** Please note that this post does lightly mention self harm and abuse. **
Relationships and mental health
So, being in a relationship is hard right? Regardless of if you have mental health issues or not. There are fights, there are life events… there’s so much that goes on that can cause strain. However, when you’re suffering from a mental illness, you sometimes forget the extra strain and weight that you put on to someone else who cares so deeply for you. I’m not saying that this is done intentionally, I know it’s not. It’s just a fact that gets puts to the back of your mind and completely forgotten about.
I’m not perfect. I’m very guilty of this.
My realtionship and mental health
So, I guess we’ll take my relationship into context here as an example. When I first met my husband, I thought I was okay that I was coping. Okay, I had been out of a very abusive relationship and my husband felt like that fairytale prince that just swept me off of my feet… Everything was amazing, everything was fine and I didn’t have a care in the world. I guess the reality of what I went through was waiting patiently to smack me in the face.
Now, that’s not to say… that everything was a bed of roses because it wasn’t. I was starting to come to terms with everything and as you’ll be aware from my post of how I got here my ex wasn’t willing to leave us alone for a good while. I’m waffling on though so let’s get back to the relationship story.
So take the above photo, we’re happy we’re smiley? Yeah, because we were. We always had a joke and I thought at the time my issues were just trying to understand what I had been through and the trauma I had been through… I guess now, looking back. I was not totally wrong but I missed some big warning signs with my mental health state.
From the day my husband and I got together we spent every day together, sleeping at my house, his Nan’s house on and off until we settled in and moved into his Nan’s house together. We didn’t really argue. If anything we were quite silly, quite happy being an odd couple.
Even up to the wedding we were still being our weird and silly selves. We’d always have a laugh and what not. Plus, the only day I was a bridezilla was the night before when my stress levels reached a boiling point and I couldn’t take it anymore. (oops!)
So yeah, moving on to the wedding day. Whilst, yes, it was the happiest day of my life. Inside, however, I was plagued with self-doubt, with this nagging voice in my head reminding me of how rubbish I was, how I was a plaything, how I didn’t deserve love and he’d change his mind at the last second. (Spoiler alert. he didn’t and it’ll be our first anniversary as husband and wife next weekend)
Our first dance was more like a first sway, where he even made me laugh, we talked we joked and it was special. Marriage wasn’t going to change us and it hasn’t we’re still like a pair of children stuck in adult bodies sometimes.
You know what did change us a bit and I’ve noticed it’s changed us? This lovely little friend of mine that’s called mental illness. Yep, that’s changed us slightly. No, we don’t really argue. We only really have once and that was because I was in the mindset of ending everything and he caught me doing something. So, rightfully so we would argue then.
By change, I mean, sometimes how we are together. How he is with me. How sometimes it feels like he has to be a carer rather than a husband. It’s the little things that I’ve begun to notice here and there. Even with his own behaviours and how he seems to feel. That’s because of the strain of this mental illness. (Whilst I know it’s not my fault, it feels like it is) The pressure it’s put on him because of how it makes me act and feel. How it stops me from basic things and it’s not fair on him I know. If I could wave a magic wand and be the ‘normal’ independent and happy person I was back 3 years ago when we met. I would. In a heartbeat.
Take a look at these segments taken from this article from heretohelp.bc.ca
“However, it has been known for a long time by those working in the field with couples that individuals who have a mental illness can have a negative impact on their spouse’s mental health, and vice versa. At times, both partners in a relationship can be struggling with symptoms that have developed as a result of the original illness in one of the partners. In fact, research on psychiatric illness in the couples relationship has found a positive correlation between one partner having a mental illness and the other partner also suffering from a mental illness”
“Meanwhile, partners who are providing care to their spouse with a mental illness have been found to exhibit signs of burnout identical to that found in nursing staff at psychiatric hospitals.3 The person providing care may spend much of their time focusing on the suffering of their partner. They may follow prescribed treatment programs that focus on healing the partner but ignore their needs. Their mental health often deteriorates, and they may experience changes in their daily functioning, including poor sleep and appetite. They may also develop thoughts of shame and hopelessness as they begin to feel less effective in helping their partner and don’t see their partner’s recovery moving forward.”
This just helps emphasise the point I am making today. Mental illness can put a strain on relationships let alone the usual stressors in a relationship. What works for me, may not work for you but it’s worth a try and the internet is an amazing tool… you could probably find some ideas to try from google.. if not, like the article suggests, maybe even couples therapy might help.
So, what changes/strains are there that I’ve noticed you ask?
In terms of him here’s what I’ve noticed:
- He withdraws a bit and doesn’t seem himself sometimes.
- He’s quite protective and worries more now than say a year or so ago.
- He’s much more reassuring with me when it comes to most things.
- He doesn’t really talk as much about what’s going on in his head.
- He can be much quieter and distant especially if I’ve stressed out a bit.
- That’s what I’ve noticed from him since all of this really started and since I’ve been a tad more open and honest with what’s going on and what has been going on.
They’re not really negatives as such. Some are in terms of his mental wellbeing but he does keep reassuring me that he’s fine so I don’t know.
In terms of us, however?
- It sometimes feels like he has to be more of a carer than a husband.
- I can’t really be left alone at the moment so I either go out with him or we stay home and vice versa.
- He has to remind me to do simple things like wash, dress, eat and he shouldn’t have to.
- My mental health stops us from being as close as we were a year or so back. which… is pretty devastating really and he has brought this up.
There’s more to it than that but you can get the gist that mental illness can cause a strain and slight changes to the relationship some of which can go kind of unnoticed for quite some time before you catch on to them.
Now, that’s not saying our relationship is bad either because it’s brilliant. We’re strong, we’re great. My husband is my rock... He’s amazing with me and very understanding of what my mental health is doing to me, to us, to everything. He doesn’t take it personally. (Well.. sometimes he does, but that’s human nature!) What I’m trying to get at is when you’re unwell.. you don’t notice the effect your illness has on those around you. There are probably more changes that I haven’t even picked up on or have but can’t remember.
There’s truth to the whole I feel like a burden because I do. My husband has done so much for me. He’s come to so many appointments. Helped me basically cope with everyday life but in the long run, it has and probably still will take a toll on him.
However, with the tough times. He still makes sure we have good times. He’s always trying to make me laugh by being silly. He’s always trying to do something different and work on my mental health with fun activities, silly videos or anything that comes to that daft mind of his.
Couples who laugh together, last together.
I can honestly relate to that so much because I feel if we didn’t have our goofy silly fun times throughout this we’d have given up and called it a day.
While yes, you have a mental illness… You don’t feel like having a laugh or anything. It’s worth it, even just for a few moments. You’ll remember the silly times more than the bad times with your partner and it will not only help you but help them because the seriousness and strain in caring for someone with a mental illness is practically just as hard as living through it yourself.
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Here’s us now. nearly one year on from our wedding!