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16 Pointers To Help A Partner (And Yourself) Live With Mental Illness

Discussion in 'Supporter General Discussion' started by anthony, Dec 22, 2009.

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  1. anthony

    anthony Master of none!


    1. The mental illness your partner suffers with is something that is happening to your entire family. All are affected; it is nobody’s fault. It is not your partner’s fault; it is not your fault; it is not your children’s fault. IT IS NOBODY’S FAULT. It is an unfortunate illness. It is NOT automatic grounds for divorce, any more than any other disability.

    2. You cannot fix your partner. There is nothing you can do to make him/her well, so don’t feel compelled to try. You don’t have all the answers. All you can do is be supportive and loving (in a profound sense), and handle the everyday details and practical issues of life that your partner cannot cope with.

    3. All members of the family have a responsibility to cope with the illness. Escape is not a helpful way of dealing with the crisis. You all need each other.

    4. The ill partner must take responsibility and recognize and accept the illness, be willing to receive treatment, and if possible, learn to manage the illness. They must cooperate with their medical team. They must take their medications. They must learn to recognize relapse symptoms. If the ill partner is not willing to do these things, it may become impossible for the family to continue to support them. The family is not required to throw away their own lives for someone who refuses to cooperate. There are limits, and they must be enforced without feelings of Guilt.

    5. Educate yourself concerning every aspect of the illness. Education brings compassion. Ignorance just encourages anger and fear.

    6. Grieve your loss. It is a great loss. The grief process for this illness is identical to the grief process for the death of a partner. You need to allow yourself to experience the entire process of grieving.

    7. Get help for yourself to cope with this incredible challenge, either from your own counseling sessions or a support group. You can’t do it alone. With help, you can live life with gusto. Don’t refuse to recognize your own need for help just because the ill partner is getting most of the attention. This illness is happening to your whole family. You should not try to do it alone.

    8. Help your children understand the illness as much as their age allows. NO FAMILY SECRETS! Don’t deny them the opportunity to learn about the illness, the unfair stigma attached to it, and to develop their own coping skills. It can be an incredible learning opportunity for them. If they need professional help to understand it and their own feelings, get it for them.

    9. Try to create a safe environment for the partner to express themselves without feeling threatened, constrained or condemned. Your partner desperately needs a nurturing, safe place to express the incredible frustration they are feeling about their illness.

    10. You and your children need to share your feelings honestly and openly. They are suffering a loss also. It’s okay to feel angry and cheated. At times you may feel embarrassed by the ill partner’s behavior. Avoid trying to protect your partner by not discussing the problem with family members or friends. Don’t require your children to conspire with you in a code of “Family Secrecy.” Family secrets will isolate you from others. Humor and openness will help the entire family, including your partner, accept the illness for exactly what it is and reduce guilt for all family members. Remember that small children, by their very nature, assume that they are responsible for anything in their environment that goes wrong.

    11. Never put yourself or your children in physical danger. If you sense your partner is becoming dangerous, you should leave and call for professional help. You should never tolerate Abuse of you or your children! Say NO and mean it. Trust your instincts and intuitions on this.

    12. Become your partner’s advocate with the medical professionals, assertively involved in treatment and medication. Don’t be afraid to go along to appointments, to call their psychiatrist if you suspect something isn’t right, or to inform the psychiatrist of the effects of the medication being prescribed. If the psychiatrist won’t cooperate with you, demand a different one. Stand your ground assertively, but try not to be a pain in the neck. Treatment should involve the entire family, so find a professional who will work with the whole family. You know more about your partner’s illness than anyone else.

    13. Coldly assess what your partner can and cannot handle, then compensate assertively. Most people with severe mental illness cannot handle money, some household chores, time commitments, relatives or too much stress. It is not uncommon for them to want to move all the time, searching for peace. You must not do things for your partner that they can do for themselves. Don’t rob them of dignity. Recognize the imperative need to create some stability for your family, financially and otherwise. You will probably need to get a job and develop a career.

    14. Maintain your own identity. Resist becoming consumed with their illness. Life goes on and you have an obligation to yourself and your children to take care of yourself and meet your own needs. We all must continue to develop as valuable human beings, so don’t play the martyr role and sacrifice yourself.

    15. Always hope for healing. The medications do work and new ones are being developed. You may get your partner back whole some day. If nothing else, the experience will broaden and deepen you in ways you never imagined. You can be a better person for it. Or you can choose to let it destroy you and your family. It is your choice.

