By Dr Leslie Capehart for Your Tango
If your spouse or significant other is suffering from a mental illness such as anxiety or depression, here are a few things to keep in mind that can help them — and help you keep your marriage healthy.
1. Know it’s not their fault.
This may be difficult to remember when your spouse is acting sad, angry, anxious or generally unpleasant. Keep in mind that your spouse doesn’t like how he or she is feeling or acting any better than you do. Remember you are dealing with the symptoms of an illness. The symptoms are as real of a medical condition as diabetes or high blood pressure and aren’t simply the result of negative thoughts or a bad attitude.
Watch: Deb Swain tells Mamamia TV how to help a partner dealing with PTSD. (Post continues after video.)
2. Show them love, affection and respect (even when they seem unlovable).
They are not their illness. While it’s important to remember that they have a mental illness, it’s also important to separate your spouse from their illness. It is very natural to want to emotionally disconnect and safeguard yourself when your spouse is showing signs of depression, anger, or anxiety and exhibiting behavior that seems foreign from the person you know them to be. Remember that underneath all of those unpleasant symptoms is the person you married — who needs to to draw close to them during their time of suffering.
3. Remember a depressed person feels like they're in a dark hole.
It does them no good for you to jump in the hole with them. Don't let the person with the mental illness paint your reality. You can support your spouse by staying grounded in the reality outside of the hole. Understand that the illness has tainted their perception, so don't let their emotions dictate yours. Find an outlet so that you don't become discouraged, overwhelmed, lost or jump in your own dark hole. (Post continues after gallery.)
4. It's not personal, it's an illness.
This will be hard to remember when your spouse takes his or her feelings and behaviour out on you, but remind yourself that the mood and behaviour are symptoms of the illness. It's NOT personal. At the same time, set your boundaries and gently let your spouse know when they've crossed the line and hurt your feelings. You can be supportive without being a doormat.