Caregiver mental health is important. The last couple of weeks were quite a struggle for me. Maybe this was related to the constant speed of life or the change in seasons. I'm not sure, but as a spouse to someone with mental illness, I take on extra responsibilities and my mental health as a caregiver comes into play.
Mental Illness and Marriage
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.
Mental illness can impact a family in many ways, and the children of parents with mental illness need loving support. Children are very sensitive and sometimes clue into differences in behavior that adults miss. As adults, we are often caught up with other concerns: our careers, finances or the latest Netflix series, to name a few. We sometimes forget to pay attention to those around us and may overlook subtle changes. Children, on the other hand, notice everything. I say this from experience: children of parents with mental illness see and feel all of it.
Keeping a marriage together while you balance life transitions with mental illness can feel impossible. It's taken my husband and me almost 16 years to anticipate and manage transitions in life. After many missteps, we have learned a few techniques that help our marriage with mental illness survive life's transitions (Why Is Even Good Change Sometimes So Hard?).
Your marriage is something to consider before a bipolar pregnancy. When you live with bipolar disorder, whether or not you should get pregnant is a difficult decision (Why I Chose to be a Mother Despite My Bipolar Disorder). There is a lot to consider before a bipolar pregnancy, and the stability of your marriage needs to be at the very top of this list.
For the mom considering suicide, please don't give up (What to do if You Are Suicidal). I know what it feels like to be so tired and so desperate that nothing feels more appealing than just not being here anymore. But please listen to me, mama: you are worth saving. You are worth fighting for. Your family is worth fighting for, and they need you to be well so they can be well. So, friend, if you are considering suicide, if you think your family might just be better off with you, this is for you.
It is entirely possible to vacation well with your spouse despite mental illness (Marriage and Mental Illness: Take a Vacation Alone Together). But, one of the hardest things about having a mental illness is that you can’t take a vacation from your mental illness. Even if you want to escape your life and just enjoy your partner on vacation, you still have to make allowances for your mental illness. It might feel like more work than it's worth, but making space for your mental illness on vacation will enable you to have a better vacation.
Married couples dealing with mental illness need to take a vacation. And I’m not talking about a coffee break. I’m talking about getting away by yourselves for at least a few days to reconnect and have fun together. No matter how long it’s been since you and your spouse have been on a vacation alone together, taking a vacation can do wonders for your own mental health and your marriage with mental illness.
Moms with mental illness: we need a summer survival guide. At first, the lazy days of summer seem like a Godsend to the routine-weary mom. But sooner than we can run out of Otter Pops, the kids are screaming and hitting each other and complaining that they're bored. If I'm not careful, this mama’s losing her cork before we even light the sparklers for the fourth of July. Here is a summer survival plan for all of us moms with mental illness who need a little extra help to survive so much family togetherness this summer.
When mentally ill spouses shift focus onto their marriage rather than themselves, everyone benefits. Giving to your spouse is absolutely necessary to keep your marriage going, no matter how mentally ill you are (Mentally Ill Spouses: Give What You Can To Your Marriage). Before I became ill with bipolar disorder, I was an equal partner in my marriage. After my diagnosis and subsequent medication regiment, it was impossible for me to be the same partner to my husband. But as time went on, I found ways to give to my husband and have a better marriage despite my bipolar disorder diagnosis. I, the mentally ill spouse, did this by focusing on my marriage.