My wife makes a mean egg. When she was a kid, she must have called together spices from the cabinet like Cinderella beckoning birds. Perfection was the result after years of practice, and this morning I broke another flawless yoke.
I was up late last night. Anxiety was an obnoxious kid poking me incessantly, and depression tried swallowing me through the mattress again. My mind has been rearing it’s head lately (contradicting, I know), and I’ve felt more insecure than I have in the most recent usual. I’ve sweat the small stuff, cried over spilled milk, and have been unable to focus long enough to write productively. It’s been hard on me, and I know it’s been hard on my wife. It’s never easy. I think of August 2016 when Lindsey acquired an infant to care for on top of having a twenty-eight year old basket case as helpful as…well, a basket. She pushed out an oversized watermelon of which she’d been growing for nine freaking months, and I couldn’t even get out of bed.
So, on mornings like this, when I wake up on the couch, dog-housed by my own mental health, and I hear the servant sounds of St. Martha clanging in the kitchen, I’m overwhelmed by her love, care, and affection. I’m reminded of how incredible she is. This morning (described in a way by which all married men can understand) my wife made me breakfast and then she cleaned up. She encouraged me to relax in the living room. She read a book while I typed. And I thought to myself, How can I thank this woman when depression has drained me of my ability to show gratitude? How can I support her as she has supported me when my anxiousness has shaken my foundation? How can I love someone without a mental illness?
Whether your direct support is a spouse or a close friend, here are a few things to keep in mind while trying to better love your support circle.
Do What You Can, When You Can
Do what you can, when you can. Sometimes, that’s not much while other times it’s taking the whole famn damily out for a beach day. Those who love you will spend the time it takes to understand you, and, being aware of your internal struggles, they will revel in any effort you make to express your love and gratitude, no matter how small. They will cherish the glimpses of freedom in which you fully invest.
As a man dealing with depression and anxiety, I’m not always present…even when I am. When I’m not in a bout of depression, I’m still guilty of phone-hands, laptop addiction, Netflix binging, and an all-around distracted mind. Cutting back on technology and focusing on engaging with loved ones, however, is key, especially in the positive seasons. Too often, we feel good, but we are too distracted to show it. Recognize the times when you are up to engage and take full advantage of them. Leave your phone on silent, have designated screen-free times, or just take a break from social media all together.
Push yourself to do the small things in the dark of depression, and challenge yourself to do the big things in the light.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Whether you succeed in doing what you can, when you can or not, don’t beat yourself up over it. You will have better days than others, and the important thing is progress, no matter how small. Beating yourself up is an unproductive waste of time and energy.
Imagine I gave my wife a gift that she adored. Before she could appreciate it, though, I snatched it back and smashed it over and over on the coffee table like a raged baboon. She wouldn’t feel very loved. And the same goes when we beat ourselves up. Your friends and family love you; they value you–don’t trash the object of their affection. Don’t disagree with compliments. Don’t self-deprecate. Don’t undervalue yourself. The people who support you day-after-day and night-after-night love you and therefore you can know you are worthy to be loved. You may not clearly see the reasons why, but work to trust your relationship and simply be grateful for their care. Sometimes, allowing yourself to be loved is in itself, a way to love.
Seek Appropriate Help
Receiving proper medical and therapeutical care is a clear message of affection to your close circle of support. Your people care about you and therefore want you to be cared for appropriately. Not only will it mean much to them that you are taking strides to bettering your health, but they will benefit from you being a freer person as a result.
When I finally sought out aggressive help by means of a counselor and a doctor, I was able to be a better friend, husband, father, brother, and son. Certainly not all of my issues were damned to the Bermuda triangle, but taking serious strides against my depression and anxiety did free me up to love others, focus on important aspects of life, and simply enjoy living. Seeking out doctoral or therapeutical treatment will offer more than just lifting a personal burden–it will start to give back your loved ones the fullest you.
So, how do you love someone without a mental illness? Do what you can, when you can; don’t beat yourself up; and seek appropriate help. Above all, enjoy and appreciate your people of support as well as the little ways by which they serve and support you. Cherish the moment, enjoy the morning, savor the egg.