7 Steps for Loving Someone With a Mental Illness

Are you constantly worried about your partner’s mental illness? Are you afraid that things will never get better?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness this year. 1 in 17 people continue to live with chronic mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. The chances are pretty high that you will fall in love with someone who suffers from a mental illness or mood disorder. It’s also extremely likely that you’ll both find unexpected obstacles on the road to happy endings. No love story is complete without a few bumps in the road, but mental illnesses can throw a lot of unexpected hurdles into the mix.

That said, I’m here to deliver good news.

Your relationship is not doomed. The very fact that you’re reading this article is a sign that you care deeply about your partner, and that is immensely valuable. You are taking time to do your research. That’s important. The more you know about mental illness, the better off you’ll be in overcoming it together.

More good news:

If your partner suffers from a mood disorder or mental illness, this does not make them weak. Behind every “I’m fine” lives a special kind of strength that’s not common for the average person. That said, If your partner is not aware of their own mental illness, or you feel they are endangering you or themselves, stop reading and help them find professional help immediately. If your partner is emotionally, mentally or physically abusive toward you, get as far away as possible.

This article is not meant to diagnose or treat mental illness. It’s about loving someone in active recovery. I’m going to assume, for the sake of this article, that your partner loves you and wants to make you happy. Your partner wants to overcome their illness. And they’re trying.

I’m trying.

The morning after a difficult night, my brain sounds a little like this: I feel so ashamed of my [meltdown/episode/panic attack/etc]. I wish he didn’t have to see that. I want to be better. I want to make my partner as happy as he makes me. I would love to go the rest of my life without this happening again…but what if it does? What if I never get better?

And then my partner wakes up and says he loves me. And I find strength. My mind discards my toxic thoughts and decides: I will keep fighting – for both of us. Opening my heart to my partner and committing to making him happy was the biggest decision I ever made. I worried my issues would make me unlovable, that it would become too much for him. I still deal with those fears. But time and time again, my partner proves me wrong. He reminds me that he’s in this, with me.

Mental illness has not made us weaker than the average couple. I think it’s made us stronger.

Now, you may be wondering –If your partner struggles being happy, how can you be happy together? If your lover is afraid to leave the house, how will you go on adventures? If they suffer panic attacks when you feel everything is going well, what’s going to happen when life throws in new challenges? 

It’s a learning process. My partner didn’t always know how to cope, and in many ways we’re still learning. But in spite of the struggles we’ve faced, our relationship has been overwhelmingly happy.

Many people confuse need with neediness. Know the difference: If a person has an asthma attack, you give them an inhaler. If a person has a panic attack, the antidote is equally important. This may be my battle, but I’m not the only one fighting. And that has made all the difference.

As the partner of a person with a mental illness, you are also at war. Here are your weapons.

Step 1: Know your enemy.

Understand your partner’s illness – causes, symptoms, and recommended treatments. Most mental illnesses can be overcome. Your partner most likely isn’t “crazy” – they’re a regular person who needs help overcoming trauma or negative childhood programming. Understanding this can be the difference between alienating your partner and growing closer with them. If they go to therapy, show your support by encouraging them. Talk with them about what they’re going through. And if you both go to therapy, that’s even better. For your partner, knowing that you’ve got their back is a huge deal. And the more you know about the monster, the better equipped you’ll be to fight it. This means becoming familiar with your partners emotional triggers, coping strategies, and what they need in moments of crisis.

Step 2: Don’t leave your partner in the battlefield – but make some distance if you need to.

If you’ve graduated Step 1, you know what they’re dealing with. You understand the monumental effort it takes for them to cope with their pain, and you know that support from you is critical for their recovery. So if (or when) the battle gets too intense and you’re suddenly unable to cope, make it clear that you love them and that you’re not leaving. Then step away. Why? Read step 3.

Step 3: Take care of you.

To play on a team, all players need to develop their strength individually in order to work well as a unit. This is ultimately their battle. They know this. On airplanes, when the oxygen masks come down, you’re told to put yours on before helping anyone else. Here’s why: you can’t help anyone if you’re suffocating. Once you’re able to breathe again, you’re strong enough to assist your partner.

Step 4: Reassure them. A lot.

With anxiety and trauma-induced disorders especially, we worry. A lot. If you told your partner you loved them this morning, by the afternoon and they might be falling into a spiral of doubt. They may believe you when you say you love them, but certain mental illnesses can make it difficult to retain the feeling. It might feel ridiculous to reassure them so much, but it’s better to say ‘I love you’ too much than too little. Think of your relationship as an hourglass. Flip it over with reminders every once in a while, so the love keeps flowing.

Step 5: Don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay to give them space.

It’s important to separate yourself from their illness. If they’re unhappy because of you, you’ll know. But if they’re dealing with the symptoms of their mental illness, it’s not your job to feel responsible for it. I love my partner, but when I’m unhappy as a result of my illness, it actually makes it worse if he blames himself. Guilt and fear go hand in hand – one exacerbates the other. Your only job is to be supportive and understanding. Relationships are a two-way street, and you can’t do all the work, all the time. Just like drinkers at the pub like to say: know your limit, play within it. It’s not always your fault. Sometimes they need space to recover, just like you do. If you’re struggling with guilt, go back to Step 3 and repeat.

