Here's how you can support your metnally ill partner.
If there is one thing us crazy folks know, it’s that loving us is hard. Like any human, we need affection, attention, and love without qualification. However, unlike any human, we sometimes (read: often) need more than just the fundamentals of love. I know that I am more person than an average person, and as such, I ask for more than the average person.
Because I ask for more, some of the things I need are not things my partner/friends might typically consider as “needs.” I’d like to share a few of them with you.
Mentally ill folks are not all the same — there are a variety of psychiatric things that can be going on at any time — so this is by no means an exhaustive list. But it’s definitely a start.
1. Please don’t use my illness against me.
Even if, at times, it seems like (and may actually be) my mental illness is the root of my anger/frustration/bizarre behavior, please don’t use it as a weapon.
I know I am not normal. You do not need to remind me.
I know the drive to do this must be strong when I am driving you mad. It’s natural (and easy) to place blame on something subjective. Mental illness is often subjective to those who don’t suffer with it. Because it’s subjective for you, it’s easy to forget that it is not subjective for me.
Thank you for remembering that I am more than my diagnosis.
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2. Please don’t accuse me of not taking my meds.
Even if I am not taking my meds, please, please do not come at me with accusations.
If you suspect I am not compliant, the time to talk about it is not during a breakdown or argument. I won’t be receptive, and this will just be terribly frustrating for us both.
If I am a danger to myself or someone else, take me to a hospital.
Otherwise, coming at me with “DID YOU MISS A DOSE?” or “I THINK YOU NEED NEW MEDS!” is only going to hurt me.
You must know, I hate these meds. I hate the way they make me feel. I hate that they steal the manic part of me, the part of me I cherish the most. I hate taking them every day. I hate even going to the pharmacy to get them.
Please don’t use them as a tool to shame me.
3. Please encourage me to care for myself.
This especially applies to women/mothers. I forget that I am a person who has needs outside of just popping pills. Pills treat the problem and the symptoms of it, but pills do not treat my soul.
Care of the mentally ill should be holistic and include medication, therapy, and other wellness practices. I may forget that. Please remind me.
Remind me to sleep, to drink and eat, to do yoga and meditate. If we have children, offer to care for them so that I can attend to my own wellness every now and then.
I will forget. I am not always a good self-advocate.
4. Please take care of yourself.
I might not be capable of making sure you are cared for. It’s not that I don’t want you to feel nurtured, it’s just that sometimes I may only have the emotional energy to care for myself.
Sometimes I might not even have the emotional energy for that.
Please make sure that you eat, drink lots of water, take time to exercise or move your body in ways that might feel good. Please do things that are restorative for you.
5. Please know that I love and appreciate you dearly.
I may be selfishly caught up in my own inner turmoil. It may not even be selfish; it might just be a matter of survival.
I love you and appreciate you dearly. I need you, even if I don’t, or can’t say it.
6. Please do not parent me.
In my case personally, my parents did a lousy job of it. In essence, I raised myself, and I’m alive, which means I did okay at the time. I don’t need a parent now.
If you scold or direct me as a parent would, I will respond as a child would.
7. Please be aware than I already feel shitty.
I don’t want to be mentally ill. I don’t want to be a burden or the reason our relationship or family struggles for normalcy. Please don’t make me feel worse than I do.
8. If I am too much for you, please set me free.
I realize that I might be more than you thought I’d be. I know this might be harder than you expected.
I know you might have promised never to leave me.
But if you are incapable of loving me as I am, if my mere existence is more than you can handle, let me go.
You need to be free to enjoy a life of love and happiness, and I need to be released so that I can find someone for whom I am not too much.