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Loving Someone with a Mental Illness is Often a Lonely Job

I know you.  You’re the mother whose kid has ADHD, you’re the daughter of the woman, who uses pills to solve all her problems, you’re the husband, who is still desperately in love with your wife even though she lost herself years ago, and she hasn’t been able to find her way back.  You’re a superhero.  You just don’t know it yet.

Rachel-Linton-Post-ImageLoving someone with a mental illness is often a lonely job.  When you get the life altering diagnosis, no one shows up with a casserole.  You don’t set up a Facebook page for support and invite all of your friends and family to walk the path to recovery with you.  It doesn’t matter that helping a loved one fight their battle with depression can be just as devastatingly hard as helping a loved one fight cancer.  When you are fighting cancer, you fight to stay alive.  When you are fighting depression, you fight to be alive.

An untreated case of depression can be just as deadly as any incurable illness, but people with depression are often expected to snap out of it instead of being encouraged to seek the proper treatment.  We don’t view people with diabetes as weak because their pancreas’ don’t make enough insulin, yet people whose brains don’t produce enough serotonin and dopamine are often viewed as weaklings who can’t control their emotions.

When you love someone with a mental illness, you often help them walk the path to recovery alone. You are their cheerleader, their advocate, their support system, you are their everything, and it can be an almost unbearable burden to carry.  The journey towards recovery is a long one that’s fraught with setbacks.  It is lonely and hard; its heartbreaking and devastating.  You spend most of it wanting to run like hell in the opposite direction, but you don’t.  You stay, and you fight.  You listen; you uplift, and in the end, you make a huge difference.

someone you love with mental illness

So here’s to the mom with the child who suffers from ADHD.  I’ve been watching your journey.  You’re amazing.  I’ve never seen someone be a better advocate for a child.  You never stop.  You went from doctor to doctor to doctor until you found one who listened and cared.  You ignored everyone who said your kid was just wild, and you listened to your heart because you knew something was wrong.  Trust me, when I say, you’ve given your child a life altering gift.  Thanks to you he will learn coping mechanisms for dealing with his disorder that will make it easier to thrive when he becomes an adult. You did it; you changed his life.  You’re a superhero.

To the daughter, who is desperately trying to get her mother to admit that pills aren’t the answer to her problems, keep trying.  It is a hard journey.  It’s one you may never win.  Trust me, I know.  Fight anyway.  You’re a superhero with more strength than you know.

To the husband, who’s still in love with a woman who can’t find her way back from the sadness, don’t stop loving her.   I know its hard, but that free spirit you feel in love with is still in there.  She never meant to go away.  Encourage her to come back.  You’re a superhero with a love story unlike any other.

To anyone who has ever loved someone with mental illness, I know you.  I’ve walked a mile in your shoes. You’re amazing; you’re making a difference.  You’re a superhero.

Rachel Linton

Rachel Linton

Growing up, my mother always used to say, "One is like none, two is like twenty," whenever anyone would ask her what it was like having two children. Mama stopped at two children; therefore, never having a need to add on what having three was like. I intended to stop having children after I delivered my second son, but one afternoon, the boys were playing outside and my husband winked at me and said, "Trust me honey. Every thing will work out fine." Nine months later, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. Two years into this whole mother of three kids gig, I know that had mama been blessed with a third child, and had people inquired what it was like to have three children, she would've said, "One is like none, two is like twenty, and three is like having your own personal three ring circus!"

34 comments

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  • Often the care a caregiver needs goes unnoticed. I coach Caregivers who are stressed and worn out and are seeking better self-care, more time and energy without neglecting the person they’re caring for. It can be a difficult journey for the caregiver. They are my heroes!
    Thanks for your loving post.

  • what an inspirational post. life can be tough and lonely if you have mental illness. you mom’s love is unconditional and she did not give up. thanks to the people that always and still around despite of the situation and circumstances.

  • I really love this post. My husband is definitely a superhero. He takes care of our family while I battle with anxiety, depression, and IBS all at once. There have been plenty of tough times, but we always wind up stronger because of what has happened. A big thank you to him for allowing me to take care of myself internally so I can get back to being Me again. It feels so unbelievably selfish sometimes to not be working because I know what sacrifices we’ve had to make. I have to remind myself, and he always reminds me, that he would work three or four jobs if he had to, and it is only temporary. I won’t always be this way.

