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'It's challenging.' Dave Bashford on what it's like living with girlfriend Sam Frost's mental illness.

Supporting a loved one through mental illness can be extremely challenging. It takes great strength to sit in the darkness alongside the person you love. It takes even more strength to hold up a torch and provide light when darkness is all they can see. To walk hand in hand and guide them through the rough, through the pain and sadness. With their arm around your shoulder guiding them safely through the trenches, you’re helping them see the world clearly again. It’s difficult for us to express our gratitude, but thank you for never giving up on us. You are the true hero.

My family and my partner Dave have provided an enormous amount support and love for me. They have helped me through my battles of depression and anxiety, and worked through the trauma caused by being in an abusive relationship previously. It’s all part of who I am. While I am seeking help and I feel stronger and happier today than I have ever been before, depression is always something that can be woken up inside me. It doesn’t hurt as much or last as long, but underneath the surface it lingers waiting for a trigger to rise again. So to have unconditional support from my loved ones is life changing.

 

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I asked Dave to write down what it is like to be with someone who suffers from the silent disease, in hope to help others who may be trying to support a loved one as well.

These are his words:

Reassurance is something that I’ve had to make a key part of life.

Living with a partner that suffers from mental illness can be challenging. Some of the signs your partner is struggling with mental illness are; short tempered, irrational, emotional, distant and unmotivated. The most important thing that I have learnt throughout my relationship with Sam is that I am not a professional and solving her problems isn’t what I am there for. When things start to get tough for her I will listen and give some voice of reason, but most importantly I will reassure her. She doesn’t need me to fix what is upsetting her. She needs reassurance and an ear. Giving her moments to vent out her sometimes irrational thinking. I will listen to try and understand what is going on in her mind and heart. These feelings are very real and can’t be discredited. I know I can’t make the pain or sadness go away. All I can do is tell her how much I love her, and remind her that everything is going to be okay.

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Talking with my partner about her mental illness was key to understanding it. I educated myself by researching online and reading books that provide information about mental illness. Understanding her triggers has helped to avoid possible breakdowns. We work through this together as a team, as well as speaking to her psychologist.

Here’s how to help someone with anxiety. Post continues after video. 

I am a massive believer in a healthy body is key to a healthy mind. Being active and eating healthy has been a big part of my life for the last decade. When there have been times where I have been sluggish and not eating healthy, my mental state starts to suffer. Same with Sam, when she is active and feels healthy, her mental health improves and there’s not much that can get her down. I have recognised that there is a direct correlation between how she is feeling physically with how she feels mentally.

When Sam is struggling I am always there for her, I don’t ever get upset or angry at her. If her anxiety or depression gets in the way of something we had planned, which happens sometimes, I reassure her that everything is okay and whatever the problem is, we can work through it together.

A note to Sam; seeing you grow from a beautiful, caring yet fragile girl into a fierce, strong, gorgeous woman has been so special. I’m very proud of you. How far you have come in your personal and professional life is inspirational. My life is forever better with you in it.

Dave.

This post originally appeared on Believe by Sam Frost and has been republished with full permission. Follow Believe on Instagram or visit the Believe website

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please seek professional help and contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. 

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