According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 26 percent of the adult population suffers from mental disorders. Considering that statistic, it is fair to say that mental health issues impact marriages more than some physical ailments such as arthritis and cardiac disease. If your spouse suffers from a mental health issue, you are not alone.
Here are some tips that may help you and your spouse keep your relationship together.
1. Cut through the Excuses
If you are married to someone who is in denial, you have a big job ahead of you. “I’m not crazy.” “There is nothing wrong with me.” “I am not taking meds.” These statements do little to move your marriage into a happy place. For the resistant, try providing your partner a book or short article about the behavior, try a scientific approach and show some evidence in the form of feedback from friends and family, a list of compelling symptoms (embarrassing photos are great) can highlight concerns, or a genetic family history can be just the proof you need.
If they resist or become belligerent, know that you have done your job to try to educate, and that’s really all you can do. It is time to take care of yourself.
2. Find the Right Doctor and Therapist
Shop for the right professionals. While it may be tempting to use your primary care doctor, complicated mental health issues require a psychiatrist. And while it may be tempting to use the first therapist that answers the phone, make sure it is a good fit. Make calls and check out the helping professionals to ensure he or she is competent to handle your situation. Good doctors help you get better. Bad doctors worsen your condition.
4. Abide by Some Rules
Discuss specific symptomology that are concerns for you and will result in a call to the doctor. If you cry for multiple days or don’t sleep for two nights—time to call for help.
Develop a process to highlight for your spouse that they are in the middle of a mood episode so you can derail the uncomfortable situation. Ask for a 15 minute break to think about what has occurred. Designate a safe zone in the house where you can retreat.
And the biggest rule of all – TAKE YOUR MEDICATIONS AS DIRECTED.
In some cases a mutual understanding of symptoms is enough for a couple to avert a full-blown episode because together you can take steps to change the course.
5. Learn the Language of the Illness
When someone is anxious or depressed, they can say mean and hurtful things. Sometimes those things are directed at you with blame placing comments, which are never acceptable. “You’re a horrible spouse” or “you make miserable.” And sometimes they are directed at oneself. “I just want to be dead.” “I don’t care about anything.” While these comments are upsetting, know it is the depression/anxiety speaking and make sure to highlight these comments when in therapy and with your psychiatrist. If they continue to persist with a high amount of frequency, understand that more assistance is needed.
6. Keep Yourself Sane
Spouses of persons with mood disorders often become caretakers for major chunks of time. And caretakers are at high risk for depression and anxiety themselves . Pay attention to how you feel. Are your tired, burned out, have physical symptoms such as a headache or nausea, is your relationship void of intimacy, etc? If so, you are need of some self-care. Do something for yourself—retail therapy, a massage, a good workout with your friend.
Marriages in which one person suffers from mental health issues can be extremely fragile. Many people that are married to someone with a mood disorder can, however, have a great marriage. When there is a commitment from both partners to the relationship and to managing the mental health issue, it will work . . and it can work well! Families, however, cannot manage this alone.
*Some information for this blog was taken from Being Married to a Person with Depression or Bipolar: 6 Survival Tips by Therese Borchard publish on PsychCental.com.