Loving someone that suffers from a mental illness is a difficult job. It takes copious amounts of patience and perseverance. Some days, it will exhaust you to your very core. You will find yourself questioning everything. Other days, you'll struggle to understand how to console your loved one. It can turn into a vicious situation. This is the hard truth of what happens when you love someone with a mental illness.
When you love someone with a mental illness, you battle an invisible ailment. One problem lies with the fact that mental illnesses cannot be cured or even treated like physical illnesses. When your loved one is suffering from a mental illness, they can't be remedied with hot soup and NyQuil. Their illness also cannot be prevented with a flu shot or a meningitis vaccine. It is something that often lies dormant and emerges at the worst possible moment. It can explode in a split second and leave the person you love crippled with the fear of their own minds. If you do not suffer from these diseases of the brain, it can be difficult to relate to your loved one. You may not understand why they are constantly fatigued, or why their emotions can change at the drop of a hat. They may even take their frustrations out on you. Even though you may know that they don't mean the things they say, it can still be hurtful. These moments make it particularly difficult to love this person.
When you love someone with a mental illness, you learn many things the hard way. You learn what to say and what not to say. You learn when they need to be left alone and when they need to be held. You learn what makes them absolutely livid and what makes them miserably sad. Learning all of this comes through painful trial and error. So, you learn patience. You begin to understand that this is something your loved one cannot control. It becomes clear that your loved one is at war with their own mind. They say patience is a virtue. When loving someone who suffers from a mental illness, patience becomes vital.
When you love someone with a mental illness, you develop perseverance. You develop a thick skin and a caring heart. When your loved one cannot get out of bed and you feel helpless, you develop a fire in your heart. A fire that inspires you to keep going, even when your loved one seems to have given up. This flame is compiled of great memories, strong love, and overflowing compassion. Many times, this fire is the light at the end of the dark tunnel your loved one is struggling through.
When you love someone with a mental illness, you aren't thanked enough. We appreciate every single thing you do for us, even if we aren't the best at showing it. You work tirelessly to understand and navigate through this war our minds are waging on us. You may not have all the answers, but neither do we.
So to those of you who love someone with a mental illness: thank you. Without you, there would be no us.