Mental Health Illness, Such a Crazy Life to Live Multiplied by Two…
Is everyone crazy? It seems that way these days. Living with a mental health illness is hard enough, especially in a relationship. But let’s add both people in the relationship having a mental health illness. Of course it cannot just be something simple like depression or anxiety, not say those aren’t bad enough, nope let’s have two people in a relationship with mental health illness of post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, bipolar I mood disorder, and borderline personality disorder to name the fun ones.
Everyone can get an idea of what it is like to have one person in a relationship with one or two disorders, but what is it like to be in the relationship with both individuals having their own struggles? With any of these disorders a person normally tries to live day to day and not let them rule their lives. Now some people that have never been treated for a mental health illness think it is as easy as taking some medicine and going to counseling. I hate to bust the bubble of those who think that way, it isn’t. Though both are important in the treatment of the illnesses, but there are so many other aspects to look at; such as, how do I educate others around me so they aren’t afraid, frustrated, etc. when working with me or am I prepared for the sounds and smells of things that will cause my day to stop? That is only two of many things someone with a mental health illness might have to do to have a somewhat “normal” life.
Understanding each of the mental health illnesses
First off in order to understand what a single person might have to go through with a mental health illness, let’s take a look at each of them. Starting off with one most people may deal with in their lives, whether it is themselves or others fighting this illness……Alcoholism.
Alcoholism is as defined by the 22nd Edition of Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, “A chronic, frequently progressive, and sometimes fatal disease marked by impaired control over consumption of alcohol despite its adverse effects. Dependence on alcohol, tolerance of its effects, and remissions and relapses are common. Psychological features include preoccupation with consuming alcohol and denial of addiction even against evidence to the contrary. Alcohol abuse is one of the major threats to health in the U.S., where it is estimated to affect between 2 and 9% of the population. Each year 10% of all deaths are related to alcohol. Chronic alcoholism and alcohol-related disorders can be physically, psychologically, and economically devastating to patients and their families.” So it is not just something a person with the illness gets over in a few days, months or possibly years; it is an illness that will linger with the individual most likely for the rest of their life.
Bipolar is as defined by the 22nd Edition of Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, “A psychological disorder marked by manic and depressive episodes. Bipolar disorders are divided into four main categories: bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymia, and nonspecified disorders. Mania is the essential feature of bipolar I, whereas recurrent moods of both mania and depression mark bipolar II. Bipolar I mood disorder, a mood disorder characterized by the presence of only one manic episode and no past major depressive episodes, and not better accounted for by a psychotic disorder. The classes or specifiers of bipolar I disorder include mild, moderate, severe without psychotic features, severe with psychotic features, in partial remission, in full remission, with catatonic features, and with postpartum onset.”
Borderline personality disorder is as defined by the 22nd Edition of Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, “Risk for self/other-directed Violence/Self-Mutilation: risk factors may include use of projection as a major defense mechanism, pervasive problems with negative transference, feelings of guilt/need to “punish” self, distorted sense of self, inability to cope with increased psychological or physiological tension in a healthy manner. Anxiety [severe to panic]
may be related to unconscious conflicts (experience of extreme stress), perceived threat to self-concept, un-met needs, possibly evidenced by easy frustration and feelings of hurt, abuse of alcohol/other drugs, transient psychotic symptoms and performance of self-mutilating acts. Chronic low Self-Esteem/ disturbed personal Identity may be related to lack of positive feedback, un-met dependency needs, retarded ego development/fixation at an earlier level of development, possibly evidenced by difficulty identifying self or defining self-boundaries, feelings of depersonalization, extreme mood changes, lack of tolerance of rejection or being alone, unhappiness with self, striking out at others, performance of ritualistic self-damaging acts, and belief that punishing self is necessary. Social Isolation may be related to immature interests, unaccepted social behavior, inadequate personal resources, and inability to engage in satisfying personal relationships, possibly evidenced by alternating clinging and distancing behaviors, difficulty meeting expectations of others, experiencing feelings of difference from others, expressing interests inappropriate to developmental age, and exhibiting behavior unaccepted by dominant cultural group.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is as defined by the 22nd Edition of Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, “PTSD Intense psychological distress, marked by horrifying memories, recurring fears, and feelings of helplessness that develop after a psychologically traumatic event, such as combat, rape, criminal assault, life-threatening accident, or natural disaster. The symptoms of PTSD include flashback; avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma; disturbances of memory; psychological or social withdrawal, increased aggressiveness; irritability, insomnia, startle responses, and vigilance. The symptoms may last for years after the event but can often be managed with supportive psychotherapy or medications such as antidepressants. Post-Trauma Syndrome is related to having experienced a traumatic life event, possibly evidenced by re-experiencing the event, somatic reactions, psychic/emotional numbness, altered lifestyle, impaired sleep, self-destructive behaviors, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, development of phobia, poor impulse control/irritability, and explosiveness. Risk for other-directed Violence: risk factors may include a startle reaction, an intrusive memory causing a sudden acting-out of a feeling as if the event were occurring; use of alcohol/other drugs to ward off painful effects and produce psychic numbing, breaking through the rage that has been walled off, response to intense anxiety or panic state, and loss of control. Ineffective Coping may be related to personal vulnerability, inadequate support systems, unrealistic perceptions, un-met expectations, overwhelming threat to self, and multiple stressors repeated over period of time, possibly evidenced by verbalization of inability to cope or difficulty asking for help, muscular tension/headaches, chronic worry, and emotional tension.
