, those who live with mental illness, and those who have survived trauma, change is something we tend to struggle with.

Uncertainty and loss are all too familiar for us. We may find ourselves resentful of having to experience further unknowns and temporary inconveniences. Some of us are faced with economic hardships (most of us have a lot of experience being broke). On top of everything else, we find ourselves stuck in many ways – not the least of which is meeting the needs of our families.

The time for a New Beginning

Staying home, whether self-imposed or by government ordered, offers us the opportunity to invest in family relations and enjoy more “quality time.” Even in the healthiest of families, cabin fever eventually sets in. For those of us in families that are struggling, quarantine may feel especially hard.

This is a time for conversation and comfort. If these have been absent or rare in our family, it’s all the more vital that we be genuine and embrace vulnerability. Pretending does not serve us. Changing the ways in which we relate to each other without expressing what we want to be different is unlikely to lead to any positive end.

So, if you’ve been struggling, start that conversation, but begin it with accountability and with a description of the change you’d like to see.

No matter how far we’ve come individually in our recovery, repairing damage to our families is very much a work in progress. It’s also among the greatest investments we can make.

As a therapist, I commonly find myself supporting one person at a time. My hope is always to involve my client’s partner and family members. Ideally, healing and growth are shared experiences, not just among our peers, but with the people we hurt the most. These are also the people who love us the most, even though addiction, mental health, and/or trauma have distanced us from one another.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by

Even in the healthiest of families, people grow apart. Connection that isn’t nurtured is diminished or even lost. We typically lead busy lives, with competing demands and high stress. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Ask to talk one on one and collectively. Share with your loved ones what you want them to understand. Express what you’re feeling. Ask for what you need.

This is the silver lining I wish for all of us. We’ve been through enough hell already. Life is a series of ongoing adjustments. As you do your part to reduce the spread of an epidemic, do all that you can to promote further growth and healing among those you love.