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Or in a crisistext "NAMI" to Donate Now. Here are a few quick insights from us, a husband and wife who have navigated these rough waters together for several years. Embrace empathy and validation. And yet when it comes to matters of the brain, we have adopted the sentiment that grit will get us through—despite our national suicide rate being higher than our homicide rate.
What do we do when we see someone having an asthma attack? We act fast, we supply them with medication when needed, we give them adequate time and treatment and room to breathe, and we teach them the skills to properly take care of themselves and their affliction. Mental illnesses are scientific, physiological illnesses and need to be treated as such in order for wellness to be achieved. Learn the symptoms and then stop taking them personally. Each mental illness, like all illnesses, has its own specific set of symptoms that manifests in heightened seasons of struggle, and an important part of being supportive is understanding how those symptoms affect our loved ones.
For instance, a person with an anxiety disorder may have difficulty concentrating, or feel fatigued and restless; those things may lead to irritability and agitation. Someone with post-traumatic stress disorder may have a hard time staying in the present or have negative changes in their current belief systems; they may feel confused and afraid by flashbacks and memory loss.
No matter the symptom, it is as uncontrollable as sweating and shaking during insulin shock or throwing up during the flu, but when we decide to view these things as choices and take offense that can lead to further feelings of isolation and shame for our loved ones who are likely feeling guilt, confusion, and embarrassment because of the side effects of their illness.
But taking oneself out of the dark and eliminating the fear of the unknown is a better way to help someone on their journey forward. It can be very hard and lonely to be the person or persons on the receiving end of these symptoms, it can feel like a personal attack and those feelings can understandably get in the way of compassion; because of that it is just as important for family members and spouses to have a network of support as it is for the person struggling with the illness.
Research treatment options. I love you.
Discussing mental illness with the person you’re dating
There are a myriad of treatment options for persons suffering from mental illness: medication, individual talk therapy, group therapy, and therapies deed to build or rebuild skills that for whatever reason have been lost or were never given the opportunity to develop such as emotion regulation and behavior intervention. There can be tremendous success for people who find the right match and method of treatment, and who are willing to do the work; it takes support and it takes time.
Let go of your timetable. There is no magic timeframe for wholeness, and certain mental illnesses ebb and flow for many years. Resolve to love and respect the person in your life through each part of the process—when they move forward and when they regress, when they have victories and when they stumble back into old coping mechanisms.
Sometimes a person feels toxic to their environment, and they pull away to protect people that they are hurting because the symptoms of their illness are out of their control.
This is when love becomes a choice, because it can be a confusing and angering time for everyone involved. Choosing to love someone who acts or feels unlovable can be part of what helps them see that are valued as a whole person, that they are not the sum total of their pain.
Dating someone who struggles with their mental health
We may want to fix their problems and be their support system. The best thing we can do to help the people we love, is to build a community around ourselves and them. People with mental illnesses can greatly benefit from knowing that they are not alone in their diagnosis, their daily struggles, their ups and downs, their triggers; having a healthy system of support in place can give them access to new ways of coping and brainstorming, as well as emotional validation that can breathe hope into their most desperate moments.
Similarly, when a person you love is struggling with mental illness you also need the support of your community; if the expectation for our loved ones is to reach out when they need help, we also need to be held to that standard. People with mental illnesses are not suddenly different peop le because they are sick.
Using person-first language can help keep us from defining our loved ones by their struggles, and can help us stay focused on hope. For more information on specific diagnoses, visit NAMI www. If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, get help at National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
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