Complicated Grieving may be related to actual/perceived object loss (loss of self as seen before the traumatic incident occurred as well as other losses incurred in/after the incident), loss of physiopsychosocial well-being, thwarted grieving response to a loss, and lack of resolution of previous grieving responses, possibly evidenced by verbal expression of distress at loss, anger, sadness, labile affect, alterations in eating habits, sleep/dream patterns, libido; reliving of past experiences, expression of guilt, and alterations in concentration. Interrupted Family Processes may be related to situational crisis, failure to master developmental transitions, possibly evidenced by expressions of confusion about what to do and that family is having difficulty coping, family system not meeting physical/emotional/spiritual needs of its members, not adapting to change or dealing with traumatic experience constructively, and ineffective family decision-making process.”
Day to Day Life
It is good to understand what these illnesses look like, even if in most cases a person may never actually see them. In my case, I suffer from Alcoholism and PTSD. I like to say I’m a recovered alcoholic, but anyone who has ever had a dependency disorder knows this life is still a difficult one. It is sad to know a drink might help to make all the bad thoughts and memories go away, but that one drink can also be the one to push you over the edge into doing stupid life choices. Now add PTSD on top of it, I can’t say I would or would not have been an Alcoholic had I not served four tours in two different combat zones. I may not have, but then again I may have anyway. Regardless it has been three years since I have had my last drink and night of plain stupidness, I say this because I really don’t remember the night, and I’m glad to say it was the results of that night that opened my eyes wide. Now for the PTSD, I have been suffering from its effects since before 2007. Something about being beaten, watching dead Americans heading for the morgue, losing friends despite your best effort to save their lives and just the overall most evilness of humanity can leave many physical and mental scares.
Dealing with my own fears day to day can be a challenge at times, but trusting in my medications and therapy is pretty much all I have. There are days I wake up and ask myself why? Why should I get up? Why should I go on living? Why…Why…Why? It goes on and on, but I think everyone should get the point, getting out of bed is struggle each day. Granted I know people will say it is always a struggle to get up and get going; but when you have to convince yourself the day is worth giving a chance, things can get a bit interesting. In some ways I keep going because I have pets relying on me and well that may sound stupid to some people, it is normally the one thing that can get me up each day. I also worry about my father and how he would take it if I just decided to not go any further in life. So I struggle through my day: attempting to get training done, work on my homework from school, remembering to shower and eat, etc. Again I think the point gets across it is a pain in the royal butt sometimes. However, for whatever reason I keep going and if it brings joy to others or dismay to some; it is alright with me.
Now my live in girlfriend is riding life with pretty much all four of these illnesses in one way or another. She has been raped, beaten, in combat and who else knows since information is not all that form coming at times. Prior to our relationship, she was in one where she was emotionally, psychologically and physically abused by her ex, it is truly a wonder she made it through and has built any trust with me at all. I watch her struggle each day, some worse than others. One moment things seem to be going fine and the next she is punching herself in the head, crying and wanting a drink. The good thing is most of the time I can stop her before she does any real damage to herself, other than maybe a sore spot or a headache. Heck, she sometimes wonders why I’m not hitting her; that is what her ex did when she had a meltdown. She is still learning that is not me. If I have to hit someone to get them under control, then that is not a relationship I want to be in. Every day I hope for a good day for me, but even a better day for her. I can handle the mood swings most of the time, but when we are both having a rough day it is extremely hard to keep going.
The thing is I refuse to walk on egg shells when she is around, I figure at some point she is either going to find better ways of dealing with her emotions and mental state or we will continue to go on like this for a bit longer. The only thing I know for sure is to continue to get help myself, keep pushing her to go to treatment and take her medications, and never give up on trying to talk and find ways to work things through.
Granted any information and helpful advice would be greatly appreciated. I would hope to not only help my relationship, but maybe others.
© 2014 Sandy D