August 7, 2017

Having mental health problems has always been the most isolating and difficult part of my life. Most of my thoughts and feelings have been my secret, so as not to look ‘strange’, ‘weak’ or ‘self-obsessed’. I worried I would be judged and discriminated against. I worried I would become further isolated if I discussed it and on top of that, I did not want my family and friends to worry themselves or see me as a burden. I struggle with these feelings even now.

I have spoken to my partner about my feelings in the past, but one day I came home and the only bearable option seemed to be suicide. I couldn’t take feeling this worried all the time; obsessive thoughts every moment, fighting compulsions so much that all my obsessions remained in my head, playing over and over again in a graphic and animated loop. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I wanted to die. My thoughts wanted me to die. How do you say that to someone you love and someone you do not want to leave? If you could stop the thoughts, you wouldn’t want to leave. I wanted us to be together and have the adventure that we had planned. 

I realised I was at risk and that I could not keep myself safe right now, so I made the choice. I sat on the kitchen counter and as he was hugging me, I told him that I needed to die. He looked at me and tears welled up in his eyes, but he remained so calm and just asked me why I was feeling this way and what he could do to help. He listened and cared, offering gentle advice, reassurance and guidance not only on that night, but for the next few months.

He advised me to take some time off work and to start doing things that I enjoy. Just having someone to understand that things were difficult and that it was ok to take some time for myself made me feel that I wasn’t exaggerating or being difficult. For the weeks that I was off work, each day he stuck a new post-it on the wall in the lounge/kitchen, which said that he loved me or something that he liked about me. Every day when I got out of the bedroom, I had a reminder that he was there for me and a reminder of the way that others might see me, rather than how I see myself. This really helped. 

As time went on, he continued to ask the difficult questions about mental health that usually remain unsaid. This was a huge relief! As his confidence grew, we got to the point where we could joke about self-harm or even suicidal thoughts. I was so pleased that he felt so comfortable about it, that when I was feeling ok, we could make light of it. He didn’t learn all of this overnight, he learnt by asking, listening and observing. Sometimes he got it wrong and that was ok - I appreciate him so much for all of the efforts that he makes, even now.

The final great bit of support was when he started to feel that he could say ‘no, you need to push yourself more’ or ‘I am not getting involved in this’. This must be really difficult for someone who is supporting a person with a mental health problem. When do you push them out of their comfort zone? Discussing this together in advance really helped. 

After receiving such amazing support from my partner, I decided that I could tell my family and friends. We created leaflets for them about the conditions that I have and what they can do to help. This has meant that I have more people than ever before that I can reach out to when I am struggling; people who care and seem to want to listen. They may sometimes be confused or worried themselves, but they have all tried and they have all succeeded in supporting me to become less isolated. I feel safe now. Thank you so much to my partner especially.

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Comments

Support not available

I don't really care that my husband is supportive in the middle of an episode. In fact I often want to hit him or strike out. Otherwise there is no other option than self harming or suicidal thought and possible actions. My friends are limited in their patience; I don't see a mental health team and I am a burden to everyone. So no, I can't joke about it right now.

Understanding of different experiences and good luck

Hello Emma, I hope you are doing ok. I understand that people cope in different ways and have different support networks. It is true that when I am in a crisis situation, I need my own space and time to process. The support from my partner came in those 'in between' times (discussing what happened, feelings, events, what next, doing nice things, trying to relax together). Of course it isn't easy and everyone uses different strategies. Humour has worked for us, as this is part of our relationship. It won't work for everyone. Maybe you could talk about other supportive strategies with your husband for those 'in between times' as the crisis moment is likely to be the most challenging. I am sure you are not a burden to everyone, although I know that my brain certainly told me that about myself too! I have also found Mind and Samaritans useful. Unfortunately, usually help starts by going to the GP, which isn't always great as their understanding of mental health conditions seems fairly limited, but hopefully they can refer you to somewhere more specialised. Good luck. Carly

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