From Ann: How to Take Care of Yourself So You Can Help Someone with Mental Illness

Family 10Hello,
My name is Ann. I am Tim’s wife, #1 fan and biggest supporter. I am the mommy to our 7 year old daughter and 4 year old son. I am a daughter, a daughter in-law, a sister, a sister-in-law, an aunt, a niece, a friend, an employee, and a neighbor. I too deal with anxiety and depression, as well as a lingering issue with body image. While I will always proudly be these different parts of myself, especially a wife and mommy, something happened to me last week that I want to share.

I came undone.

For the last two years, I have been in crisis mode. It’s hard to know how to help someone with mental illness, and frankly, Tim’s unstable and fragile mental health have been an ever present worry and fear. Most of the time, I have pulled on my big girl panties, put my head down and carried on. Not last week; a tiny hole in my armor appeared and kept growing until all my armor was stripped away.

That’s when I gave in to my anger at God for not reaching down and fixing Tim’s brain. I gave in to the mental, emotional and physical exhaustion that have been looming but continually getting pushed away. I realized I had isolated myself from friends and my children’s schools in order to work more hours.

I was my last priority and I couldn’t function that way anymore.

You have probably heard this information countless times, but the advice from the flight attendants really should be followed, whether you are on an airplane or simply doing life. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, help the others around you second.

I am working on making some changes in how I prioritize myself while supporting, partnering and living with my husband who has significant mental illness.

I meet with my therapist once a week.
I am blocking out 15 minutes each day to walk the dog.
I am also blocking out 15 minutes each day to sit and read in the quiet of my home when my children are at school.
I make plans to have coffee or lunch with at least one friend a week.

I’ll be honest, I just decided on these within the last week, so I haven’t quite worked in numbers 2 and 3, but I did make time for 1 and 4!

If you care for someone with mental illness, whether a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent, a friend or a neighbor, please consider how you can better prioritize yourself in the midst of your reality. Take care of yourself for your sake, but also for the person you so desperately want to be well.

Until next time…

 

 

PS. Friends, as you may know, life in the Blue family has taken some unexpected turns of late. Most important of all, Tim is still trying to figure out a new, sustainable career path, preferably one that puts some food on the table. Obviously, I love to write, I love to speak (link to page), and I love encouraging people. Please consider doing two favors for me: 1. For some technological reason I don’t understand, having “followers” increases a blog’s traffic. If you rely on Facebook for these updates, it would help me out for you to sign up as a follower (all the way at the bottom of the screen or on the home page). All you do is provide your email, and you’ll get an email when I post. That’s it…no other agenda or risk to providing that information (and I won’t sell it, I promise). If I’m going to be use my blog as a springboard to further writing and speaking, frankly, I need the publicity (embarrassed-to-be-asking-emoji-here). 2. If you know of a place that needs a speaker related to mental health, spiritual struggles, or just general encouragement, please let them know I exist. Or if you know of a website, magazine, or newsletter where my writing my fit, I’d love your help with that connection, too.

At the very least, I hope you’ll keep coming back and finding encouragement from this blog…that’s my main hope and the reason I’ll keep doing it even if nothing more than that comes of this adventure.

3 thoughts on “From Ann: How to Take Care of Yourself So You Can Help Someone with Mental Illness

  1. Thank you, Ann, for encouraging spouses to take care of themselves. Can’t imagine how hard this has been for both of you. Thank you both for having the courage to speak out and to be vulnerable in such a public forum. Who knows how many people you may help.

  2. Thank you Ann. Your post reminded me of the early days of my career before I was willing to pay a therapist for help. Anxiety at work was especially a struggle for me so I came up with a mantra that may also help you sometime. When work got to be too much, I would give myself the “OK” to chill down by saying the following: I will give them part of me. They would rather have part of me than none of me. If I give them all of me, they will get none of me for one of two reasons: (1) I’ll give all of me and end up going crazy and quitting, (2) I’ll give all of me and end up dying, either way, they would end up with none of me, so therefore, I will give them part of me. God bless you and your family!

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