Actively showing support for anyone with a mental health challenge is … well … challenging in and of itself. But doing this for a spouse or significant other can seem to add an additional layer of difficulty. As if living with your significant other/spouse is not challenging enough, you may find yourself at wit’s end trying to deal with his/her mental health condition effectively while balancing other areas of your life like job and kids. Can you learn to deal with it and still show them how much you care? Of course you can!
Sometimes others do not understand the entire issue of a mental health challenge or illness, because their symptoms are not always on the outside for others to see. However, you probably sense conditions before you can readily identify them outwardly. That is why it is important to see a competent health care practitioner who is experienced also with mental health, and if you obtain or have a diagnosis for your spouse, it is a good idea to understand exactly what the diagnosis means. It is also helpful to understand that people with real mental health challenges are not behaving, thinking, and feeling the way they do on purpose. It often seems beyond their control.
However, help is available whether it be by therapeutic intervention, medicinal intervention, or holistic intervention involving lifestyle changes.
It is a good idea to research various ways to deal with mental health conditions … for example, if your significant other has an anxiety disorder, it’s not especially helpful to simply tell him/her things will be okay when their experience tells them things are not okay. If your significant other has depression at a clinical level, it’s not helpful to tell him/her to just snap out of it. No, it’s not in their heads. (It’s in their biochemistry.) Try instead, what can I do for you?
It almost goes without saying that you absolutely need to practice self-care. How can you deal with life’s issues if you don’t take care of yourself? If you burn out trying to balance dealing with mental illness, work, kids, home, etc., then you wind up needing care yourself. So be proactive and make sure you make enough time to do for you, yourself, what you need in order to stay healthy and above all else – balanced.
Many people find solace in seeking spiritual guidance, whatever the form. For many it’s religion and reaching out to God. For others, it can be yoga and meditation to get centered (i.e., mindfulness activities). Spirituality and religion are considered separate phenomena. If you are seeking counseling for yourself, make sure you include your own brand of religion and/or spirituality and have your practitioner incorporate that into your sessions.
Think about what helps keep you going in difficult times. Thank about what is important to you in life. Do you feel safe? What things make you feel supported and happy? It’s important for you to feel valued and worthwhile to continue and make this experience a positive one!
So, no matter what the manifestation of the mental health challenge is, make sure your spouse/significant other knows that you care. You can use words of endearment, you can keep your temper under control, you can advocate for him/her, and you can get a mentor, etc. to help you navigate the daily challenges. Remember that people are role models for each other, as they are for kids, so if you are taking care of yourself, that may end up inspiring your spouse to do the same!
At times, mental illness occurs because of physiological issues. In any case, getting you and your significant other on healthy nutrition will assist both of you equally and your kids as well. Certain supplements can be extremely helpful in improving symptoms and moods, too; it is scientifically well established that diet and supplements can make a huge difference in restoring health, and that includes mental health. Energy medicine (Reiki, Tapping, Emotion Code, etc.) is another promising avenue to explore. It is a great idea to work with a competent health care practitioner, but it’s helpful for you to also do your own research. Please remember that although there aren’t many, some supplements and medications do not play well together so be sure you are aware of possible contraindications.
As always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.