When you have a mental illness, it becomes a part of you. It affects you and eventually, it can affect your loved ones. Sometimes, it can affect your partner just as much as it affects you – but in different ways. I’ve written a little bit about my mental health journey here. But this post isn’t about living with a mental illness within yourself. It’s about living with a mental illness within your partner.
My husband does not have anxiety or depression. He is able to turn off his mind and relax. He is able to have rational, logical thoughts without these demons standing in his way. Now, of course, he gets anxious from time to time, but it doesn’t happen often and it’s usually warranted. With me, and with others who suffer from anxiety, those anxious thoughts can be perpetual and oftentimes, they appear for no reason at all. Even though my husband hasn’t dealt with the feelings and thoughts I have dealt with, he somehow knows how to love me through it and how to make me feel better.
Here are some ways to help your partner when they suffer from severe anxiety or depression.
- Remind them that you love them. Hearing that someone cares and loves them will give them a sense of security and safety.
- Hug them or hold their hand or just put your arm around them. Physical contact from a loved one can have a huge positive impact. For me, it calms me down and makes me feel like I am not going through this alone.
- Let them sit in silence, or let them talk it out. Take their lead. Do not force them to talk or force them to be quiet. If they want to talk, listen. Don’t judge and don’t tell them to relax or calm down. What helps me is making a plan. My husband will ask what I want the outcome of the situation to be, and then we talk through a plan together. He is gentle yet firm and keeps me focused on finding a solution, rather than dwelling on the problem. Now, if they don’t want to talk, that’s okay. Don’t make them. Sit there in silence with them.
- Do not show your frustration. We get it. Loving someone with persistent anxiety or depression can be extremely frustrating for someone who doesn’t understand the peril that it puts your mind through. It’s okay to feel frustrated, but please do not show it. It will not help ease your partner’s pain. It will make them feel worse and in turn, frustrate you even more.
- Put on a distraction. Put on a movie, television show, or music that your partner loves. My husband will say “let’s watch some Disney videos” when I get anxious and he puts on YouTube videos of our favorite vloggers in Walt Disney World (our go-to is usually TimTracker or HappiestVlogs)
- Know when they want to be alone. Sometimes, I get into moods where I need to be alone with my thoughts so I can write. It’s not personal to you, it’s just something they need to do. Some alone “me” time can be good for your partner and can leave them with a clear mind.
- Don’t take it personally. Loving someone with a mental illness can be hard, and your partner recognizes that. They see that and they love you more for it. Many times, my anxiety or depression has nothing to do with my husband, but I still need some time alone. And that’s okay, because we all need to do what we need to do in order to heal and get better.
Our partners loves us for who we are, anxiety, depression, mental illness, and all. It does not define us, it just adds to who we are. But as a whole, we are so much more than our mental illness. We are strong, capable, funny, witty, and so many other things. But most of all, we are loved. And sometimes, that is the hardest thing to remember.
But it is the most important thing to remember. You. Are Loved.