Sunday 19 November 2017

Supporting Someone with Mental Health Difficulties

Jackson shares his experiences living with anxiety and how it affects his relationships.

-Jackson Miller

After receiving plenty of supportive feedback for my first anxiety post, I wanted to write this second post without hesitation. I was asked what advice I'd give to the loved ones of those suffering from anxiety or any other mental difficulty.

This article contains details of my own relationship and the strain anxiety has placed upon it. I also give advice to those who are family, friends, or partners of someone with a mental illness, from the perspective of that person. Friendship, family relationship, or romantic relationship - this content applies to all.

My Relationship

I'm currently in a relationship with someone who makes me smile brighter than anything else in this world. We share the same values and thrive in our relationship as it's suffused with trust and honesty.

We've been together for two and a half years and, like all relationships, we've had some tough times. But we've had an exceptionally strong relationship; whenever the few arguments we've had did arise we always handled it maturely and supported each other.

My Relationship + Anxiety

Now that you have a little insight into my relationship and its stability, let me tell you about how my anxiety has affected the relationship. There have been many major effects that my anxiety has had on my relationship:

* Being unable to travel
* Being unable to eat at her house
* Being unable to do events with her family
* Being extremely clingy at times
* Putting pressure on her as my supportive anchor
* Constantly leaning on her when my anxiety drained my own strength
* She had to be there with me during anxiety attacks
* She had to watch for years as my anxiety ate away at me
* She had to explain to people why we didn't attend certain events

She Became My Anchor

My girlfriend is now the one thing in the world that takes my anxiety away. Of course, it still does occur - but it lessens when I'm with her and even when it does resurface she helps me through it.

If you become a grounding force for a person you know with a mental illness, there are a couple things you need to realise:

* They will depend on you, probably more than anyone else in their life
* You'll take on a significant responsibility
* At times, they'll feel like a burden to you
* They will need you, especially when you're away from them

We Can Be Burdens - And We Know It

I'm not going to rant about how I feel sorry for myself for being a burden, but I will address this truth: my anxiety makes life for me and everyone else more difficult at times. 

If you are involved with someone with mental health difficulties, understand that they will feel guilty. They are aware of the pressure they bring, and they sometimes think you'd be better off without them. This can affect their self-esteem; they won't show it all the time and often won't even admit it, but it can exacerbate their low mood.

I'm saying this because it is important to be aware of the way they view your relationship. Look out for when they try to distance themselves from you just to spare you, as these are the times when we need support the most. While it's difficult because we don't want to cause you pain or stress, it's never good for us to push you away.

I've learned that trying to deny being a burden isn't healthy, but growing engulfed by it is even worse. Everyone has their imperfections, and we continue to love each other anyway.  

How Can You Be Supportive?

If you have a relationship with someone who suffers from mental health difficulties,
* Support them as much as you can
* Learn about their situation
* Remind them of the positives, not the negatives
* Be there to help them when they are down. Paradoxically, giving them space can be key. If you can't help - and often, the only one who can help them is them - then just be there for when they need you. 

For the full-length article and more on the subject, visit

Hi, I’m Jackson. I’m a first year business student attending Humber College with a deep passion for reading, writing, and inspiring others. I’ve suffered with two mental illnesses for several years now and understand how much helpful information can improve your situation. Mental illnesses have a major impact on relationships, friendships, academic performance, careers, and basic living. After experiencing the struggles a mental illness can cause, I decided I wanted to write for Student Minds and share what I’ve learned from my personal experiences to help those in similar situations.

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