It’s easy to take care of someone that has a cold or flu. It is a little more difficult to show support as a family or friend of someone with mental illness. Plus, it isn’t one size fits all. I found a lot of articles will tell you to help us take our medications on time, show up for support programs or help support a healthy lifestyle. This may be true in some cases.
My personal advice is to hang back a little. Helping me take my meds on time or supporting a healthy lifestyle which I am capable of choosing crowds my own judgement. I am sick. Not a child.
I find the best support is when family and friends surprise me by doing their own research on the illness themselves. A good place to find your one-stop shopping on all mental illnesses is The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario www.mooddisorders.ca as they have factsheets on everything.
Another way to support is to become familiar with any negative signs or symptoms in case of emergency. For me, my partner knows to send me to the hospital based on an odd shape in my eyes, face contortions, behavioral and physical changes. But that came with time and everyone is different.
Common signs of trouble include:
• Lost interest in hobbies
• Sudden anger or sadness
• Loss of joy
• Disturbing thoughts
• Change in appetite
• Change in sleep patterns
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Avoid contact with friends and family
Providing emotional support is definitely key. As the lovely recipient of this mental illness, there are a lot of emotions that go along with it including feelings of guilt. Being able to talk about it openly with family and friends is important.
And last but not least, I want to feel normal. Anything you can do or say to make me feel normal is okay in my books. I personally talk about Bipolar, Depression and Anxiety like they are normal.
To summarize, it’s not the little things we need help with. We have our med-taking under control and know how to show up for a support program (albeit may need a ride). But get to know this illness that has plagued our life. Help monitor any dangers that may be around the corner. Those are the kinds of support we need.