What to do when you realize your spouse/partner has a mental illness
Wake up and smell the coffee?
Relationships are difficult at times there is not one relationship that exist that one could say is perfect! That is because relationships are like living, breathing entities themselves. After all relationships are the interactions between living, breathing entities...ourselves and others!
Romantic relationships are even more difficult and intricate. We can have a relationship with our friends...this is called a "Friendship" or we can have a relationship with our co-workers, employees, employers and so on...this is called a "professional relationship" When you form an ongoing interaction with someone else or a group of others it is a relationship of some sort. Romantic relationships are the most involved and intricate because they deal on a level that no other relationship deals on. It is a level of almost sacred trust, love, passion, lust, acceptance, want, and the list goes on and on of the most essential parts of ourselves that we need in others that acquire this status. The people we connect with on this level become almost like another part of ourselves. You have heard it many times...phrases like "My other half" or "My better half" or "He/she is a part of me" the closeness in Romantic relationships are undeniable...we take someone and accept them and trust them and function with them so much so that it actually feels they are a part of us! Like a planet orbiting around another planet or a well oiled machine...the dance of romantic love is very strong and very deep indeed. So what happens when you start to see there is something terribly wrong with your romantic relationship? Even worse what happens when you start to see that the person you adore, the person you trust most in your life, your other half seems to suffer from what you are beginning to see as a potential mental disorder or illness.
When is it acceptable crap or "oh, oh, theres something really wrong here" crap
The first things I learned time after time is that your going to go through "crap" in your romantic relationship. Sometimes its big "crap" sometimes its small "crap" sometimes its intermediate "crap" but you WILL go through "crap" regardless of how nice you try to make things!
Now here's the million dollar question! When is it normal "crap" and when isn't it normal "crap"? This is a very hard question because since we all expect to go through crap in our relationships we accept it as it rears its ugly head however the frequency of bad situations and the intensity of bad situations can be the start of a good precursor.
The way a person reacts and rationalizes is also a good way of seeing if something is terribly wrong. I like to look at it as if I'm inputting something into a computer and seeing how the computer computes...you know there's something terribly wrong when its not computing correctly.
Sometimes you wont see that the person your with has a mental illness right away, it may be months even a year or two before you get certain signs, usually these signs pop up when there is stress involved and lets face it most of the time the first year of a relationship is usually blissful as it is called the "Honeymoon stage" but when life begins to seep in and reality comes knocking on the door we begin to see how we truly act with each other and outside forces. This is the time when we begin to see who we really are.
It's difficult and frightening to say the least!
Life is difficult and can be frightening at times in it's own right but when you have a spouse that is ill whether it be a physical illness or a mental illness it is very scary! It throws you out of your comfort zone and shakes you around and leaves you feeling lost first and foremost , numb and very scared! With a mental illness it's even scarier...you don'tknow what to trust anymore, are their thoughts rational? Are they reacting this way because they are ill? Is their judgement sound? So many questions go through your head which confuses you even more! You love them and are ready and willing to go through whatever you have to so you can support them in this very difficult time but what if they don't even realize it or accept that they need help?
Sure you can go ahead and have a personal intervention...one on one or you can include other loved ones in the intervention...more people , more power right? Group interventions should be your last result as they can be intimidating, scary and embarrassing to the person in question however a one on one is what you need to do once it has gotten too much for you to bare.
I'm sure that your partner hasn't a clue on how their actions and reactions are affecting you. They may not even be aware of what they are doing and how they are behaving! The person you see in front of you is not a "bad" person nor are they evil, they don't want to cause you pain or disrupt the life they have with you. Something made you fall in love with this person and they are the same person you knew when you did but for some reason (usually triggered by stress) there's a glitch somewhere and one that has to be dealt with before it gets worse.
OK so now what?
The first thing I would suggest if possible and I say if possible because sometimes it is not possible to do what I'm about to recommend is for the both of you to take a moment in total privacy where you know your not going to be disturbed , make sure that your partner is in a receptive mood, ready to listen and is in a calm, relaxed state. Never, ever start a conversation like this when there is stress and agitation! Be kind and speak softly...don't be intimidating in any way or judgemental, choose your words carefully. It helps if you think about what your going to say and how you want to say it prior to your conversation with your partner. Begin with a touch of their hand...touch is very important it connects you and lets the other person know your approach is non-threatening. Let them know How much you love them and how much it means to be with them. Tell them you've been concerned lately about how they have been feeling. This would be a good place to start, let them ask questions and answer them again very honestly but in a non- threatening, non- judgemental way. Towards the end of the conversation suggest that maybe it is a good idea to get help for the both of you or at least look into some information to help you both understand what is happening. Communication is essential here. It will open the door to therapy and eventually coping and healing.
Get to know the Diagnosis.
Acknowledgement is the first step, agreeing to go see a therapist is the second step and actually going to therapy is the final and most hopeful step of all! Once there is therapy involved getting an actual diagnosis shouldn't take long, medication might or might not be prescribed depending on the diagnosis and the form of therapy the Doctor will decide to proceed with. Once there is an official diagnosis get to know it like the back of your hand, read, read and then read some more! Don't be afraid of asking the Doctor questions. The more you know the more you will understand on so many levels. You wont feel helpless any longer because you will be able to help in so many ways and you wont be confused and lost as you were before because you will understand the illness and you will know that the illness is not the person.
What about me?
I wish I could tell you this isn't going to be hard at all because it will be but I can tell you that whatever you've been going through without Therapy has probably been harder and more painful. I'm sure you have been put through the wringer and then some and I'm sure you have actually thought about leaving as painful as that would be. This is incredibly difficult for the individual that's going through this with their spouse, I don't think anyone would know how difficult unless they went through it themselves, it would be just as hard for me to try to explain it , lets just say it is one of the hardest things a person would have to go through and it takes a definite toll. This is the reason why I even thought of starting this Hub is to let you know that you have to take care of yourself as well as being there for your partner! You cannot internalize this and feel that it is somehow your fault or that you could've fixed this in some way on your own. I'm sure you have been subjected to many inappropriate words, name calling, accusations, burst of anger and many other behaviors . I'm sure your burnt out yourself. So you need to take care of yourself, indulge yourself when you can even if it is a small thing that makes you happy! Keep a journal, I know that sounds hokey but it works just to be able to write the emotions inside down and allow it to leave your body. I never thought that would happen but once I started to write things down to my surprise it was very therapeutic! Be careful if you don't want anyone reading it! make sure it is in a safe and secure area where only you can find it! Talk to your Family if they are supportive, whether It be your parents or a sibling if you can, support from Family is the best support of all. take time for yourself and go for a walk or to your favorite shop even if its just an hour or two! Just do for yourself as well and refresh your mind! Know that this isn't about you and it is not your fault as many times as your partner might be blaming you for so many things. Remember they have an illness and it can be treated given the proper medical attention!