It’s hard to live with a mental illness. It’s lonely and painful. But we don’t often look at it from the other side of the coin. We so often talk about raising awareness and getting rid of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, we fail to look at those around us who love and support us.
I wanted to offer some advice for those who don’t have a mental illness, but for those of you out there who are have a loved one with a mental illness.
Probably the most obvious advice but sometimes…it’s not. Don’t be on top of your loved one every second asking if they need something, need to talk, are depressed, etc. But when they need you, be there. Support them, love them, nurture them. Ask if they need to talk and if they say, “no”, sometimes it’s best to ask: “Do you need space or are you just pushing me away? Will we talk later?”
Don’t take everything personally.
This one can be hard. For my fiance and I it is because he also has depression, while not as severe as I do, it’s still there. It’s important to remember that your loved one isn’t being mean, angry, sad, hurtful toward you on purpose. Sometimes it’s all they can do, the only way they can communicate is to yell or shut you out. Sometimes, it will inconvience your life but remember they aren’t doing it on purpose to ruin your life or hurt you.
A lot of people don’t understand mental illnesses unless it’s happening to them. I can’t give advice to really comprehend what it’s like to be in the shoes of someone with a mental illness, but you can educate yourself. Read books, talk to your loved ones therapist and ask for information, recommendations and advice.
Make sure they have the help they need.
Some people with depression (or other mental illnesses) will refuse help. I know personally, as much as I said the past 3 years to my fiance, “I need help. Why won’t anyone help me?” I wasn’t willing to actually get the help I so desperately needed and wanted. Sometimes you need to pick up the phone and make that appointment, and then drive and sit in the office with them to get the ball rolling.
Take time for self care.
Yes. One of the most important things is to take care of yourself as well. It can be so consuming to support someone with a mental illness but you won’t be any help to them if you break down too from stress or lack of alone time. Depending on your and your loved ones situation, you may need to ask a friend over to sit with them while you go out for an hour or two and go to the bookstore, for a walk or just out to lunch alone. Don’t neglect your own health and self care.
Having a mental illnesses affects more than just the person suffering. While you are immersed in the disease, you feel so lonely even when your loved ones are around. It’s not easy to be the one with the mental illness and it’s not easy to be the one loving and supporting the person with the mental illness. But these are real and I hope my advice can offer a little support to you out there who need it.
Do you, or a loved one need more help? I’m offering mentoring sessions to help get you on the path to recovery. Go here to read more in and get in touch. I’m also here to help those who are supporting someone with a mental illness if they need to talk.