    Mental illness is something that causes a lot of people, including myself, to want to hide because we don’t want to be a burden to anyone, and we don’t want people to know us as this person, this emotional wreck sometimes, this hollow seemingly vacant shell at others. I don’t want to bring people down, that’s not me at all. It takes a lot of hard work on both ends every day, and even more understanding, to get through mental illness.

    Support is key, and to those that give that, Thank You! That is really all any of us can ever ask 🙂 Thanks for this post.

  • I suffered from depression way back in college. It was a scary time and something I had a hard time controlling and understanding where it came from! My boyfriend (hubby now) stayed by my side and supported me and loved me through it and I thank him so much now for never giving up on me!

  • Wow what a great post. Thanks for the inspiring read! Mental illnesses are tough and its important for those who suffer to have wonderful supporters they can count on. Than you so much for sharing!

  • Rachel, This is such an important post. So often we moms forget how hard the “other” mom may have it. Whether it be her fighting depression or fighting to gethe child the help he or she needs. This is a wake up call that we all need to be more compassionate towards those around us. Thanks

  • Thanks Rachel! So often I hear people say that people who are sad (or whatever) should just suck it up and deal with it. Those people have no idea what is going on in the other persons life, they have no idea it could be a chemical imbalance, or an addiction, or a trauma causing them to act that way.

  • Lovely post! I can’t really relate, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be aware of others’ needs and encouraging to them. I definitely can be careful of my attitude and my words.

  • Depression is very real, and you shouldn’t give up on loved ones because they struggle. It really does help having a support system who understands. Thanks for sharing this post!

  • Wow. So, this post almost made me cry. I think I really needed to read this. It’s September, and I’m sure you know, since you’ve obviously done your due diligence in the field of mental illness, that September is unbearable for those with depression. I have had clinical depression since my very early teens and September, February, and March are the three worst months of the year for me, every single year. They are terrible and I so often have to quietly tell myself in the morning, just get out of bed; if you get out of bed you will have succeeded; you will have done enough; just get out of bed.

    Reading this, in September, was what I needed, so thank you for that, as well as the reminder to really and truly know that my fiance is a damn superhero for being here and staying put throughout the almost 8 years he has agreed to love me.

  • Well said! People try to hide mental illness of all kinds and the public is so much better at ignoring it instead of facing it head on. Depression is one that has hurt many but for some reason seems to be pushed to the wayside the most. This crazy society that we live in needs to put their big girl panties on and accept that these are all realities and start dealing with this instead of ignoring it. Everyone needs to read this post and start accepting and acting like responsible adults.

  • Love it!! I love reading honest-opened blog post. I also like her “about” section. Way to go!!! Get it all out there. Thanks for posting – I needed to read this this morning.

  • I was diagnosed with Bipolar six years ago after my son was born, so I know all about mental illness. It’s a battle EVERY day just to remain normal. It’s hard to explain to someone WHY I feel like I do because sometimes even I don’t know myself. My family and friends have been a blessing and have walked this long and difficult path with me, so I sincerely thank them for not giving up on me..

  • Love this post! Thanks so much for sharing and I def understand the frustrations of going through life this way from both sides. It’s awful when people don’t accept another person bc of a mental illness or a child’s mental illness. The world is a tough and scary place, and it’s a million times harder when dealing with any type of illness.

  • Thank you for the encouraging words to those loving someone with mental illness. I am on the other side of the fence, having been the one with mental illness for years. A lot of people have left my life; they just couldn’t handle it. Some still show up when I’m “happy Amy”, but no one wants to be around “depressed Amy” or “psychotic Amy”. I have often felt like a huge burden to those I love. I try so hard to keep it together for them, but that breaking point always comes back, and I hate it for them.

About Author

Rachel Linton

Rachel Linton

Growing up, my mother always used to say, "One is like none, two is like twenty," whenever anyone would ask her what it was like having two children. Mama stopped at two children; therefore, never having a need to add on what having three was like. I intended to stop having children after I delivered my second son, but one afternoon, the boys were playing outside and my husband winked at me and said, "Trust me honey. Every thing will work out fine." Nine months later, we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. Two years into this whole mother of three kids gig, I know that had mama been blessed with a third child, and had people inquired what it was like to have three children, she would've said, "One is like none, two is like twenty, and three is like having your own personal three ring circus!"