Coping with a partner's mental illness is difficult and I wish more people would admit it



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My boyfriend has OCD associated with anxiety. Not the kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder that people imagine; not obsessively clean or check the locked door three times. No, his OCD revolves around the idea of ​​perfection. It affects every aspect of his life, whether it's his career, his appearance, or his relationship with me. Above all, he explains, he wants to feel like someone in the world. Many people can understand this. I can certainly. But, despite the capacity for relationship, my partner's mental illness is incredibly difficult.

This is not something I have heard many people say. In fact, I feel selfish to write that while he has so much to do. But the lack of honest discussion surrounding the ups and downs of a relationship full of mental health problems does no good to anyone. I decided to share what I feel.

When I met my partner for the first time, he hid all his worries. It was only when we started spending a lot of time together that I noticed how long it would take to get ready to leave the house, or how he would spend long periods sitting in silence, or how same questions again and again to reassure oneself.

We have been together for over two years and the ups and downs have been many. Some days are good – days when we both forget the tension that can cause his OCD. The other days are terrible. We cry. The doors are slammed. Injurious words are shouted. I know it's not his fault. But sometimes the only thing that makes me move forward is to think of OCD as a separate person (slightly naughty) and focus on the funny, smart, kind and caring person that my partner really is.

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When you love someone, you stay with them through the thicknesses. Coping with the burden of others' mental health, however, is like dredging in an endless war zone. My boyfriend feels the fight too. "You already have so much responsibility as a person.TOC adds another thing you need to take care of in your life," he says. "It makes it difficult to have a relationship."

According to OCD UK, around 750,000 people in the UK are currently living with this disease. But the charity uses another statistic to explain how many people are affected by OCD. "It should be noted that these figures could potentially be doubled if we assume that the majority of people with OCD will involve a loved one in their OCD compulsions," says his website. "[This] This means that at any given moment, over a million people in the UK could be affected. "

There are forums where partners can express their frustrations and all the other emotions that come to mind every day. Their messages are encouraging, but I have not posted a message yet. It may be because, like so many others, I feel guilty more often. I feel it when I accuse my partner of being in a relationship with his OCD (rather than with me), when he stops me during a conversation because he is not talking to me anymore. he needs to think and I am upset by his abruptness, when he has a bad day and he ruins our plans, when I do not understand why everything is so important to him.

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And then there are feelings of loneliness. Although my boyfriend encouraged me to write this, he prefers that I do not go into serious details with family and friends. He does not want the people he knows to have a tarnished vision of him. I respect that, but just talking about these specific issues is often counterproductive.

This leads me to try to act as his therapist when I have no idea what I am doing. This drives me to "fix it" urgently when I know it is not so simple. Dr. Elena Touroni, consulting psychologist and co-founder of the Chelsea Psychology Clinic, explains that this inclination is not uncommon.

"Mental health issues can sometimes seem quite irrational from the outside, but it's important to remember that they are very real for the person who is experiencing them," she says. said. "Because of this, some people might try to help their partner by logically discussing their problems, while others might try to thwart him by reassuring him."

But, she says, "none of these solutions will likely be effective.The best thing to do is to validate the helplessness and empathetic listening of someone – rather than trying to solve the problem. problem – and, what is important, to guide them to the help of experts, whether by a general practitioner or a private therapist ".

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My partner has asked for help in the past several times. He tried a therapy with different counselors and drugs that made him feel like a zombie. He faced ridiculously long NHS waiting times, expensive private appointments and a lack of professional interest in his mental health. It's no wonder he does not want to talk to anyone anymore.

But deep within me, I know that progress is not being made. Barbara Honey, a counselor for Relate, a charity for interpersonal help, says, "Do not try to improve it – you can not. "Instead, she tells a series of tips that anyone in the same boat can adopt:

  • Do not reject the anxiety of a person.
  • If they need to control everything, ask them what little thing they could give up.
  • If they are planning a task or event, suggest repeating so that all steps have been completed in advance.
  • Help your partner access online and cognitive-behavioral therapy online through their doctor or medication, if available.
  • Take care of yourself. It's hard to support a person with a mental health problem – you also need support.

Regarding this last point, Honey also explains that Relate offers a couple therapy service for people with anxiety and / or depression. "Prior to the creation of this service, a great deal of research had been done that revealed a strong link between mental health and relationships and that couple therapy has a significant positive effect on people's mental health." she said, adding that with funding, couples could receive 20 free sessions on the NHS. To access the service, consult your family doctor or call Relate to find out which centers offer it.

As for my personal situation? Well, I will approach the idea of ​​joint therapy sessions. I will continue to be there for my partner, to support him in the best possible way and to urge him to not give up the help of a professional. Most importantly, I will remember that it is normal to focus on me from time to time. Because if I am exhausted, I can not help it.

If you or someone you love has been affected by any of the problems mentioned in this article, contact Anxiety UK by SMS at 07537 416 905 or by telephone at 03444 775 774 or by OCD UK at 03332 127 890.

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