Hey all. So, I’ve been a bit distracted by life over the last few weeks hence why this post is three weeks later than I wanted it to be. So I’m sorry but… the life distractions have all been really positive – a trip to London for the Mind Media Awards (celebrating portrayals of mental health in the media) and starting a new job (YAY!). If this is your first time on the blog you can read why working 7 hours a day is so wonderful at Who’s got an impressive ginger beard and just quit his job? This guy.
I also want to thank everyone who’s been lovely after my last personal post (A good week to reflect on a bad week). It was probably the hardest blog I’ve written so far and the love and support you folks showed me was just wonderful.
This weeks post is a really interesting one, and looks at what is life is like for those who live with people that have a mental health problem. Over the last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about my wife who has to cope with my ups and downs, and how my mental health affects her as well. When we say one in four people have a mental health problem every two years, we have to remember that around each person there are family, friends, and colleagues who can be affected, often needing support and advice themselves. I’d like to thank the writer for their open and honest reflections.
Finally, a quick warning that this article contains references to self harm and suicide.
The Other Side
When Antony said he would open his blog up to guest posts, I asked whether he’d accept posts only from those living with mental health conditions, or whether he would consider including a post from someone who lives with someone living with mental health conditions. I am writing this, not because I want to dismiss or remove the voice of those who struggle daily with their own mental health, but because I’ve been searching and searching to find other people who live alongside those with mental health conditions, in order to find some support, but I’ve drawn a blank.
Let me explain the situation.
Since a fairly traumatic and abusive childhood, I’ve kept a very tight grip on my brain. I’ve felt myself slipping into deep black holes of depression and have taught myself how to compartmentalise, to recognise triggers and how I can keep my brain in a good place. It’s been a long journey. It’s not over, but I count myself as very lucky to be able to have that control.
My partner is not so lucky.
Every winter a fog descends on his brain. November and January are the worst months. I think December keeps him too busy with forced commitments that he – somehow – gets through it. I think it’s SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a doctor has diagnosed it as depression. In the winter there are days when I have to literally drag him out of bed. Other times I have to call in to work to say he’s ill because he cannot get out of bed; he wants to sleep all day. The past winter has been the worst so far as he faced his winter fog coupled with the impending fear of becoming a parent for the first time. Rather than dragging him out of bed in the morning, I spent the winter months waking up at 2am to talk him down from killing himself and the rest of the day hiding (and re-hiding) all the painkillers and sleeping pills in the house. At weekends, I would pop to the supermarket and leave with the words ‘don’t do anything permanent’.
I try my very hardest to be supportive of my partner. I let him know all the time that I am here whenever he wants to talk; I’ve encouraged him to see a therapist, stressing that there is no shame in that; I make him doctor’s appointments and say I’ll go with him if he wants.
Since seeing a doctor, he has been given Prozac to take daily. He says these really help. He says it gives him a plateau of calm in his head so he doesn’t panic about the little decisions. I am so pleased that it helps him. I do, however, feel that it is a bit of a catch 22 situation in that he has the calm and is able to get on with his daily life; but the Prozac gives him a little bubble so he is utterly emotionally unavailable (and unaware). The bubble it creates is definitely a ‘him only’ zone. So, while he is happy – and I am so pleased that he has that happiness – our relationship is no longer a partnership, more like two people who happen to live together and, unfortunately, his bubble doesn’t let him see that.
I would love for the discussion about mental health to be a bit wider and offer the support and advice for those who live alongside someone struggling with their mental health. There is a strange silence surrounding the effects of medications, perhaps because those in a supporting role are happy to see their loved ones calmer; but these people should know that there other people in the same position. Perhaps it’s time for us to talk too.
If any of the issues in this blog have affected you then you can always call Samaritans on 116123. If you support someone with a mental health problem I’d love to share your experiences too – just get in touch with me via antonyjcbutcher (AT) gmail.com