Having a mental illness is one of the hardest things a person can go through. But imagine watching the person you love most in the world having panic attacks, being depressed and/or anxious. How does someone deal with that?
Trust & Communication
Your partner may be closed off at times and find it difficult to trust you, and this can really hurt. You might be thinking, “why won’t they confide in me? I haven’t done anything for them not to trust me”, and this is understandable. Unfortunately, though, many people with mental illnesses feel like a burden on the people around them and/or are afraid of seeming attention seeking. It helps to regularly tell your partner that you love and care for them, that they can trust you and rely on you. Always make them feel like the relationship is a safe space for them to share any worries.
It is Not Your fault
You may feel like asking your partner, “why am I not enough to make you happy?” or be hurt that they feel anxious around you, but you have to remember that it’s not necessarily your fault – just find out if your partner has any particular triggers that you might set off unknowingly. Feelings of anxiety and depression happen regardless of how many people love the sufferer. Even if they are happy with you, they may not *be* happy in themselves.
Also keep in mind any outside triggers that they might have; for example, feeling particularly anxious in crowds – this could include cinemas, shopping centres and supermarkets. If they start to panic, do your best to get them out of the situation as quickly but as calmly as possible (a bit like how they handle fire drills at school ; you want to get out quickly without panicking them more). You might have to explain to other people sometimes, too, and many people won’t understand. If your partner has anxiety they may want to avoid certain events, and though you should support them and be there for them, make sure you don’t isolate yourself in the process. Encourage, but don’t force them to go into social situations.
Take Care of You
Let them know, gently, if you are struggling, and what you need. Your needs are important too. You are allowed to be down sometimes as well, and allowed to lean on them for support. Remember you are not their therapist; you are not a professional and it is not your job to ‘cure’ them. You can merely make their illnesses easier to cope with and help them on their way to recovery.
It is heartbreaking if someone you love is harming themselves. Unfortunately, asking them to stop rarely ever works as it is addictive and your partner’s reasons for doing so may be deep-rooted. Try to remember that self harm is a coping mechanism; even if it is also harmful. Just try to support your partner, make sure they clean any wounds and encourage them to seek help from professionals. It may help you yourself to ask them why they self harm, to help you understand better. Is it a way of punishing theirself? Is it a way to show mental pain on the outside? Everyone self harms for different reasons, so don’t make assumptions. Additionally, there are many leaflets and helplines which offer support to the loved ones of those who self harm.
Learn Their Love Language
Different things make different people feel loved. Some people love being held when they feel down, while others don’t want to be touched at all when they feel that way. Ask your partner which they prefer, and try to respect that even if it hurts that they want to be left alone for a while. As for what to say when your partner is panicking, speak in a calm voice to try to relax them. Remind them that everything is going to be okay and they are not alone. If they are depressed, it is important that you make them feel wanted and needed as their self esteem could get extremely low; they could think you would be better off without them, for example. If you have a partner who has blacked out, just explain to them what happened and tell them they are safe now and nothing is wrong with them. Don’t feel bad if you sometimes get frustrated or don’t know what to do; the most important thing is just being there for them, even if you say nothing.
Nevertheless, people with mental illnesses are often the most empathetic, kind people you will ever meet. They will stand by you through your hard times as you have with theirs. They may have mental illnesses, but there is also so much more to them and it is possible to have an incredible relationship even if one or both of you have mental health issues.
Samaritans UK: 08457 90 90 90 (24hrs a day)
Anxiety UK: 08444 775 774 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm)
Relate (relationship advice): 0300 100 1234 (for information on their services)
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15-35.
Men’s Health Forum 24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Nightlife (emotional support to students -open all night)
Men Heal – for all men who suffer from depression/anxiety worldwide, and for women who know a man with a mental health issue
Crisis Call Center
800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week