Questions about mental health

Couple-arguingMental health expert Camishe Nunley, LMHC CTS, provides answers to readers’ questions about mental health Each month, Hope for Women will answer your questions concerning mental health. We are always happy to hear from you, so please send your inquiries our way. While this column utilizes the opinions of a mental health expert, it in no way takes the place of mental health counseling.

This month, mental health expert Camishe Nunley answers some of your most commonly asked questions and concerns.

I just discovered my child using marijuana, what do I do?

First off let me say that no one - regardless of race, socioeconomic status, nor age - is immune to the disease of addiction. When you suspect your child might be using drugs, the faster you can jump in and be authoritative, decisive and strong, the better. You have to be like steel with this disease. When using alcohol or other drugs on a regular basis, kids can be incredibly manipulative and the addiction will inspire your child to lie to your face. The way this disease enables children to shift blame around to fault you can be unbelievable. The become masters of deception to protect their ability to continue using their drug of choice. Lying, deceit, cheating and dishonesty are part and parcel of this disease—not because the addicted person is a liar or a cheat by nature, but because the addicted brain needs drugs in order to function “normally.” Lying is one way to escape detection. Remember: for an addicted person, the poison - by which I mean withdrawal - is the antidote. What hurts the brain also makes the brain feel better. What hurts us in the short run heals us in the long run.

My spouse and I have trouble communicating so we just avoid each other when there is conflict, is this healthy?

It's important to understand there is conflict in every relationship, therefore understanding how you deal with conflict on a personal level is the first key piece of knowledge in approaching conflict with your spouse. In a healthy relationship, communication is key. When communication is effective, one can understand their partner better and make the relationship stronger. When a couple can resolve conflicts successfully, a healthy, mature relationship is the natural result.

While conflict is normal, it can also be a sign that parts of a relationship aren’t working. If conflict is based on which movie to see, what friends to hang out with or who should do the dishes, then using the tips below may help resolve these arguments in a healthy way:

Set Boundaries. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect — even during an argument. If your partner curses at you, calls you names or ridicules you, tell them to stop. If they don’t, walk away and tell them that you don’t want to continue arguing until it can be done with respect and consideration for your feelings.

Find the Real Issue. Typically, arguments happen when one partner’s wants are not being met. Try to get to the heart of the matter. If your partner seems needy, maybe they are just feeling insecure and need your encouragement. If you’re angry that your partner isn’t taking out the trash, maybe you’re really upset because you feel like you do all the work around the house. Learn to talk about the real issue so you can avoid constant fighting.

Agree to Disagree. If you and your partner can’t resolve an issue, sometimes it’s best to drop it. You can’t agree on everything, so focus on what matters. If the issue is too important for you to drop and you can’t agree to disagree, then maybe you’re not really compatible.

Compromise When Possible. Easy to say but hard to do, compromising is a major part of conflict resolution and any successful relationship. So your partner wants Chinese food and you want Indian? Compromise and get Chinese tonight, but Indian next time you eat out. Find a middle ground that can allow both of you to feel satisfied with the outcome.

Consider Everything. Is this issue really important? Does it change how the two of you feel about each other? Are you compromising your beliefs or morals? If yes, it’s important that you really stress your position. If not, maybe this is a time for compromise. Also, consider your partner’s arguments. Why are they upset? What does the issue look like from their point of view? Is it unusual for your partner to get this upset? Does your partner usually compromise? Are you being inconsiderate? All of these questions can help you understand the perspective of your spouse or significant other; sometimes, just understanding the other person’s point of view may help resolve the issue at hand.

While conflict is normal, your arguments shouldn’t turn into personal attacks and neither partner should try to lower the other person’s self-esteem. If you can’t express yourself without fear of retaliation, you may be experiencing abuse. Learn more about verbal abuse and how to draw the line between it and normal disagreements.