When I began this series, I suppose this should have been one of the 1st posts, but it didn’t work out that way. In some aspects this series came about on a whim and the subject matter varies, but it’s no secret that we have had our fair share of experiences when it comes to mental health. Recently I was chatting to a friend about it and I thought it would be interesting to share it openly. Of course I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t openly say that this is 100% my own opinions and in no way facts. Simply things I wish I had already known. Read along.
Maybe I should start out by saying that this post is meant to be an honest one, and open and personal assessment of my life and where it’s taken me. I am in no way invalidating the experiences of others or saying this is a general feeling. It is purely mine and based on thoughts I have had over the years. I can only hope that by opening up the dialogue that it not only removes major stigma but it also gives a different perspective. Essentially I don’t often hear about the pressures loved ones feel when coping with mental illness from a family member.
My journey or introduction to mental illness was a very sudden, emotional and confusing one. Though I’ve blogged about the struggle I faced coping with a partner who suffered from severe mental health issues, this wasn’t exactly my 1st time seeing someone close to me mentally deteriorate. My 1st direct experience was with my father, who similarly had a break down just like my ex. Freud would have a field day with me on that one for sure! But all joking aside I wished someone would have told me that there is no quick fix. It’s not something you can pop a few pills, crank out some therapy and you’re on your merry way. What I never fully grasped was the depth of how much this takes away from you. The fact that it is not only life altering and there will be a lot of ups and downs. I have always been fiercely independent, sometimes negatively so and unfortunately in the case of my ex, I never expected him to become so deeply dependent on me and I became a type of carer. Initially, I never thought or even stopped to assess what it meant for us as a couple. I was simply in reaction mode and put my head down and ploughed through. But the reality is, mental health will shake up your world, for yourself, let alone and intimate partner- it will change your dynamic. I was unable to see him past his “damaged” status, which is a huge shame but I definitely tried.
Remember that your mental health is a priority, your inner peace is essential and your self-care is a necessity.
I wish I knew that in some ways there would be residual spill over and that I would carry some of that trauma for years to come and potentially forever. I know it has made me much more calm and compassionate and of course having more understanding and patience. I have understood how my red flags may not have been the best addition to the cocktail. But one frustrating dialogue I feel like I don’t often come across is people opening up about how tough the daily ins and outs of life can be living with someone with a mental illness. As I’ve been doing much more internal work, I cannot avoid the fact that it has made me much more anxious than I have ever been before. Not being able to “manage” my emotions has never been something I’ve ever faced before. I was always the stoic one, the one who got things done- I never really took the time to stop and think about feelings so much. Of course in some ways that was a coping mechanism. As time went on, a break up, single parenting, moving counties ( again ) and Covid- I began to spiral with the thoughts about myself and wondering what responsibility I played in his mental health deterioration. Of course I know that I could not have done it all and healing is an internal job. I just wish in some ways I could choose to not carry the baggage of the things I have seen.