Step 6: Let your partner love you.

Your partner is not helpless. They can take care of you, too. Let them! Spend quality time together and see each other for what you are – two people in love. Mental illness is like having a physical ailment – if you spend every waking moment worrying about it, you miss out on life.

Step 7: L-I-V-E.

Mental illness thrives on fear. It eats fear for breakfast, it drinks fear at night. Lucky for us…Love is stronger than fear. In my favorite film, Harold and Maude, Maude says: “Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go!” All you can do is your best. Do that, and let love take care of the rest.

*Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Sexually Dissatisfied? Here is Why

What I am seeing over and over is fear and disconnection, brought about by a woman’s own body wisdom.

Whenever I sit down to write these posts, I truly never have any idea how long they will be. A title comes to me and, like a midwife, I sit down and allow myself to be used as a channel. So before you read this, scroll down and see how long it is and if you have the 5-10 minutes to read it. This one feels important, even before I begin to write the meat of it.

Lately I’ve had quite a few women come to me and express dissatisfaction with their sexuality/sex life. When they come to me, often they feel there is something wrong WITH THEM because they aren’t feeling sexual, and as I begin to work with them to help them unfurl the petals of this vital part of their feminine nature, what I am seeing over and over is fear and disconnection, brought about by a woman’s own body wisdom.

Throughout my life I have always said that the most important things I’ve ever learned I have learned through my body. Living in a world that from a very early age teaches women and girls NOT to listen to their innate body wisdom has caused a massive shut down in our ability to discern what is healthy from what may be dysfunction. We trust more what we hear outside of us, instead of what we hear from within.

So many women who feel disconnected sexually are actually in a place of awakening, as their body wisdom has taken over where the mind has failed them. In their deepest heart, they KNOW that this version of sex they are being sold is all wrong for them, but because there is no body trust for most women, it becomes depression and a subscription to the mainstream mindset that there must be something wrong with you.

Sexuality in our culture has become a lot like fast food, and just as devoid of nutrition and satisfaction. We are hungry for something that we know we are supposed to get via sex, both women and men, yet after living on junk food, we are physically sick and more in need of nutrition than ever. That nutrition is the energetic component of sex that is all but lost in the way we do sex now, and yet women’s bodies are rebelling against this, even as women’s minds subscribe to the BS that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t want sex or aren’t having it.

What Should You Do If Your Friends Have Dropped Off the Face of the Earth and You’re Worried?

Sometimes your friend doesn’t text you, or says no to all your invites and you decide to stop trying. But, I assure you, your depressed friend who dropped off the face of the earth is not always terrible.

Reach out to them.

Love is a verb. Maintaining relationships can be a challenge because we’re taught to think, “what’s in it for me?” but sometimes kindness for kindness sake even when it doesn’t make sense to others is good enough. Here are some ways you can reach out and help them out.

And don’t forget, if you are feeling depressed because your relationships have been lingering in limbo for a while, join LOVE TV and we can help speed up your success.

1. Help Them Clean Their Room

help your friend clean up if they are feeling depressed

Sometimes your depressed friend finds leaving the house taxing. They may call it being introverted, they may call it anxiety, they may call it exhausting. If you’re friend denies your request to meet them go to them. Meet them where they are.

If they’re like me, they don’t want anyone to come over because their place is an absolute mess. If they use that as an excuse offer to help clean their place. You can spend the whole day together, talking, but also help them deal with the overwhelming weight of dread they have about the mess, and listen to music, and eat.

Hanging out is not just about where you go, but about being together with someone you care about.

2.   Check in on them during tragic incidents

check in on your friend if they are depressed

Sadly, there are so many tragic incidents in the world, that Facebook asks people to check in if they are safe. If you’re friend has dropped off the face of the earth, you might not be the only person they are isolated from.

So, if something happens, ask them if they are alright. Believe me, they will feel grateful that someone somewhere remembers they exist, because I’m sure they probably feel forgotten.

3. Ask them what they want to do

If you find yourself telling a depressed friend what you should do, where you should go, try asking them what they want to do.

Having the choice might make them feel more inclined to go. They probably won’t bail because it’s something that they put into motion. Sometimes people say no, because it makes them feel out of control. Let them have the power every once in awhile and they’ll have to keep their word.

4. Invite them over for the holidays

surviving holidays as a couple

Some of your friends may not enjoy hanging with their family on the holidays, or they may live too far from/can’t afford to/didn’t book the flight soon enough to visit family. So, please, please, if you’re having a big holiday get together, invite your friends. Don’t assume that they have plans. Maybe they won’t ask to join because they don’t want to be a burden or impose themselves, so ask them.

Even if they say no, most people will notice the effort eventually and say yes. Trust me, you don’t understand the brutality of being alone on the holidays if you’ve never been alone, so invite them if you can.