    16. Keep in mind that bad things happen to almost anyone and you are no exception. You have not been singled out for special persecution. Trying to make good choices in life won’t protect you from misfortune. You haven’t been dumb to get yourself in this situation. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Life is not easy. We have to take what we get and make the best of it. “Bloom where you are planted.”
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  3. Tbam

    Tbam Active Member

    I feel like you are writing this as a note to me. My wife has been in near shut down mode for seven years and i have been largely raising our two sons. The anger sometimes consumes me as does the embarrasment for both me and my kids. In my case, my wife and her mother largely deny that there is any real problem which makes it hard to follow your rules Good advice though.
    Ms Spock and safenow like this.
  4. Mercy

    Mercy I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    My husband harbours a huge load of rage at not having been able to stop my abuse. He wasn't even on the same continent when the abuse occurred, yet he feels like it is something he should have been able to protect me from.

    I think he could benefit hugely form the carers forum. How do I introduce him to the carers section?

    He questions whether is can help because my abuse was so deep and not shared by many people. I tell him that sharing the symptoms and daily life living with me, even though my type abuse was exteme, will support him and give him the support he needs.

    Any suggestions?
    Ms Spock and safenow like this.
  5. sapphyre

    sapphyre New Member

    My partner is sometimes able to get out of bed and feed himself, or drive to the pharmacy to pick up his methadone dose (was addicted to oxycontin), and I can't get him to go to a psychologist or psychiatrist to be diagnosed. He's that severely Depressed, and if he isn't depressed, he's anxious almost to the point of paranoia.

    He has no one else to go to for support. His family is overseas, and of course he has managed to isolate himself from most of his other friends.

    So, I now have 'no expectations' and love. I am pleasantly surprised if he has fed himself. I sometimes still get upset when he doesn't manage to do one thing, which I may ask him to do one thing, once or twice a week. That one thing (e.g. pick up his meds when he goes to pick up his cigarettes) sometimes gets done, sometimes doesn't.

    How do you get someone to get help when they are this depressed/anxious?
  6. Junebug

    Junebug I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    Hi sapphyre,

    I'm sure others can give you a better answer, but I can only say (from 1st-hand experience) that is very typical of oxycontin addiction. Is it possible he has hidden some away? I do not know if it's typical of methadone-replacement-weaning.
    safenow likes this.
  7. Tom Mintz

    Tom Mintz Member

    I am in a very similiar situation. She works, and sleeps, has secret friends that I am not even suppose to know about. Currently I am getting myself and my four children in to see a physicatrist, hopefully she will find it in herself to go as well. It hurts, we are in a major episode now that is going past two months continuous. Sometimes, me, a man, I have to wait til she leaves for work and me and the kids will sit down and have a good cry together. I remind them daily that she loves them, that she is just confused right now and that things will go back to normal sometime. I fear I may be lying to them though. Anyway best wishes and stay strong, been at it for eleven years now, still it gets harder everyday, remember he needs you more than you need him. That is the true strength of love. I think?
    dms and safenow like this.
  8. Tom Mintz

    Tom Mintz Member

    Hey Anthony,

    this is awesome, may I copy and print it out I would like to hang it somewhere where myself and everyone else that lives here can use to remind us of the love and strength needed to help her through this.
    May I?
  9. anthony

    anthony Master of none!


    Yes you may print it out.

    Note: Please review rules about quoting, look at the help desk forum for help video on quoting, as your posts will be deleted if you quote entire posts unnecessarily in the future.
  10. CreativJ

    CreativJ Member

    I guess I have failed some of these pointers. Even as I gain understanding. I find myself angry and being triggered hard by some things going on. I myself have an issue with trust and dealing with things and I think I trigger the other person as well as them me. Should I stay away from the person when I am supposed to be their support and best friend. We have had issues in the past with our relationship. I understand that is comes from PTSD and other emotional disorders that both of us are dealing with. Hers is not diagnosed, mine, not diagnosed. I don't know what to do. I am having some major issues that has me spiraling down and I need help with how to deal with this situation, before I cause both of us more pain and/or have more pain caused to me.
  11. Toria

    Toria Sitting duck!
    Premium Member

    That is a fabulous list - I think it's so easy to get bogged down in the mire of emotions that come with dealing with this illness that sometimes you can't see that simple truths. So thank you for putting that together - I especially like No. 16.
    Ms Spock likes this.
  12. anthony

    anthony Master of none!

    You actually want to thank member Kathy, as she was the one from Memory who wrote this particular article.
    Ms Spock, Abstract and The Albatross like this.
  13. Cookieinablender

    Cookieinablender New Member

    October will be 15yrs of marriage. I didn't learn of my husbands PTSD officially until 7yrs in, but there were signs that something wasn't right shortly after the 'I do's'. That's when he stopped wanting to be in any form of a loving relationship with me.

