10 Rules For Loving Someone With A Mental Illness
Mental illness can be extremely debilitating. Depending on what type of mental illness you have, life can be very difficult, or almost impossible. After all, many people with mental illness eventually kill themselves and this is why. The problems with mental illness become even more difficult when they are affecting someone you love. Dealing with these types of people can be extremely hard and there may be times when you simply want to give up on them.
Here’s what you should do.
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1. Educate yourself
If you’re serious about loving someone with a mental illness then you must educate yourself. The more you know about their disease the better. You should know what their mental illness entails, its symptoms, and also what types of treatment are available. By learning about their condition you will also know what to expect. Erratic behavior will no longer come as a surprise. Not only that, you’ll be able to navigate difficult times with ease.
2. Encourage them to practice self-care
It’s important that you help the person take care of themselves. Most people with mental illnesses will engage in all sorts of destructive behaviors. This can include things like substance abuse, overeating, self-harm, criminality, or getting into relationships with unsuitable people. Instead, you should help them engage in healthy activities like exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep. Be a positive instead of a negative influence in their life.
3. Take breaks from the person
If you love someone with a mental illness then you will probably know how difficult it can be. People with mental illnesses are often utterly exhausting. In fact, dealing with their problems can make you feel as if you’re crazy. After a while, you may even burn out or reach the point of emotional exhaustion. If you find yourself reaching the end of your rope, then maybe it’s time to take a break. Doing this doesn’t mean you don’t love the person anymore. It simply gives you time to put things into perspective and return to that person with renewed energy.
4. Provide them with a safe space
People who have a mental illness require safe spaces in which they can express their feelings. They need people who they can talk to and also trust. You need to be that person they can depend on, and who can provide them with a place of refuge when things get tough. If you really want to show the person that you love them, it’s essential that you become this safe space.
5. Get support
It’s essential that you do not attempt to do this alone. The person you love may not be able to support you in the way you need. This is why it’s critical that you get outside help, and also find someone you can talk to and share your feelings with. It’s a good idea to seek help from a professional counselor, you might also want to join a support group or network.
6. Practice open communication
No matter what type of relationship you’re in, communication is always vitally important. This is even more important when the person you’re in love with has a mental illness. You need to have clear lines of communication with them and talk openly and honestly about your relationship. It’s also important that the person understands that you’re not going to judge them or make assumptions about their mental illness. One of the best things you can do is have a weekly sit down with the person. Use this time to talk about your feelings, what’s going on with the two of you, and also any issues which you feel are important.
7. Don’t try and fix the person
You need to resist the urge to fix the person. You also need to understand that some mental illnesses, like personality disorders, have no real cure. Instead, simply let them be themselves. This might be extremely difficult. If you love someone then it’s only natural to want to help them. But what you need to acknowledge is that it’s up to them. As difficult as it may sound they are the one who needs to find a solution to their problems. Yes, you should provide as much support as possible, but ultimately they need to take responsibility and do the hard work.
8. Do not let them abuse you
Even though you love someone with a mental illness does not mean you should allow them to abuse you. Unfortunately, this may be difficult. Many people with mental illnesses can become abusive and even violent. These people may also try to excuse this as simply being a part of their disease. You should never allow this to happen. Once or twice is excusable and can be forgiven, but if it continues then a pattern will be established and you’re in danger of becoming a victim.
9. Don’t take things personally
People with mental illnesses often have wildly fluctuating moods. This can include feelings of depression, anger and even mania. There will be good days and bad days, and a lot of the time they will take their feelings out on you. They may say hurtful things or try to wound you in some way, or even break up with you. It’s important that you learn not to take this personally. Realize that what they are doing is a function of their mental illness, and has nothing to do with you.
10. Encourage them to get treatment
Mental illness does not have to be the end of the world. In fact, many types of mental illnesses are easily treatable. Whether it’s through therapy, medication, group support sessions, or alternative treatments like exercise, meditation or yoga. The bottom line is that if the person loves you, they should be willing to seek help for their mental health issues.
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