Supporting a Loved One With a Mental Illness When You Have One Too
I sit there staring at you. Just staring. I don’t know what to say or how to react. I know you need me, but the truth is, I really need you too. You’re my rock, as I am yours. Together we can defeat this monster that lurks inside our brains. It’s tearing us apart from each other. We have to stay strong, because before we know it, I can’t come and see you. I want to see you, I really do. Living on my own is tough. No one there when you need a hug. I’ve needed to wake up and see you on the other side of the room snuggled up in bed too. Where are you now? You’re still at home, with Mum and Dad. I should have stayed. Believe me, I wish I had. Sometimes though, I think we are closer now. Now we have the space apart to breathe.
Being there for you, when I have a mental illness too, is the hardest thing I have ever had to face. I can’t even look after myself some days. You ring me up, shouting, crying. I can’t cope. I get upset back. I put the phone down. Then my anxiety kicks in and I’ve lost it. We are both having meltdowns but in totally different places. We need each other but it’s too hard to be there for the other person when you’re struggling yourself. Parents torn in two. Who do they look after first? Who needs their attention today?
It’s so hard being there for a loved one when you also need them to be there for you. On my bad days, all I can manage is a text. I can’t even get out of bed to get something to eat. So when you ask if we can hang out, like the old times, I feel guilty. I cry at the feeling I’m not a good enough person. I hate myself. I should put all my problems aside and be there. I know I should. I can’t cope, though. Watching you struggle just like me is heart-wrenching. My heart tears in two because all I want in the entire world is for you to get better. For you to go out and be happy. When you’re having a bad day, it makes me have a bad day. You’re my friend. I know you’re not well. Neither am I. Maybe we can fight this together?
I sit there staring at you. I take a minute to breathe. Then I say, “how are you feeling today?”
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Thinkstock photo via oneinchpunch