Being in a relationship with someone you love wholeheartedly can be a beautiful albeit complicated experience. The perils of daily life come in the way and sometimes even the complications of how each person wants to live his/her life are tough to manoeuvre. All this increases multifold when a partner is suffering from a mental illness. The problem we face sometimes is lack of understanding because we haven't been through a similar experience or sometimes even that in taking care of the other person we forget to look after our own needs.
These days, times are tough and there's no denying that. Even people who don't have a history of mental illness are feeling anxious so you can only imagine what it's doing to people who are prone to that genetically or chemically.
From listening intently to assist them in seeking help, here are some things you can do to support your partner who is struggling with their mental health.
The thing with mental illness is that it may slightly differ from person to person. Even someone with the exact same diagnosis can have different symptoms and different coping mechanisms. With depression, for example, some people may sleep a whole lot more while others can suffer from insomnia. Some can throw themselves into work while others may not have the energy to even get out of bed. Hence, understanding your partner's diagnosis and their personal experiences are essential.
This can help you when you're trying to deal with it together because it'll help you cater to their needs in the best way that they need it. You will also be able to understand some of what is going on in their head. For example, if your partner has a generalised anxiety disorder, experts believe that it works better to reassure them that things will turn out okay even if their mind creates situations that are out of control for them.
There are many things that we aren't equipped with understanding or dealing with simply because we haven't been trained to do so. Encouraging your partner to seek professional help can be beneficial for the individual as well as your relationship. Psychiatrist or therapist whichever the person is more inclined towards can be a great starting point on the road to recovery.
Probably the best thing you can do as a partner would be to listen to your loved one in an effort to understand their experiences. Don't assume you know what someone else is feeling or going through because more often than not, understanding that a mind is a complex place and how a person reacts to a certain thing has many layers to it. Listening to personal experiences will give you a better understanding of their perspectives and provide effective support.
Most of the time mental illness and its symptoms can be all-consuming. However, to keep your relationship healthy it's important to work on your relationship if the mental illness wasn't a factor as well. Spend time together, express love and admiration for each other, have open and honest communication. Many couples benefit from seeing a family therapist, so they can discuss matters with the guidance of a trusted professional.
Practicing self-care is essential in all cases but when you're a partner of someone suffering from a mental illness, then your own self-care routine can slip as you potentially take on the greater responsibility of household and other chores. It's important to look after yourself- sleep well, eat healthy, workout and relax.
If you think it's all getting too much, seeking professional help may be a great way to go. One thing to remember is that therapy isn't for only those who have a mental illness, it's for anyone who just wants to talk and sort things out in their head.
Daily exercise and having a hygienic sleep cycle has proved to be key when tackling mental illness. If your partner is refusing to get out of bed, suggesting a ten-minute walk in the park can also prove helpful. It can also be a fun way to spend time together. You can even suggest some relaxing techniques like meditating or taking an art class together if you think it'll work for them.
One thing to remember though is that it isn't your job to fix them. You are there to support them but you can't possibly put together pieces for them. Set up boundaries for yourself so that it doesn't lead to an unhealthy codependent relationship. You want to be supportive and help them towards helping themselves, not doing the work yourself.
Be safe, stay healthy guys!