5. Pay for their dinner.

if your friend is depressed pick up their dinner check

I’ve experienced this kindness that people will just pay for my meal. I can’t tell if it’s because I portray myself as a downtrodden damsel, because they appreciate my invite, or what, but oh, man, it feels good when people buy you a drink, or buy you an appetizer, or buy you a whole meal.

I think it’s best as a surprise when the bill comes but doing it before works too. On occasion I’ll pay for things even if I think I’m a downtrodden damsel because I understand that my friendship is sometimes more important than my need to play that role.

There are tons of other ways to keep friendships alive but I wanted to give you a taste of some things that have made me feel special. Relationships, like gardens, have to be nurtured. Even if the garden will not bear anything you don’t have to let it die.

It’s beautiful existing as is. And your friends are beautiful even if you don’t speak to them or see them everyday. If you can try once a month to reach out to friends who have drifted away but whose company you enjoy. Friends come in many forms so keep the good ones around!

Reaching Out When You’re Feeling Alone and Worried Your Friends Forgot You

If you’re like me you might sometimes feel insecure and fearful everyone is off having fun without you.

But, if you’re like me you’re also laser focused on your career/passions and have tons of commitments which might make you seem unavailable. Even when your friends ask you to be available to meet them on a specific date and time, you are not always available. If they do this repeatedly they might assume you are too busy for them. In reality, you’re just not available at that specific time and date.

In the end, it might seem like people stop reaching out to you, and ultimately you start to realize your friends have grown distant.

Sometimes our isolation is not one sided, unbeknownst to us, and I am here to tell you and me what we need to do to stop disappearing from our social circles.

Also, don’t forget, if you’re hoping to cut through the insanity of the dating world, we can help make it quicker and easier if you join LOVE TV today.

1. Choose a specific date and time.

People ask me to meet them and I can’t, but as I am writing this article, I realize that I don’t always ask people out.

I may ask them to accompany to me a show or a movie, but how often does that happen? So, be deliberate. If you can recognize that you are never available when certain people that you actually want in your life ask you to be available, try suggesting a time and date for when you can meet. If they say no, keep trying.

I’ve even feared that if someone didn’t answer my text one day in December they never want to speak with me and I let that relationship die. But, who knows what happened? They were mad at me in December, but it’s March now so maybe they’re less mad and I can try again? The text didn’t go through? Their phone was turned off that day and they didn’t get the message? They forgot?

Anything could have happened and I can be mad at them for not answering that text that one time, but what if they still want to hang out with me? I can try again. At least once in March? Once in April. And if I am ignored still, well, at least I made the effort!

meeting up when you feel alone

2. Meetup

Meetup.com is a thing. A place where you can join a group for people like you. A MeetUp for left handed people. A MeetUp for introverts. A MeetUp for left handed introverts. A MeetUp for people who who want to dissect Lana Del Rey lyrics. There is a place for you.

If you’re like, “I don’t want to hang out with people” but also feel sad that no one wants to hang out with you reevaluate your thought process. Do your actions match what you want out of life? If you feel isolated, move past your discomfort and join a meetup.

Or a facebook group. There’s even a facebook group for people who have MoviePass so you can literally just go see a movie with a stranger. Not something I recommend if you’re 12, but at least in New York we meet up with random people all the time. Try doing it in public spaces if you’re nervous.

3. Go to that after office hangout.

I know we’re supposed to technically keep our work and personal life separate and that’s all well and good if you have a personal life, but come on. Many of us see our coworkers more than we see anyone else in our lives. If you like any of them, say yes to after office drinks. “I don’t drink.” Ok. And? There are non alcoholic drinks at bars, right? Order a soda. Order a lemonade.

If you don’t like your coworkers find a job where you do? Or spend time at places where you like the people? Church? Temple? Dance class? Book club? Dungeons and Dragons? Take the time to get to know people. “No one’s gonna like me.” Of course, they won’t if they don’t know how awesome you are.

What I am saying is we can’t always blame others for our isolation. Sure, it’s partially their responsibility to keep you in mind, but it’s also your responsibility. The cool thing about taking responsibility is that it gives you power. It equates to self sufficiency. It’s taking charge of your life experiences. You don’t have time? Who is in charge of your life? You. Make the time.

I remember I would see people post, f you ever feel alone you can reach out to me.” I thought those were empty words. But, do it. Reach out to your friends and say, “Hey, I feel incredibly isolated from everyone right now and I wanted to know if we could hang out. Today. Right now?”

They may say, “How about Tuesday?” Great. You have plans for Tuesday. Say yes. Then show up. Then go reach out to another friend and another friend another friend until someone says, “Ok. I’ll meet you in ten minutes.” We don’t have to be alone.

Being social takes a lot of work. Go outside of yourself to live the life you want. It doesn’t have to be Paris. It can be as simple as, “I want to do friend things at least twice a week.” Whatever it takes to get you to feel a part of the world. Just remember to keep it up!