First of all I want to start by saying how proud I am of my husband, Gary. He has come such a long way since he was first diagnosed with PTSD and acute anxiety. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think our life would take this path. No one, not a doctor, a nurse or mental health expert can ever prepare you for the journey you will take.
We've been together since 1990 and married since 1999, but some days it's as if I am living with a stranger. I can feel angry, sad and sympathetic, all at the same time. Angry because these illnesses stole away the person I fell in love with. Sad because it's out of my control, no matter what I try to do I can't fix it and sympathetic towards Gary, because I can see it's out of his control and he just can't help himself.
After a period of time since he was first diagnosed in 2010, we have adjusted our life. It won't beat us. It's a condition we have learned to manage. I'm not just Gary's wife, I'm his carer and his support. I have chosen to do this because he means so much to me. My personal positive goal is that it WON'T get the better of us!
The best advice I can give to you, the carer or the partner to a person with a mental health condition is to learn to read the signs they are giving off. Just be that shoulder to cry on when they are down, when they are, for a better word being 'arsy', it's not aimed at you. It's their fustration in not understanding why they feel so low, you're the only one way they can vent their feelings at. Don't take it personally. It will pass.. They will apologise time and time again. That's when you can ask for that hug that you both need. Believe me, it will do both of you some good. Don't dwell on it. Move on, dust yourself down and go again.
Each day give them something to get out of bed for, something to focus on. It can be as simple as taking a nice shower with their favourite gel, to watching the next episode of that new drama you are both hooked on, to helping you hang out the washing. Small steps are best.
Never be afraid to ask them how they feel. I had to learn to accept what Gary would tell me, it's not often that he did, or even does now, but the more a person with mental illness can tell you about their feelings, the easier it becomes for you to understand how to manage them and their moods.
Remember to have a little time out for you. Take time to talk to someone you can trust, or who lives with someone who had the same type of illness. It's good for your personal support and it can he helpful to gain knowledge from those who also deal with it on a daily basis. You'll be amazed how many people around you either suffer, or live with, someone who has a mental health condition. Being able to talk to someone about how you feel and what you struggle to cope with or understand is very helpful, I know from experience.
For us, every day is a day we take step-by-step, Most days are perfectly 'normal', but when a dark day hits us I just remember to be supportive, even if that means walking away from the situation for a few minutes, especially if it's hard for me to deal with or understand. I use those few minutes to set the best plan going forward, then I step back into Gary's world and support him through it, just by being there. I know it sounds hard, but it does get easier, I promise you that.