Mental illness is very real and affects everyone around, not just the person living with it. Do you know anyone with a mental illness, have you lived with someone and seen it first hand? If not, you won’t know how stressful it truly can be.

As someone who knows, it can play a tole on you and you may not even realize it. I’ve already been through it with my father and brother and it was very stressful. I don’t know if it was the best way, but my way of handling my father and his manic depression was living a life in books. Reading books was my way of blocking out the yelling and screaming, my other way of coping was the more jobs I had, the better, and the less time I was at home.

My father put a lot on me over the years because he didn’t have anyone to talk to. He would wake me up in the middle of the night, we’d sit at the kitchen table for hours and he would let it all out. As a result, he would always come to me, but I would have no one to go to. He always said to us “what happens in the house stays in the house.”

I didn’t have anyone to talk to, every time I tried to, nobody believed me, as everything I had talked about seemed so farfetched, like it was unreal. Manic depression or Bipolar was not talked about in the 1980’s or anytime, up until the last few years. If I only had the resources then that I have now, it may have been a bit easier to live with.

I’m in a new relationship with someone who has mental illness. I have seen the worst and the best but I wouldn’t change a thing. I take my experience with my father and now use better coping skills.

The first panic attack I witnessed, was scary, I’m not going to lie. I’ve never seen anything like it and I did feel totally helpless. It started out with the worried thoughts, then the shaking, then the hyperventilating. The first reaction was to provide a hug, so I did. But soon realized that sometimes he couldn’t be touched, now the helplessness comes in; all I could do was just stand there and watch, trying to think of something to say, but instead I cry.

Over time, I have learned how to control my emotions. I understand better now, whereas before, I was internalizing things that were being said, which I learned I cannot do.

How did I learn how to control my emotions? First, I’m not internalizing anymore. Second, I discovered I was focusing most of my time on trying to take care of him. I needed to take care of myself too. Now I do this, by reading, baking, volunteering with various mental health organizations, doing more things with my daughter and him and I enjoy watching television together; that’s our quality time, wind-down time.

It’s a very rewarding feeling, comforting, when you hear “I appreciate everything you do for me” or “Thank you for the advice”. The best feeling in the world is when I’m told “You’re my Rock and my Angel”.

Now that I look back and have become knowledgeable about mental illness, I’ve noticed the people we love who live with mental illness are only looking for someone to listen to them and understand them better.

My advice for you, it’s great that you’re helping a loved one try and cope with their mental illness, BUT you have to make sure you make time for yourself as well.

You are their strength when they don’t feel strong…
You are their smile when they don’t feel like smiling…
You are their laughter when they don’t feel like laughing…
Most of all, you are their comfort when they don’t have anyone else.


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