I’ve struggled a lot with my own mental health over the years. Things were at its worst when I decided to quit my PhD and enter the working world. The uncertainty and guilt pushed me off the edge. Although I never got an official diagnosis, it was a difficult time all the same.
However, little did I know that my fragile mental state was taking a toll on my husband as well. At that time he was still my boyfriend, and this was about four odd years ago. It’s never easy being with a person who’s living with a mental health issue. I’ve shared as much as I can to help my other half adapt to my situation (which has since gotten better), so now I would like to share these tips with others too.
Depression Often Doesn’t Have A Trigger
Until today, whenever I have ‘down’ days and periods when I get severe anxiety, I struggle to pinpoint a single cause. It just happens. On these days I would be edgier than usual and a lot angrier. The hubby still gets upset as he wants to know the exact cause.
The real answer is, of course, there is no cause or at least no cause that we can put our finger on. This is something mental health sufferers really need their partners to understand. The world would definitely be a lot simpler if we knew, trust us.
You Can’t Solve Our Problems Easily
I fully understand why my hubby wants to get to the bottom of my anxiety trigger. He, like anyone who loves anyone, wants to make the trigger factors go away and make my life happier. However, it’s not that simple.
Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues have very deep roots in both our conscious and unconscious minds. My own health issues are deeply rooted in a belief that I have to work hard and earn love, which is of course not true.
These innate beliefs take years and even decades to undo. They’re not something that can be solved within a short time frame.
Please Just Give Us Space
Nowadays if I’m having an anxiety episode, the hubby knows how to back off and give me the space I need to recuperate. When the anxiety hits, I don’t trust myself to interact with anyone. It usually passes in several hours.
It wasn’t always like this. In the early days, Hubby would be scared and confused, and we would both get angry at one another and start quarreling. One time, it got so loud, condo security guards came knocking at our door.
The best approach is to back down and don’t try to harangue them for answers about what’s wrong, how they’re feeling and the like, which brings me to the next point.
Don’t Ask Us to Explain What’s Going On
Believe it or not, people with mental health issues have an even bigger problem understanding what they’re going through compared to you. For me, I don’t even have a name for what I was feeling. I felt an overwhelming fear and nervousness over absolutely nothing and this could last for half a day or more.
I really felt cornered whenever the Hubby pressed me to tell him what was wrong. I seriously didn’t know what was wrong. In fact, as far as I knew, nothing was wrong.
Being There is More Than Enough
Being with someone that has depression or other mental issues can be confusing and frustrating. However, if you stick around long enough, you’ll be able to learn the cues signaling that your other half needs the space they need. You’ll also learn when to not leave them alone.
Hubby tells me that he can now expertly judge my mental state by the way I say “I’m fine” when he asks me how I’m feeling. This wouldn’t have been possible if he had given up on me and left in the early days of our relationship.
Being with another person takes a lot of work. These include being forgiving and accepting, especially when things get tense and stressful. A person with mental health issues are a work in progress, and relationships with them will survive best when you know how to adapt.
For more articles on depression, read Depression, and Small Ways to Cope. Here’s What Malaysians Have to Say and Your Mental Health: When You Know It’s Time to Get Professional Help.