    Now 7yrs into his diagnosis, I've been struggling with his anger, Depression, outbursts and disconnection from the family. It's like being told that I MUST do the flamingo but don't step on the eggs shells that are scattered like land-mines.

    We have 4 kids - all between 11 and 3. The 5 of us live in the basement, while he maintains control of the main house - because after all, he needs to have quiet. By the way, he hasn't worked for the last 6yrs - and his trips out of the home are limited to picking up medications and the odd grocery run.

    He sits all day in front of the TV and computer and the only time he wants to talk to me is to discuss his unhappiness with where he is in life, his weight gain and self image, that he never wanted to have children despite actions to the contrary, and that I could slimmer (after 4 kids, I'm by no means overweight) so he could find me more attractive, I could do a better job....with everything.

    I raise the family myself, work from home after they go to bed and the children and I are the reason that his perpetrator went to prison.

    While I appreciate the article, I think that there are some parts to PTSD that make what otherwise seems helpful information difficult for those in my situation to even reach out and grasp.

    Today I'm trying not to spiral into a depression of my own. Just yesterday I was hit with a barrage of how cluttered my house is. It isn't. BUT the ultimatum is that either I throw out the things he doesn't deem necessary or he will. He fixates on things to the point that I will have absolutely nothing that he doesn't deem necessary. He doesn't want to be with us, or live with us, consumed in his own misery so his option is to drive me crazy enough to say Enough. I'm almost there. The constant scrutiny is intolerable.
    Ms Spock, dms and safenow like this.
  14. safenow

    safenow I'm a VIP

    May I ask why you have put up with his BS for so long?

    Please, don't insult anyone with the crap that you love him. Of course you love him. He is the father of your children. But more important, do you like him? Do you like how he treats you and your children?

    For your own sanity, please, get out while you can before your children learn that it's okay to be treated that way.
  15. Abstract

    Abstract I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    You and your children are being emotionally abused and his behaviour is not acceptable at all.

    Sorry but :wideeyed: Agreeing to this type of arrangement is not only terribly detrimental to you and your children but I actually think isn't good for him either.
    Hashi, Ms Spock, Pencil and 1 other person like this.
  16. Ice_Fire

    Ice_Fire Keep your head up, Keep your heart strong
    Premium Member

    Cookie, his behaviour is extreme and I do not think it can be blamed on PTSD. What he is doing is controlling and abusive. I'm so sorry you're in this situation. I agree that he is not a person to continue being with, as it seems to me that you no longer have a relationship anyway.

    Is there anywhere you can go to to get away?
  17. Pencil

    Pencil I'm a VIP

    This is not PTSD. This is abuse. You can't suffer this situation and NOT protect your children against. If you don't get out, you are contributing to the abuse your children are experiencing. I'm sorry to be so blunt, and so unsympathetic, but at this point there is no point in diagnosing, or trying to understand why he does what he does. He's not well. You have to take drastic steps, while minimizing the impact of those steps on your children. You and your kids run the risk of ending up with PTSD.

    There are six cookies in that blender, not just one.
    Abstract and Ms Spock like this.
  18. Ms Spock

    Ms Spock Being Brave, Much More Present
    Premium Member

    This article is more for people who are on both sides are giving it a whirl, where both parties are trying to make the best of a difficult situation. This is where there is great difficulty but also give and take. This is not the situation that is in the realm of what you are even remotely experiencing. You are living in an extremely abusive and controlling situation.

    Can you ring a women's refuge or a women's health centre and ask them to come and get you and the children? Or even ring the welfare to come and get you and the children?

    You will need therapy and support to deal with everything in your life. I hope you can get it soon. Can you make one phone call today to see if you can get some assistance?

    His behaviour is unacceptable and heartbreaking. What you need to deal with is how your own behaviour, beliefs, being worn down, emotions and ideas enabled you to get into this situation. Why was your self esteem so low that you put up with this for yourself, and now, most importantly, why are you letting your kids live in this situation?

    I lived in a family this abusive, whilst growing up. Please get your children out asap. Or at least do one thing a day to start getting ready to leave. Or start a thread to get some support and back up from the forum. You deserve better this and so do your children.

    I really wish you the best of luck and hope. This is a terrible situation to be living in. How long have you and the kids been living in the basement?
  19. Cult

    Cult Active Member

    My situation is not as bad as the one above, however, it's close. I am still getting in touch with my own feelings and needs. I have been so codependent in this relationship for so long, I am not able to think about things rationally at this point. My own healing has just started. I love my partner, I want us to be healthy together but I do not know if it is possible. My partner is a "runner" by nature and the hard stuff makes her hide, not work harder. And this was before the PTSD which developed just a few months ago. She is not diagnosed yet but has all of the hallmarks.
    Abstract likes this.
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