Giving a Voice to the Silence offers positive angles to the issue that faces those with mental illness. Living with Schizo-Affective Disorder and being able to share my experiences with others, is the best way I know how to pay it forward. Life can be difficult, my goal is to bring a bit of hope to a place where many feel there is none.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mental Health and the Supportive Partner

In early January 2016, while corresponding with a friend in Tasmania, I told him of my mental illness.  Being that open and honest and sharing my story with someone was terrifying.  Once I hit send, I was more than terrified at the email I would receive in return.  Would we still be friends, would I receive an email back at all?  I feared rejection, but it never came.  Instead  he asked questions and never judged me.  He listened to what I had to say, being more inquisitive than anything.  So, he did his own research and learned all he could on Bipolar Disorder and what he could do to support me. 
Here is what I wrote:  
In, '96 I attempted suicide and spent 3 weeks in the hospital. While there I received the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, anxiety and PTSD.  My mental illness is hereditary, my father was paranoid schizophrenic.  He never sought treatment and was a wanderer. My mom tells me I am just like him.  He passed away in 1999, a victim of his illness. 
I need my medication, it's reality and not a big deal to me anymore. There are days that are bad and days when the world is perfect.
Over the next few months, our relationship grew and we made the decision for me to make the move to Tasmania.  There was concern, of course, on how I would handle the change, mentally.  As we talked, we came up with a word, something I would say when I was anxious, depressed - when I needed help.  Our trigger word became, "home." A word that would bring the help I needed to combat the darkness and anxiety that  crept in when I least expected it. 
My biggest challenge was that I was alone and dependent on my partner.  I missed my family and friends, and some days wondered if I had made the right move.  I would go for a walk and see what was around me, the beaches, breathtaking sunrises and the love of my partner.  I knew it would not be easy at first, I had made a major change in my life, disrupted my structure and had to learn a new life.  In the first weeks I learned to drive on the opposite side of the road, a new money system and met friendly people.  Though I think some were more intrigued with the American in town.  
A few days ago I woke up depressed,  I didn't want to be out of bed, all I wanted to do was cry and I felt completely alone.  I picked up my phone and not realizing what I was saying, texted "I love you, hurry home."  Within ten minutes my phone was ringing, I had said "home."   In that moment I knew I wasn't alone, he comforted me and told me to get dressed and go for a walk, get some fresh air.  Two hours later, after a 2 1/2 mile walk, my mind was clearer and I was able to face the rest of the day.   I realized then that everything we had planned for, was working and I could ask for the help I needed. 
The message here is, find people who will support you, whether it is a spouse, friend or other family member.  Talk with them, tell them what you need when things are not going well, make a plan for what to do in those instances.  Plans need to be in place before a depressive or manic episode takes over.  This is when you will need a support person to help you find your way through the cloud of confusion.  

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