When Loving Someone With a Mental Illness, Never Underestimate the Power of Words

In the midst of something as debilitating as mental illness can be, there are some things that never get old. I’ve found one of those things is an encouraging word from someone you love.

Never, never, never underestimate the power of the spoken word to change someone’s outlook. Never. Just try to imagine it:

You’re exhausted from the fight to feel normal. You’re struggling with something undiagnosed, maybe something unseen by the majority of the people around you; maybe it’s as plain as the nose on your face but no one has recognized it, for one reason or another. You’re tired. You’re tired of crying, of struggling, of fighting for a modicum of peace.

And then, out of the blue, somebody says something that gives you strength for another go at life. For me, it was my husband. For you, it may be a spouse, a friend, a parent or perhaps just an acquaintance who “gets it.”

I was locked in the middle of a fight for my life, spent from the emotion that each day required, exhausted from the mental effort it took to make it through, numb from the immensity of my problems.

It was then that I cried out to my husband: “I’m just a wimp! I can’t handle life!”

Perhaps someone you love has said something similar to you, and you haven’t known how to respond. Perhaps their struggle seemed too immense for you. Let me assure you that it is not the case. Your words will always have power, beyond what you can imagine. Don’t give up saying the life-giving things into the ear of the one you love. It makes a difference, even if at the time it seems like it doesn’t.

My husband, in a God-breathed moment of inspiration, replied: “You are not a wimp. You are a brave and beautiful woman fighting a difficult battle.”

Those words broke the darkness with the force of a lightning bolt in the middle of a black and stormy sky. Those words said I care. I’m here for you. I’ll never leave. They gave me strength to continue, to forge my way out of the darkness until I had answers. For me, it was the diagnosis of bipolar 1 that validated my struggle, but for you it may be something different. Whatever the case, may I encourage you to find help? To reach out to someone who might at least try to get it? To make an appointment with a therapist, with a psychiatrist, with a doctor, who will see through your pain to the path to healing? Because let me just say it now:

You can make it. Just don’t give up. There are people who can help. Reach out to them. You are not a wimp. You are a brave and beautiful person fighting a difficult battle.

Believe it.

It is the truth.

The Mighty is for the following: Write a thank you note to someone who helped you through your mental illness. What about that person makes him or her a good ally? What do you want them to know? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

image shows a girl wearing a paper bag on her head with a drawn smile. Text reads: I have to wear a mask every day.

23 Spot On Descriptions of What It's Like to Live With a Mental Illness

Mental Health Month in May is over. Mental health awareness is not. To keep the awareness going, Mental Health America created the hashtag #mentalillnessfeelslike to collect descriptions of what it’s like to live with a mental illness. All month, people have been using the hashtag to share their experiencing with a mental illness — so we asked The Mighty’s mental [...]
stethoscope on dollar

Americans Spend Over $200 Billion Treating Mental Health Conditions

Between prescription medication, therapy sessions and hospital visits, the costs of having a mental health condition can add up quickly. Now, a new report published in Health Affairs shows that not only are mental health conditions expensive, they are the most expensive – costing Americans over $201 billion a year. The report looked at several different [...]
Portrait of elegant woman lookinf at camera. Vector hand drawing by water color splashes

On Being 'Broken'

Think about it. An artist would never use an entire tree to sketch his lover — only a chip of its limb burnt into charcoal. A mosaic would not be near as expressive if it was only a slab of impeccable, whole porcelain. And if a song was just one long note, never interrupted for [...]
mom and daughter smiling

'Because I Once Wanted to Die, I'm Grateful to Live'

Because I remember hiding in the pantry as a child to eat my feelings, I tell my daughter every day how much I love her. Because my father died when I was 29, I finally understood my mother’s loss of both of her parents at the age of 19. Because my family broke when we [...]