How To…

…maintain a relationship through mental illness.

It’s no secret that Depression and anxiety are tough illnesses to bear, but not least for your family and loved ones. Any illness puts strain on any relationship – man flu could (and most likely does) break up the most solid of partnerships. And when your partner is lying on the floor rocking back and forth with tears streaming down their cheeks and asking you to section them, I can understand why that might be a tough thing to take.

Wedding guest outfits

Two weeks after I first had to leave work due to mental illness Chris went away for three weeks on a work trip. It seemed like terrible timing, however, looking back on it now leads me to think it was actually exactly what I needed. I heard a stupid song not too long ago, probably written by a stupid man, the lyrics of which dictate that “you’re nobody ’till somebody loves you”, which I have to say it utter codswallop (euphemism). Love helps, it really does, but the love of someone else can only go so far, love for oneself has to do the rest.

The three weeks I had without Chris gave me the perfect opportunity to work on me, spend a little time with myself and get comfortable with who I am. And it was nice! I think one of the best things you can do for any relationship is make sure you’re happy alone, because if you’re not, the likelihood is that no one will be able to fill the gap you already have within you. A partner can stop you feeling lonely, but may be not stop you feeling alone (I have a feeling that might be a song lyric?)

When Chris got home we went through a bit of an adjustment period. He wanted to help and tried to be understanding but it was hard for him to comprehend it all and it was hard for me to communicate with him. It was a bit of a mess really, not an oh-my-giddy-aunt-this-is-never-going-to-work-out mess, but a we-need-to-make-a-few-changes mess. So I wrote him a letter (time-honoured and much underrated communication form). I did a few drafts, I made sure I was explaining myself clearly and I gave it to him to read alone. After he read it he came downstairs and gave me a big kiss and we’ve had very few miscommunications since!

A Parisian Kiss
I am aware that I look like a dwarf in this picture

I decided on a letter because I’m a crier. I cry a lot. About every other day I burst into tears, either for good or no reason, it matters not. Chris is kind of used to it now but I have been told that the sight of their spouse crying has a somewhat panic inducing effect on many loving partners. It’s like what happens to me when someone poses me a maths question; I panic, I can’t actually focus on reason any more, it feels like numbers are shouting at me, it’s stressful. So I took tears out of the equation (evil things) and instead of me explaining myself through sobs and snot, I did it in a way that Chris could take as much time and space as he needed to mull over my point of view.

And it worked! He has been the most amazing support system since (not that this wasn’t always his intention). The other day I text him to say that I didn’t think I could get out of bed because I didn’t know what to do and he text back straight away with the best advice – to do just three small tasks one at a time; to get out of bed, to make myself some breakfast, and to do some yoga and then the day will have begun and I’d know what to do. And it worked. I told my therapist about it this morning and she said “he’s a really good fiance isn’t he?”

Yes he bloody is.

My fiancé with our gorgeous cat!

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