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

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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.

Originally published: June 2, 2016
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