Mental Illness: How to Help Your Spouse

02/22/2017

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When you married the love of your life, you vowed to love and support them even in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. It’s guaranteed that you’ll endure troubling times, but when your spouse is diagnosed with a mental illness, you may not understand what he or she is going through. You may have difficulties in not knowing how to support or care for your wife or husband.

Mental illness is very complex, and it’s almost impossible for you to fully understand what is going on with your spouse unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Everyone deals with their illness in different ways, so it’s important that you never compare your spouse to another person faced with the same diagnosis.

When I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety over two years ago, I thought my marriage would end. I didn’t know how to cope or manage my illness, nor did I know how to be the wife my husband married. It took a toll on the both of us, but my husband really stepped up to the plate. Without his love and support, I don’t know where I would be. Now, I’m better than I ever have been, and I owe a lot of that to him. I want to share with you the ways my husband supports me, and, hopefully, you can use this as a guide to help your spouse during these troubling times.

Mental Illness: How to Help Your Spouse

You’re here for a reason. You love your spouse and want to help them in any way you can. It’s easy to feel helpless right now, but know that it will get better with time and effort on both ends. It’s a courageous act to seek help, and it will make your marriage undeniably strong in the long haul.

Before I begin, I just want to express how important it is that you take care of yourself too. Your spouse needs you to be strong and healthy right now, so don’t lose yourself while trying to save your loved one. Your health is just as important! Make sure you have your own support system in this process. Whether it be a counselor, family member or close friend, it’s vital that you have an outlet to go to when you feel helpless or lost.

Boundaries will be crossed, toes will be stepped on, and feelings will get hurt, but you must stay strong. Know that your spouse is not trying to hurt you. They love you so much, but just like you, they’re terrified, confused, and angry. Your spouse didn’t ask for this to happen, and they would do anything to be normal again. You’re going to find yourself getting frustrated with them, but try not to show it. Your loved one is trying the best that they can, and when it seems like they aren’t trying at all, try to have some sympathy. It’s not easy battling your mind every single day. Minute. Second.

Get educated

You probably have millions of questions, and the best thing you can do is research. Educate yourself. The internet bestows an abundance of information on mental illness, the symptoms, treatment options, and how to support your loved one. Even if you can’t grasp their mindset, at least you can be educated on the factual side of their illness. Your spouse will appreciate this very much. It shows them that you care just by learning about their illness.

You will know how to better help them when you know what you are up against. Learning the symptoms of your loved one’s illness will help you better understand their behavior and actions. You’ll, also, have a better understanding of the stigma that’s plagued with mental illness. Stigma is the main reason why many people don’t ask for help and get treatment. It’s best not to assume anything, and research the hell out of it.

Assuming, your spouse is seeking professional help, preferably from a psychiatrist, I would guess that medications have been prescribed to help with the illness. I highly advise that you learn more about the medications that your spouse is taking. This is really important. You need to know what signs and symptoms to look for in case there is a severe reaction to the medication. Sometimes, anti-depressants can cause suicidal thoughts. Keep a close eye on your loved one, and get them into a physician right away if you notice any suicidal tendencies.

For great advice on depression and mental health, in general, check out this post on the BetterHelp website. BetterHelp is an online mental health platform offering online therapy and advice. It’s really easy to use, very convenient, and really affordable. And there’s no waiting! Get help immediately, anytime, anywhere!

Doctor appointments

Going to your spouse’s doctor appointments will be a great way of showing him or her that you support them. If he or she doesn’t want you to sit with them during the visit, that’s okay. Just by driving them to their appointment will be a great first step in showing that you want to help them. When you do get to sit in on their doctor visit, allow them to talk. This is their time, not yours.

Most doctors will want to engage with you and ask you questions about your spouse. Try to be honest. I recommend putting a list together of any questions you may have for the doctor ahead of time. This will show your wife or husband that you are seriously interested in helping them.

I know work may not always permit you to go to every appointment, but try to make an effort. By attending, you’re making this a team effort. You may hear your spouse open up about things that you never knew was going on. If your spouse has difficulties in remembering things, this will be your chance to note everything down so he or she doesn’t forget. You will be part of the recovery plan, and you will know word for word what the doctor has to say. You will be able to better help the doctor understand what is going on with your spouse.

Medications

As I said above, it’s helpful for you to know the medications that your spouse is taking. Educate yourself on the side effects and warnings for each prescription. If your wife or husband is experiencing severe reactions, take them to the doctor or hospital so they can be evaluated. Finding the best medicine can be a trivial experience. Know that there will be some trial-and-error in finding what works best.

Help your spouse by reminding them when it’s time to take their medicine. This way you know that they are actually taking it. My husband will usually hand me my pills every night before bed so I won’t forget to take them. If the medicine requires food to take with it, then help your spouse by making them a snack. Your spouse will appreciate this more than you’ll know. You are reminding them that you care and want to help.

Ask and listen

Please don’t forget to ask how your spouse is feeling! You don’t have to ask every hour, but at least once a day. If your loved one doesn’t feel like opening up, don’t be upset with him or her. Give it time. When they are ready to talk with you about what is going on, just listen. Sometimes, we don’t need to hear your advice or tips. A listening ear and a comforting hug can help more than words.

Remind your spouse that you are always there for them to listen and to help. Constantly remind him or her that you love them, and give them reasons why. This will be a great way of boosting their self-esteem, and it will remind your spouse that you are not giving up on them. Give your loved one sincere compliments each day. They need to hear as much positivity as possible because their minds are endlessly corrupting them with negativity.

Never give up

Helping your spouse recover and cope with a mental illness may be the most challenging experience you’ll face in your marriage. Just know that it can get better. Never give up on your husband or wife! With proper medication, positive coping outlets, and your unwavering support, your spouse can overcome this. And don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process. I hope this post has provided you with some information on how you can help your spouse. If you have any questions or advice, contact me at anytime! Thanks for sharing!

For more resources on how to support your spouse with a mental illness, check out these informative links:

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/serious-mental-illness.aspx

https://psychcentral.com/lib/when-mental-illness-strikes-tips-for-couples/

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/recognizing-warning-signs

http://ibpf.org/article/when-you’re-married-someone-bipolar-disorder

 

 

 

 

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