How Mental Health Affects My Marriage
I share a lot about my struggles with depression and anxiety. A LOT. It's a topic that continues to interest me because mental health can impact every area of your life. One area that I haven't explored much on this blog in terms of mental health is how it impacts my marriage. My husband has always been my biggest supporter. He knows exactly how to help me when I'm having an anxiety attack and he never makes me feel bad when I'm not up for getting out of bed some days. I gush about him a lot on this blog, but it's because I truly won the husband lottery. He's my best friend. But I know it's not easy living with a wife who struggles with mental illness, so I thought I'd interview him and get his perspective.
He made some really interesting points, especially about sacrifice, and I loved reading it. I haven't edited his answers at all - this is straight from the source. Take it away, Charlie!
Me: What misconceptions do you think people have about those suffering from mental illness?
Charlie: I think the biggest misconception is that it is something that is easy to control. Too many times people with depression, for example, will be told to just get over it or asked, "What do you have to be depressed about?" Not understanding that people with anxiety have triggers, sometimes, and cannot control that when the anxiety attacks occur they cannot function, think, sometimes even breathe. It is a lack of compassion, empathy, and understanding of what mental illness really is that people who do not have experience with it understand. When they do not understand it they do not support people in the manner they should.
M: Before I was officially diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder, did you suspect that I had a mental illness?
C: I suspected that you had something going on. After the birth of our second child, you suffered with what I suspected was Postpartum depression (mild case). It showed in how you interacted with people, how you coped with stress, and sometimes how you interacted with me. Seeing someone and being diagnosed was the best thing to happen because since then you have made such strides to learn how to manage your diagnosis which has been beneficial to our relationship - not only how you interact with me, but also having a better understanding that sometimes how you are feeling does not have anything to do with me.
M: What is the hardest part of having a spouse with depression and anxiety?
C: The hardest part sometimes is balancing the responsibilities in life (commuting, work, school) with the emotional support that they need to cope. Sometimes I am tired or had a rough day but realizing that it is not just about me and getting over my rough day to provide the emotional support that my wife relies on. Sometimes I am good at it and some days I am not as good at it but always trying is the key.
M: How has living with my mental illnesses impacted you?
C: It can be a challenge at times. Some days when my wife is having a rough day it can mean having to sacrifice some things that maybe I want to do to provide them support. Being married is in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. When you remember how much you love someone and why you wanted to be with them in the first place makes it easier to make sacrifices for the good of them which ultimately is for the good of the relationship.
M: Do you think my mental health has affected our marriage? If so, how? If not, why?
C: Yes and no. Mental illness has not changed my feelings for my wife. She was, is, and always will be the one that I want to spend the rest of my life with. Is it a challenge sometimes? Of course. We have our good days and bad days just like anyone else, but she unconditionally supports me all the time the same as I support her. It does have an effect though sometimes when one of us is having a rough day with anxiety or depression but as always, we are stronger and able to handle it together as a couple than we could handle it solo.
M: What advice would you give to people who have spouses/significant others with mental health conditions?
C: Support them is the biggest piece of advice. Mental illness or who deals with it are not simple cases that fit in a narrow little box. Every day can be different and every challenge can be different. Understanding the illness and sometimes simply being there for them is the best thing you can do. Do not try to tell them you know how they feel because, unless you have the same conditions, you have no idea how it feels. Lastly, do not constantly sit around and try to force them to go see someone. It generally makes someone feel that you think they are broken which can have a very negative effect on someone with a mental illness. There is nothing wrong with keeping an open dialogue about it with the person, but supporting them is the most important thing you can do.