It's not easy to have a successful relationship as it is. But when you love someone with a mental illness—like depression, PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, or OCD, not to mention a bipolar, autism-spectrum, or substance disorder—it can't help but impact you even more.
Lovers or spouses, children, and other relatives often feel abandoned and confused by their loved one's condition. So it's critical for everyone involved—including good friends and business partners—to seek coping support for themselves. I call this "your emotional oxygen mask." In an airplane emergency, we're instructed to breathe the oxygen first to get energy so we can help nearby children and seniors. When facing a loved one's mental illness, we also need "oxygen" to counteract burn-out and resentment of their condition.
Obvious ways to replenish your positive energy include support groups, getting help with chores, scheduling private downtime whenever possible, meditating or doing yoga, walking in nature, watching a fun movie, or reading an inspirational book. Less-obvious methods include hypnotherapy, life coaching, and grief counseling. I blend these modalities in my Life & Soul Coaching practice because they effectively provide stress relief for the body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
1. Hypnotherapy. Hypnosis taps into your subconscious to revisit happy places or memories and to create a hopeful vision for your future. Since the subconscious treats positive images and hypnotic suggestions as if they're real, hypnosis literally relaxes muscles and stimulates emotion-calming neurochemicals. It's like taking a mini-vacation in your hypnotherapist's comfortable recliner chair. You can also learn self-hypnosis or listen to guided imagery MP3s (you can find some on my website) at home to relax and recharge.
2. Grief counseling. The loss of your "normal" relationship often stimulates a mixture of emotions: anger, disappointment, resentment, sadness, frustration, regret, and self-blame. To help manage these emotions, grief counseling can offer a safe space for acknowledging your feelings and mourning any unfulfilled dreams about the relationship you had (or hoped to have) together.
3. Life coaching. Life coaching can also help reframe the situation so you can see the positive benefits—not just stress and loss. By envisioning a realistic future for you and your loved one, it can become easier to make choices and take actions that will be healing for both of you.
Whichever coping alternatives you explore, don't give up too soon if one method doesn't suit you or your stress fails to evaporate overnight. Loving someone with a mental disorder can be exhausting. So please treat taking care of yourself as long-term medicine for everyone involved!
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