Does your partner struggle with some form of depression or anxiety? Even though your partner may be the one that has been diagnosed with mental illness, often times we fail to understand the deep impact their struggle has on our own mental health. We are mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, partners caring for our significant others, our children, and as our parents age, them as well. We are the ‘sandwich generation’; sandwiched between our need to care for our children and our parents. Life demands that we adjust to the growing needs of our loved ones and we happily and sometimes not so happily oblige, but what about the toll this takes on our own mental health? This task is further complicated when our significant others are struggling with mental illness. Depression is an illness that leaves people feeling hopeless, unmotivated and fatigued. It is important to have compassion for our loved ones, but it is even more imperative to have compassion for ourselves. Being partnered with someone who is emotionally unavailable may leave you feeling isolated and alone. Your partner is not capable of being present with you because they are consumed with their own pain and while you feel for their struggle you also feel a sense of your own isolation. As you care for your children, your parents, his parents, and everything else you need a strong support system to get you through this. The first step is to allow yourself to experience your own emotions and share them with someone you trust. You have a right to feel angry, annoyed, exhausted, and burnt out, without the fear of being judged. You have a right to experience these emotions without guilt. These feelings don’t mean that you love any of your loved ones any less. They mean that you are human and humans often experience seemingly unpleasant emotions. Squashing the emotions, pushing them away, or judging them as ‘incorrect’ only makes the negative feelings grow. Giving these emotions a safe space to exist creates catharsis and personal growth. In fact, if you don’t regularly share your emotional experience there is a chance you will burn out. There is a void being created by an emotionally unavailable spouse. Often times, having a warm body that you can not share your experiences, feelings, and thoughts with is even more painful than not. Don’t let this not alarm you. If you have a partner who is struggling this way, it is a good idea to talk to a therapist about your own emotions. Living with a depressed person can feel like neglect. You may feel like they don’t want to be with you, but this is not the case. They are in pain and you may have to periodically remind yourself. Caretakers are an essential part of our society. Regardless of whom you are caring for, make sure you take the time to care for your emotional, spiritual and physical well being. You can’t effectively be there for others if you can not be there for yourself first!
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