These next two posts will be interviews with those who have supported someone or know someone who suffer from a mental health condition. I am hoping that this will highlight the different angles from in which peoples lives can be affected from mental health problems; but also the way other people view sufferers: not as victims, but as strong, courageous people.
What was/is your relationship to the person you know with a mental health condition?
Best friend and boyfriend.
Started as my partner, now my wife.
My girlfriend at the time.
Friend and colleague.
Had they knowingly suffered from their condition when you first met them?
No, she didn’t know that what she had was anxiety when we first met. Now knowing what she has, looking back at past events we now realise what had been causing her unexplained panics.
Yes, it became apparent a few years previously to her but had progressively gotten worse in the past two years or so.
What was the thing you found most difficult in relation to their mental health?
Finding the right words to say to help them.
Them not accepting their illness and getting the right help for a long period of time.
What I found difficult was when her anxiety was at its worst. It was about two weeks after she had spent a couple of days in hospital for a heart condition. She had called in sick to work for the second day because she was too scared to leave the house or even walk down the stairs, in fear that it would damage her heart more and she would die. I was at work after I struggled to leave home, leaving her in tears because she would be left alone. She had phoned me countless times during half of my shift in tears where I would have to reassure her that she would be okay. This made me really stressed and I had a meltdown at work where I broke down in tears myself. Thankfully I had the support of one of my colleagues and my boss who helped me through this tough time. After chatting with my boss, we agreed that I went home to help my wife. When I came home early she was so happy. I explained to her that I was only home to help her and after an hour of reassuring her and convincing her that everything would be okay if she went outside, we took the dog for a walk. Two days later she forced herself back to work. I am so proud of how quickly she got through it and how determined she was to get back to normality. I hope it never gets this bad again.
The most difficult part about it is the fact that I found it extremely hard to understand. As you cannot visually see it, it is often overlooked. However, as time went on I realised that she never expected me to understand, because she didn’t understand it herself. Being there for her was enough, and you learn to live with it. Presence is everything.
Not understanding in depth mental health and anxiety when I first knew them.
In what ways did you support them?
Just being there, being someone to listen and reassure them.
I provided sympathy, love and plenty of support.
The way I find best to support her is just to be there, to reassure her that its only a panic attack and that it will pass. Telling her that she will be okay and it will get better and that I love her, that I will never stop loving her no matter how bad its gets.
As previously stated, being there for that person is essential. Also any small gestures help. Buying small gifts or catching that person off guard with kind gestures goes a long way. Reassuring is key also, its easy to feel alone even when surrounded by people but a simple message letting her know I was thinking about her was enough. It helps.
Always being there for them at the end of the phone and reminding them of this. Reassuring them in all situations, remembering yourself how they might be feeling different about doing something than you. Reminding them of strategies that keep their mind busy. Allowing them to have quiet times and let them talk when they are ready. Pushing them to believe in themselves and that they can achieve their goals and they so deserve them!
What did you admire about this person?
The strength to carry on no matter how low they felt and then coming through the light at the end of the tunnel.
The courage to find the help that he needed in the end and is now dealing with it in better ways.
I admire her willpower to live a normal life and her determination to get through her anxiety attacks and to defeat her fears.
The thing I admired most was her determination to not let it rule her life. There were clear steps in progress and a ‘get up and go’ attitude that she has. She never gave into it and led her own life which she continues to do.
I admire their kind heart and them pushing to always meet their goals. How they go through challenges everyday and still come out smiling.
If you could give them one piece of advice, what would it be?
It may not seem okay now but today is better than yesterday, you will get through this.
Things will get better and what you’re worried about isn’t as bad as it seems.
The advice I would give her is to stay strong and carry on the methods she is using to help her anxiety; knowing that one day she may not completely get rid of her mental illness but to be able to live her life where it no longer affects her everyday, but when it does she can control it and move past it.
My one piece of advice is to not worry about how others feel about your situation. There were often times where she wouldn’t message me or others because she ‘didn’t want to bother them’ but failed to realise that if I didn’t to help her then I wouldn’t have been with her in the first place. I always wanted to help as did her friends and family, it was never an inconvenience for me or anyone I knew around her. I was honoured to help.
There is always a light at the end of the tunnel; push yourself out of your comfort zone because you are so much stronger than you believe!
What was the thing they found most challenging because of their condition?
Opening up and talking. Having control over their condition.
Going in supermarkets or big places.
I think the things she found most challenging and frustrating was trying to explain to her friends and family how she feels when she would have a panic attack. People would just say ‘you’re just being silly’ and tell her that she hasn’t got anxiety, shes just stressed.
I didn’t find anything challenging about it. Its a part of her and I loved every part of her so how could I look at it that way? Only thing I ever worried about was how much she ate that day. Some days she wouldn’t want to eat which came as a part of it. That’s the only thing I found challenging to balance.
The thing I see the most is being around people and children who are unwell and carrying bugs. Also, going out for meals with others, feeling unwell and sick or doing something out of their comfort zone.
Can you name 3 behaviours that this condition would bring out in this person?
Anxiety, low moods and insomnia.
Awful panic attacks, anxiety and depression.
She would get very agitated, emotional and assertive in what she wants to do in that moment of panic.
When these sporadic periods of her illness happen she goes very quiet, usually doesn’t like being touched or held and visually turns red around her chest area up to her throat. As touched upon, eating becomes an issue too.
Cleaning, always thinking the worst and constantly washing their hands.
What positive traits does this person have because of their battles with poor mental health?
Understanding and empathy to others with mental health conditions, proactive attitude to help others, supportive of others and positive outlook on life.
Very honest, kind hearted person with a lot of enthusiasm which helps him get through his problems.
I feel that she is a lot stronger and determined in what she does in her everyday life. She is more confident now to speak to strangers with mental health issues and discuss her feelings with them. Her love for her family and friends is so much stronger now because she knows that they are always there for her no matter what she goes through. And that she will always be grateful for what they have done to help her.
She fights. That’s the positive, she talks about it but she never complained. Sure she doesn’t even realise that now but she just gets on with it, she knows what she needs to do and thankfully she took steps to understand the illness further. The girl does her homework! She was never a problem to me and was an absolute joy to be around. Some of my greatest moments I shared with her and she will always be that caring, considerate and understanding person that I had the pleasure to spend time with throughout our relationship. Mental illness is often clouded by negative preconceptions that people associate it with. When in fact, I learnt more from her than anyone else in my life. She taught me patience, how to love people as well as myself and to appreciate the good things in life; because there are so many of them. Not one regret. Fuck anxiety.
They are the most kind hearted person whose always there for others and goes the extra mile. They are gentle natured and always puts other before themselves. They always try and push themselves to reach a goal and I feel incredibly proud of them and honoured to have them as a friend!