This is a guest post by Charlotte Underwood
Mental Health Advocate and AuthorMental Illness And Relationships
When you live with mental illness, it can be hard to know exactly how to look after yourself, let alone how to advise others how to help you.
I’ve been in my fair share of relationships but I’ve been in a committed relationship with my mental illness longer. I can’t say that I did not cause some stress and worry to those I did date because I did, when someone cares and you feel like you are unable to help, that hurts.
From the point of a person who suffers daily with anxiety and depression, I can find it hard to tell people that I need help, support or even basic attention. Asking for a hug or help with chores feels like I am about to audition on live TV. In my head, I keep wishing that people could read my mind so they knew what I wanted without me asking, yet that’s just not possible.
I get myself worked up about how annoying I must be, I worry that I may come across needy or like I am dramatic. The thing is that I do need attention, like every person out there but I just don’t know how to get that across without making things extreme – the truth is that sometimes I just find it easier to suffer alone that even ask for help at all, in my mind that means that only I get hurt, right?
But then I think, how would I feel if someone I loved was not telling me that they were hurting?
I lost my father to suicide in 2014 and I had no idea that he was even contemplating taking his life, let alone that he must have been hurting a great deal before that. So if we are all honest here, when we try to fight it alone and suffer in silence, maybe that is how we actually hurt those we love, even when we don’t want to.
I have been able now to communicate my feelings, to those very close to me and the world wide web at least, although I am still hesitant to admit when I am relapsing or feel like I need immediate attention as I can feel like I am falling into a crisis; being strong for the sake of others is just what I was raised to do but I fully believe that being strong is being able to admit that you’re not as strong as you look.
But allowing the world to know that I am not this person with a perfect life, that I do struggle and battle daily
It’s made it healthier for my relationships of all kinds. Maybe I am still a work in progress with admitting when I am really struggling but it’s something I have been working on really hard and it is getting there; I no longer try to pretend and I think that no one should have to pretend in the first place.
The best memory I have is from a previous relationship in which I was so distressed, I was hyperventilating in the foetus position on my bedroom floor. My partner at the time just removed my pillow and blanket off the bed and used them to make sure I was comfortable, he then just lay next to me until I felt able to speak; a simple gesture but I needed that so much at that moment and it gave a lasting impression.
I cannot tell you how to support someone you love because no two people are alike and mental health is so individual. However, what is always needed is someone to listen, to just be there and to ensure that even in the dark moments, someone’s by your side to comfort you, even if it’s in silence.
About the author:
Charlotte Underwood is a young 22 year old growing mental health advocate, on her blog you can keep up to date with her written work, both self published and through other means. I post a lot about mental health, depression, anxiety and suicide. I want to raise awareness as well as end the stigma.