Valentine's Day Ideas for People With Mental Illness


I have to start by saying I have the best partner and husband in the world. Sorry everyone, but I don’t plan on letting him go anywhere. What I can do is share some of the ways he has picked me up during my worst times with depression and anxiety. I remember all the little ways he’s made my life easier. For those who don’t know how to help their partner, maybe this can assist you in making their lives a little brighter on Valentine’s Day. Just because we may need extra care doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate it! If you don’t have a partner on the 14th, don’t let that stop you from spoiling yourself! We need all the spoiling we can get!

Sleepy, comfy ideas:

  • New blanket (or even a weighted blanket or
    snuggle)
  • Specialty pillow (such as u-shaped pillows or
    body pillows)
  • Eye mask
  • Comfy sleep wear

Having a mental illness usually means your mind and body is fighting a battle – and that can mean your body is constantly sore, tired and stressed. I know mine is. This is where the above list helps. New research shows weighted blankets can calm anxiety and give support to those with excess stress. I live in a warm climate so a weighted blanket isn’t an option. However I still have to have a doona or Snuggie blanket whenever I’m on the sofa or the bed. A nice idea for the whimsical partner would be a mermaid tail blanket.
These type of blankets can help release “happy hormones” and start the process of relaxation in tight muscles. This also applies for specialty pillows. The stress caused by mental illness shows greatly in my neck muscles. They are always sore and tense. I can’t be comfortable without my u-shaped pillow, and I’ve heard great things about body pillows. I recently got an eye mask, and what a difference it makes. Insomnia is a common symptom so limiting light is huge for me when trying to go to sleep. Finally, comfy sleep wear is an awesome gift. After my depression symptoms appeared, my outfits mostly consist of PJs and comfy sleep wear. I still struggle to get out of bed some days. Wearing something comfy, cute and soft makes the day in bed feel a little bit better. Also, because I do spend a lot of time sleeping or overcoming fatigue due to the
depression, there is always a need for clean sleep wear.

Technology ideas:

  • His/her favorite book/movie/TV series
  • Netflix account or another streaming account
  • Audio books (available from audible.com)

When my depression and anxiety were at their worst, I didn’t leave my apartment for weeks. I couldn’t do anything but sleep and sob. My husband just stayed by my side and made sure there was a lot of blankets, pillows and tissues. (Hint: Grab the tissues with moisturizer added. The cheaper ones will start hurting your partner’s face.) I didn’t notice when he grabbed his laptop and started watching his TV shows next to me while I cried and slept. Then I started watching with him. He made sure it was something mindless and not too dramatic, gory or adventurous. A good list I found this week was from The Bright Side website. I don’t remember what we watched exactly – but it was good to just keep my mind on that and not think of anything. I realize now he was slowly drawing me back into the “real world” with familiar memories from movies and shows I’d seen and liked. What he did that made this memorable enough to mention was make sure I was always in his arms and presence. Even now, we still have a TV/ movie/Netflix day. It is really just an excuse to be held and keep everything else away for a little while (and wear PJs again all day). I added audio books into this list as this had lasting habits for me. If I can’t sleep I put on an audio book or documentary and the voice talking helps me fall asleep.

Healthy ideas:

  • A cleaner visit
  • Healthy food
  • Chocolate scents
  • Scented candles and essential oils

Being healthy when you have a mental illness can be so hard. Having a clean body and environment makes a big difference when you are trying to get your brain on track. I still struggle doing chores – the fatigue and pain from sore muscles really makes it hard. Having a cleaner come – even if it’s just a once-off – takes some the pressure of being on top of the endless dirt and dust easier. I would suggest telling your partner before booking so they can prepare leaving the house. I have lots of guilt about having a cleaner come, but afterwards I feel so much better.

Healthy eating is also hard. I’m working on trying to find flavor in natural ingredients again. I found a trick to make it easier – which is to ask my husband to help. Research has found that food prepared by someone else may taste better. I’m a huge believer in it as all the food my husband makes tastes really good. He also started organizing the groceries to be delivered at home so fresh greens in the fridge means they are closer to being in my stomach! There are even fruit baskets, which seems an awesome present for those who love fruit. I can’t talk about food and Valentine’s Day without mentioning chocolate. But can I mention a new gift you might not have thought of – chocolate candles? (There are also helps of other chocolate smelling niceties like soap, pens, room spray and calculators.)T hey can help release all the happiness of chocolate without
any calories. Scented candles have other health benefits that include helping with relaxation and headaches. Having my home smell nice makes me feel that my home is nice – taking away a lot of stress for me. The same effect can be made with essential oils if candles are not an option.

Wellbeing ideas:

  • Subscription to an online support website
  • Visit from a loved one
  • Social network-free days
  • A letter written from you

My last little suggestions are one that have made a big difference to my wellbeing. The first is the amount of online support nowadays. I struggle sometimes meeting with a trainer or therapist, so having an option of having them online is genius. Websites such as The Mighty, Happify.com, the BetterHelp app  and other mental illness support apps and websites are great for getting that little bit of help when you need someone, something, anything in the middle of the day or night. Nothing can replace a councilor or therapist, but having support electronically can really help. I’ll also mention Nerd Fitness, as there are also heaps of online fitness support tackling the need to address mental health before or alongside physical health.

When I was at my lowest, my husband organized a trip so I could see my parents and immediate family. That was wonderful as we live a few states away. I got to be with those I loved who were giving me reasons to fight the voices in my head. Really meant a lot as it showed me I still had people who would do anything for me.

Every now and again my husband will endorse social network-free days. I love my laptop and am always on a site “talking” to people. More and more research points out that social networks can make us more isolated. So when I’m stressed out, we call social network-free days. We turn off the work emails and Facebook and chats and phones and just enjoy the company we have in our house. We let our closest friends and family know we are “unavailable” for 24 hours. You’d expect the whole world to stop if I was “unplugged,” right? Haven’t had anything bad happen. Turns out the talking I was doing online was with the wrong people. I needed to be with the people I was physically with in the now.

My last suggestion: write your partner a letter. I was having panic attacks every morning before I started work for a while. I wouldn’t calm down unless I heard him over the phone. This wasn’t feasible as he has meetings and work tasks to do as well. He wrote me a letter outlining breathing techniques and good memories together to ground me. He also wrote about my good qualities and how I was strong enough to get through today because I had overcome so much already. I keep it on my person at all times, and
it is helpful no matter what kind of day I’m having.

My husband is my best friend and my biggest supporter. He does a couple of these ideas on special days (like Valentine’s Day, birthdays, holidays, taco day, etc.) to make my illness bearable. I hope this was helpful to making a difference in you and your partner’s lives. Good luck and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Thinkstock photo by Sok Rom


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