Do you love someone with a mental illness? How do you cope with their episodes?
Let's introduce you to Marcus.
Marcus is a remarkable father who worries about his youngest son. He finds that his mind is constantly filled with all of the terrible things that could happen to his son. These things include swallowing something he shouldn't, running in front of a car, or breaking an arm on the playground.
Marcus is often exhausted and on edge. It's almost impossible to relax. He occasionally bursts into tears or raises his voice. His family feels the impact of his anxiety. His wife feels that Marcus regularly criticizes her parenting and does not trust her to look after he own child.
Everyone in the family knows Marcus loves his kids and his wife. Still, the family suffers overall and struggles to have compassion for his anxiety. Sometimes it feels like a cancer is growing in relationships at home.
What can you do if someone you love has a mental illness and you find it wearing you down?
Learning to support a loved one with a mental illness is a laborious and slow process. Supporting a loved one begins with learning to separate them from their illness. It is a process of asking, "Is this Marcus speaking, or is this his anxiety?"
There will be times in supporting a loved one when you will struggle, lose your patience, and feel angry or frustrated about your situation. As you learn to cope and live with them, be careful not to let their mental illness chip away at your love for them. In spite of the challenges, try to maintain the compassion and empathy you have for them.
It is okay to get help for yourself and to make your mental health a priority
Seek therapy for yourself so that you have support and can learn strategies to hold boundaries with your loved one. There may be times when you need to walk away from the situation or the person. It can be difficult to do, but it's necessary for you to maintain your own mental health. It's important to remember that you have rights and you don't need to be a doormat. You deserve to be respected and to have someone in your life who treats you with respect. For example, if your loved one constantly interrupts you, you can tell them that it's important to give them a chance to speak, but that you don't deserve to be interrupted and that you won't tolerate it. Similarly, if your family is making jokes about you, you can tell them that you appreciate their sense of humor, but that it's not okay to joke about your mental health.
Ultimately, it is important to stand up for yourself and to be an advocate for your own mental health. Set boundaries and let them know that mental health is a critical topic that should not be taken lightly. You can make a difference in the lives of your family and yourself by advocating for your own mental health.