I’m so so so lucky to have a spouse who is supportive with my mental illness. He is kind and patient and understanding when I am not. He is willing to go through my struggles with me, not just watch me as I go through them alone. And he is not ashamed or embarrassed that is it a part of me. He believes it has made me a stronger human. I have always been able to do things on my own but having this person by my side has made things a hell of a lot better to deal with. Part of recovery is a great support system. There’s been periods where he has been my only support system, and did not waiver.
Anyway, I’ve been seeing lots of lists lately of what to do if your friend or spouse or whatever other kind of related person struggles with mental health issues. I thought I would make my own.
- Listen. That’s the key. Let them talk or cry or panic. Just listen. Don’t listen to respond, listen to HEAR. You don’t need to provide advice or tell them what they should do. Just lend an empathetic ear. It truly means the world when you can see a person is looking in your eyes and taking in everything you are saying.
- Please, do not try to fix things. This is the one that gets me the most. Don’t try to fix the mess we are in, most of the time we don’t even have a reason why we’re feeling a certain way. Bringing over tea or lending a hand around the house – those are fantastic. Those are great ways of helping. Think of it as similar to a physical health problem. You can’t fix a broken leg, but you can bring over a blanket :)
- Emphasize that you are there for that person. Yeah yeah, we know you said we could call anytime. But, as dumb as this sounds, make sure we know that you mean it. It means the world.
- Understand their illness. Read books, search the internet, ask about the illness. It really truly shows a person cares when they care enough to learn about what we are going through. Don’t be afraid to ask (gentle) questions. Everyone can be different, but I’d rather people ask questions about what I’m going through than be too afraid to ask and go around not understanding what is happening.
- Be patient. This is maybe the toughest for close family members/spouses and friends. It may take us awhile to recover, recuperate etc. But with gentle support, we will get there.