How to Support your Spouse's Mental Health Journey | Enduring All Things

Friday, October 12, 2018

How to Support your Spouse's Mental Health Journey

I've been wanting to write this post for a while now and it just seems to be a good time. Wednesday was World Mental Health day and for the past week or so, I've really not been feeling myself mentally. My anxiety has been spiking and I've had a bout of depression. I think current events have been effecting me really badly. But I won't go into all that.

Over the last couple years, Pearson and I have both struggled some in the mental health department. We both went to counseling for most of last year. We both got a lot better. And we've both had our fair share of relapses. And we've both learned a lot about mental health in general, how the brain works, and how to support each other's mental health journeys!

So today I want to talk a little about that last point.
Mental health is so important and supporting each other in your mental health journeys is one of the best things you can do for each other and your marriage. I think our society is slowly loosing the stigma around mental health and that's great! Bring that attitude into your marriage. Try to understand and be there for each other. Don't belittle their feelings and encourage them to take care of themselves. And you do the same!

ONE || Don't get frustrated

I must admit that I've been guilty of this. Actually, I think we've both been guilty of this. When you're on the outside looking in at someone spiraling into depression or having a spike in anxiety or whatever the issue may be, it's hard to sympathize. When you're not in the middle of it yourself. you're able to see clearly and to think rationally and it's easy to get frustrated and think "just be happy already!"

Of course that's quite the simplification, but I think you get what I'm saying. The partner who's thinking rationally can see that "life is good" and that the one spiraling has "so much going for them" and that the things they keep telling themselves are lies. But you have to remember, when they are in the middle of it, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. They can't think rationally or see clearly. It's just not that simple. The brain is a powerful thing!

TWO || Help identify triggers

Here's the thing about mental illness. Yeah you can take medicine but not everybody who suffers needs medication. A lot of managing the issue is done mentally with tools that a therapist can give you. And a very important tool is to identify triggers. In fact, this might be the first step that everyone should take because once you realize that your anxiety spikes when you have a one on one meeting with your boss at work, you can begin to narrow down what exactly is causing the anxiety and work on ways to combat it.

Once you've identified what triggers you, you can avoid those or be better prepared for them if they're unavoidable. And in my experience, sometimes the partner on the outside can see the triggers more clearly. Not always. In fact, I think I can see Pearson's triggers better than he can see mine because I don't share a lot of my emotions and I just don't share as much as him in general. But it's still important to help try to identify them and just start a conversation about why they might be feeling a certain way.

THREE || Encourage them to do things they used to enjoy

One major symptom of depression (or really any mental issue) is a person not enjoying things and activities they use to enjoy. Whether it's a hobby, exercise routine, or just a simple guilty pleasure, they just don't find joy in them anymore. As the spouse, try to encourage them to continue these activities, even if they don't want to anymore.

Back when I was depressed really bad in the Spring of 2016, I never wanted to leave the house or do anything. I wasn't doing much more than sleeping, to be honest. I always felt my best when Pearson and I would go do things together even if it was just going to a movie. So I eventually made myself start going to the movies!

FOUR || Support them

Okay of course a big part of supporting your spouse through their mental issues is "supporting them." But it's more than just not getting mad or frustrated! Be there for them to lean on. Hug them. Sometimes just a cuddle or hug from Pearson makes me feel so much better!

Listen to them. But don't pressure your partner to share with you either. Yes talking about what they're going through can certainly help but sometimes talking and re-living whatever causes the issue can do more harm than good. And when they're not ready to share, pressuring them can make the anxiety even worse!

Whatever you do, just make sure they know you still love them, that they are not a burden, that they are worthy and enough and that they have your support no matter what!

FIVE || Encourage them to seek professional help

The absolute MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do to support your spouse through mental issues is to encourage them to seek professional help. I saved the best for last! But really, you can only do so much yourself. Let someone whose job it is help your partner. Encourage them to ask their doctor about a diagnoses and medication if they need it.

Of course nothing beats personal, one on one, therapy, but if that isn't possible financially, or time wise, or for some other reason, there are some great resources out there these days! One of those resources is all the content that Tiffany Roe of Mindful Counseling puts on the internet! She has some free content in a podcast called Therapy Thoughts, and she shares mini Therapy Thoughts on Instagram every day. She also has some great paid courses on mindfulcounselingschool.com that are a great option and quite a bit cheaper than therapy.
Mental health is so important and supporting each other in your mental health journeys is one of the best things you can do for each other and your marriage. I think our society is slowly loosing the stigma around mental health and that's great! Bring that attitude into your marriage. Try to understand and be there for each other. Don't belittle their feelings and encourage them to take care of themselves. And you do the same!
Mental health is so important and supporting each other in your mental health journeys is one of the best things you can do for each other and your marriage. I think our society is slowly loosing the stigma around mental health and that's great! Bring that attitude into your marriage. Try to understand and be there for each other. Don't belittle their feelings and encourage them to take care of themselves. And you do the same!

What have you done for your own mental health? How have you helped your spouse on their journey?
Thanks for reading!

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