As Mental Illness Awareness Week comes to a close, I thought I would share some words that might help those around you as you deal with your illness. You can even print it out and give it to your loved ones.
Dear Loved One:
Being a parent/spouse/boyfriend or girlfriend/friend to someone who deals with mental health issues such as the ones I have (major depressive disorder, general anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and ADD) is never easy. Being a part of my life means taking on a different type of responsibility that would normally come with fully healthy person. If the illness came on after we met, that can come as a big surprise and create a lot of extra stress because of your lack of experience dealing with it.
I want you to know that love you. I am also extremely depressed, anxious and going through a bad time right now. You have a big effect on how I will deal with my illness. I would like to share with you some things you should know about, so we can fight together to help me get better.
- Love doesn’t cure all. You may wish that just because we have a good relationship that I should be happy all the time. But no, love is not enough.
- As a caretaker, your priority is to take care of yourself first. If you are exhausted, overly stressed or aren’t taking care of your own basic needs, you won’t be able to help take care of mine. Be strong in this and I’ll thank you later.
- Don’t do what you think I need. Ask me and I will tell you the best I can. I don’t give a shit if there are dishes in the sink or laundry needs to be put away. Yes, it is nice that you do that, but I would rather you wouldn’t roll your eyes at me when I cry and make sure that I don’t forget to take my meds.
- Do NOT, under any circumstances — even as a joke — tell me to just get over it. This is a complicated illness brought on by faulty brain chemistry and years of abuse. I want to get better a million times more than you do. Trust that with support, I will do my very best each and every day to improve.
- Don’t ever forget that each day may be different. Yesterday, I may have gotten a bit manic and cleaned/organized for hours. It may take me another two weeks before I can do that again.
- If I say I need alone time, please, please, please — do not take it personally. Most of what I need to do to get better is internal. If I don’t get enough time to withdraw into myself and figure things out, then it will take me that much longer to cycle back out again. And if we have kids, help me to hide it from them and try to get them out of the house when I am unable to do that.
- Do not ask me how long it will take before I am better again. I have no freaking idea.
- If you need to vent how hard it is, go ahead. It will be okay. Venting is different from anger though. Find your own support system and ways to deal with those negative feelings. Don’t bury them. You may even want your own therapist for a while to help you deal with what I am going through.
- Each episode of depression is different. One time, it may be helpful to veg on the couch and watch a bunch of romantic comedies so I laugh a lot. Other times, I may get hyper-focused on a computer game or in reading or in another hobby. At my worst, I may need to sit in my room, alone, in the dark, rocking back and forth crying. I might want to try all of these things. Make gentle suggestions, but if I let you know it isn’t helping, please listen. And don’t take it personally.
- You are going to feel helpless. You love me and it will drive you crazy that you can’t fix me. It’s a horrible feeling and I can’t take that away from you. But, I can tell you that even though you might think you aren’t doing a lot, if you are following the above advice — you are doing more than you can imagine. Thank you so much for reading.
Love from Me
Like I said, feel free to print or copy and paste into your Word program and adjust the phrasing to your particular situation. I hope you find it useful.
xoxo ~ Melissa