three questions. one of you.
Periodically, I will be asking a friend three questions about his or her experience with mental illness. This person might be a guy who deals with mental illness or someone (like my wife) who is a supporter. Over time, the 31U series will show how men of all sorts, with all backgrounds, and of all personalities can be inflicted in a variety of ways and how loved ones can better understand and support them. The hope is that this series will serve as a reminder for those in darkness that we are not alone in this fight, and that it will be a helpful resource for supporters.
Want to know details about the intimacy of my marriage? Not that, you sicko. Meet my wife, Lindsey. We have been married for three and a half years, and she has been a fantastic support to me throughout our time together. We have both grown in understanding how to be married while dealing with a mental illness. She works for SpringHill Camps, is a fantastic cook, and an active go-getter – we are opposites. Five years from now, she wants five more kids, a mansion on a lake, and a Ferrari. She’s not getting any of those.
What is your experience with mental illness?
Personally, not much. It’s a hard thing for me to grasp and to really understand. I always thought that people have direct ownership, control, and responsibility over their thoughts and actions. Not until our son was born and I started diving into this a little deeper with Doug have I begun to scratch the surface of understanding how insurmountable that thought can be for people dealing with mental illness.
What were some of the major signs and symptoms you noticed?
He would often withdraw from me and close friends. Irritability was a major sign. I didn’t feel like I could lean on him for anything, and I felt like I always had to be the strong one. He was hesitant to go places or see people even when they were close friends. He often second guessed my love and the love of others. He lacked laughter, didn’t want to do any physical activity, slept longer, and ate less.
What tools, resources, or strategies have you implemented to help support your loved one?
LOTS OF PATIENCE (I try but don’t always succeed!). I try to ask a lot of questions to help me be more empathetic to how he thinks and what he’s going through internally. I don’t naturally understand a lot of what he goes through, but as I learn, I can better speak to the person, instead of the situation. I make an intentional effort to be affirming and address Doug’s heart whenever possible, instead of just the circumstances.
I appreciate when he shares articles with me that he’s found to be helpful. It helps me better understand mental illness from a third person point of view, and I know that it is validating to him to read and share. Many blogs and articles offer valuable insight, practical tips, and relatable stories, to help ensure both struggler and supporter know they aren’t alone.
It’s important for both of us to talk to a few close friends about the journey. It’s vital that he has a diverse support system made up of me, close friends, family, and professionals. But it’s equally important for me to have a support system. Mental illness in a marriage affects both spouses, and it is important to take intentional strides in community for the health and benefit of our relationship and each of us individually.