Loving someone comes with high and low days. Loving someone with a chronic condition or someone going through an extended difficult time can come with its own set of highs and lows. As the support person, it can feel overwhelming, and feel like constantly providing “tea and honey” just isn’t cutting it anymore. What do you do when the days stretch into weeks which stretch into months and possibly years? How you keep your own head above water when you’re trying to keep them from drowning as well?
Take care of your own mental health
This is one of the most important things you can do. Just like in an airplane when they ask you to put your own oxygen mask on before you put on someone else’s, the same principle applies here. You won’t be able to support your person if you are suffocating yourself. Caring for someone will stretch you thin and push you further than you ever imagined. At what point will you ask for help? Can you ask it before you get to a breaking point? By helping yourself you are helping the person you love by not allowing yourself to be broken beyond repair. It is ok to make requests of the person you are caring for as well. Just because someone is going through a difficult time, does not mean they have a right to treat you poorly. Areas to evaluate your own needs are:
Setting boundaries around how you are treated.
Learn about their diagnosis/process outside of them
Is the person you love going through counseling to process past trauma? Do they have Depression? A recent life change? New diagnosis? Hormone imbalance? While you want to learn from them about their experience, you can do your own research as well. After I had my son and was going through a hard time, it was so validating and supportive when I found out my partners were researching post-partum disorders on their own. It took some of the weight off of me and we were able to then have more productive and guided conversations about what fit and what didn’t with my experience. They were able to find ideas and supportive tips that I never would have thought of. Do your own leg work in research, and then….
Learn about their diagnosis/process from them
After you do your own research, ask them how these things fit for them. When you look at a list of common symptoms of depression, ask which ones are the worst for them or if any don’t fit. Which symptoms come up the most often? Last the longest? Are the hardest to deal with on their own? How can you help? Is there a way they can communicate which symptom they are experiencing at a certain moment in time? Each person’s experience is unique to them and it’s important to recognize and be able to have that conversation with your person.
Keep long term goals in mind
These goals will vary based on the struggle your person is going through. Some things may never go away, but goals could be what does stabilization look like? What is maintenance? What does improvement look like? What are realistic goals that you each can set to remind yourself that this one moment in time isn’t going to last forever?
While it is very important to care for the person who is going through a difficult time, it is equally important to care for the caretaker as well. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help yourself. Please call Amy Wine Counseling Center today at 832.421.8714 and we can talk through how life events are impacting you and how we can make sure that you don’t forget yourself in your effort to care for your loved one.