Supporting Mental Health
May is mental health awareness month and this years specific push is all about body image.
I don’t have anything on that topic to write about but I’d urge everyone to go check out the writings of my good friend Emma, she’s much better at talking about all this kind of stuff than I am!
I didn’t want to let the topic go by completely though as I feel
strongly that talking about all aspects of mental health is super important. For everyone, not just people who may be struggling.
What I wanted to talk about today is the other side. The husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, brothers, sisters, parents and kids of people suffering from mental health problems.
I’ve struggled with how to broach this without sounding douchy. It would be very easy to read something from this perspective as trying to downplay the person who is actually suffering or to sound like I’m trying to garner sympathy for the other party. I assure you, that is not my intent.
I also want to preemptively apologise of some of my vernacular isn’t exactly right; I don’t write about this sort of thing very often and I don’t mean to offend or cause umbrage with anything I say.
One last disclaimer; everything I write about is from my personal experience and perspective and not indicative of anyone else’s feelings or experience.
With all that out of the way, let me get into it.
I don’t suffer from any mental health problems; at least not that I’m aware of.
I almost certainly was in a state of depression for a while at the start of this year due to my marriage falling apart, but I generally have been and am always in a pretty good place.
That hasn’t been the case for other people in my life.
I was too young to really notice when my mum was suffering through what she describes as her ‘dark years’ in the mid nineties, it was only after the fact that I could see the stress my dad was feeling with life that was at least partially responsible for his multiple heart attacks and death and I feel like I was too late in picking up warning signs of my brothers mental health issues.
Thankfully the first one passed and while she’ll still get down sometimes my mum is happy and despite him struggling on a daily basis my brother is in a much happier place and is working on himself.
I’ve also been in relationships with people with from mental health issues. My ex-wife suffered greatly with anxiety and depression which led to a lot of other issues and eventually to a point where she was unhappy in our marriage, unwilling to work on it and had an affair.
I’m not putting blame of that on her mental health, but I believe it’s impossible to write it off completely as a contributing factor.
It isn’t easy being in a relationship with someone who’s mood can change at the drop of a hat, but I know enough people who have been in and are in similar situations that I know it is absolutely possible to maintain a healthy relationship even under those tough circumstances.
We stay with our partners through those hard times and offer support not because it’s easy but because we love them and care about them.
I know it is in my nature to try and fix things. If something is wrong with someone I try and fix it. I get this from my mum, she’s exactly the same.
At times it has led to throwing money at a situation, other times it has been doing or saying something you really don’t want to for another person.
I had to train myself to not do this, there would be times when my ex-wife would be in bed, on the sofa, in the bath or on the floor in the midst of an anxiety attack and I would feel hopelessly lost and scared because I didn’t know what to do. I would want nothing more than to help and to make everything okay. It took years before I realised the best thing I could do was just be there. Not necessarily doing anything, but just being present and staying calm.
It will never feel natural to me but it is something I know I can handle now.
That’s just one example from my personal experience. I’m sure if you asked my friend who’s husband suffers she would have a slightly different story, or another friend who’s girlfriend has been through a lot; I bet he has things he does or doesn’t do in those situations.
We do these things because we care.
Acts of kindness like this aren’t done with the intention of getting anything out of it. A lot of the time they’ll probably go unnoticed and that’s fine because compared to what the person suffering is going through, it’s nothing.
It’s not always easy though. We do these things out of love and even then it may not work out.
That shouldn’t mean you stop though, I certainly doesn’t for me.
I feel better equipped now if I ever notice someone I care about having anxiety attack. It might not be the same, but I have at least some level of understanding and may be able to help.
I can feel comfortable knowing that I’ve done what I can to help and be there for someone and, despite what happens, I did my best.
As I said earlier, we don’t do these things looking for acknowledgment or accolade but I’m going to wrap this up by saying this,
I see you. I see what you do and how you help. Keep doing it and if you need to talk to someone about your side of it, I’m sure there are others who can relate. I know I can.