How I Cope with My Partner's Mental Illness
Recently I was asked how I cope with caring for a partner with mental illness. Do I cope day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, or does it vary? What a complicated question.
Coping with a Partner's Mental Illness Is Hard
How do I cope with my partner's mental illness? Sometimes I ask myself if I am successfully coping at all. At times in the past, I shut down and pretended my partner’s mental illness didn’t exist. Living with someone with mental illness is hard. It is really hard. My husband and I work diligently to find success. Some days are easy, and some are really difficult. Some days start out great, and some start out plain awful and require that we find our way back to middle ground. But I think that the way I cope changes as we learn more about my husband's illness and how best to manage it.
Not long ago, I coped day by day. If a day started poorly, we couldn’t recover, and it seemed that the whole day was ruined. My husband would become upset and hold a grudge over a misinterpreted comment or would sometimes even project his own frustrations and suggest that they were mine. These actions frustrated me, and I couldn’t seem to let that go. We would then typically be short with one another and those around us, usually our children, for the rest of the day. Later, I would become even angrier due to brooding about it all day. Ultimately, I would feel guilty because I was short with my children and not understanding enough of my husband and what he was feeling.
My Coping Techniques
After some particularly trying days, we decided it was time for marriage and family counseling. We learned techniques on how to handle difficult situations and how to be more understanding of each other’s needs. I personally am learning to avoid taking his actions personally. But to be honest, it remains difficult. We are a work in progress. We have three kids and are in the process of renovating a house, so when my husband has a hard morning and doesn’t want to get out of bed, it is hard not to take his actions personally. It is hard not to feel abandoned or alone. Sometimes I feel like a single parent struggling just to make it through each day. That being said, my husband is learning that his trials affect his family members too and is becoming more cognizant of their effect on me and our children.
One technique we use is “I feel” statements. We don’t necessarily use the technique properly (our statements normally turn into jokes), but it works for us. We also established a twenty-minute cooldown period. If one of us gets frustrated, we get twenty minutes to cool down and think on our own. We work through whatever is bothering us and go back to the other with a fresh start.
I Cope with My Partner's Mental Illness to the Best of My Ability
These two techniques do not fix all of our problems, but they have helped us drastically. Now I find that I am able to cope somewhere between hour by hour to minute by minute. This isn’t always the case, and sometimes we have days that just don’t go right. But that’s life. What matters is that we are trying. We are coping to the best of our abilities and are working together as a family. We are moving in the right direction while trying to do what’s best for everyone.
Law, M. (2019, March 22). How I Cope with My Partner's Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2019/3/how-i-cope-with-my-partners-mental-illness