This story is part of a blog series called, “Your Story: a conversation on mental and emotional health and disabilities.” Please read with a heart open and understanding -free of judgement.
Please be aware that the interviewee mentions the topic of anxiety. If this topic affects you in any way please stop reading, talk with a someone you trust, or contact a mental health professional immediately. You may also call the Suicide Hotline 800-273-TALK (8255).
A Note On Editing
Minor changes were made to the interview to bring clarity to the reader.
And Now, a Word of Introduction
This story is quite unique as it is shared by a woman who has acted in the roll of caretaker to two individuals. Within this interview, this woman shares her experience helping a struggling friend and mission companion while they both served as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Allow me to cut in with a brief interruption. For those unfamiliar with missionaries, a mission companion is roommate that you are required to spend time with 24 hours a day 7 days a week for a specific amount of time. Sometimes this is as little as 6 weeks, but it can be as long as many months. The purpose of a mission companion is to provide a second witness of truth, friendship, safety, and support during the mission.)
She also talks about the love and support she gave to her husband while they were dating and that she continues to give now that they are married. As someone married who also struggles with mental and emotional health concerns, I know how grateful I am to my husband for his love and support especially when I don’t know why my mental health struggles have been triggered and, therefore, can’t explain what’s going on.
How did their mental/emotional health impact your relationship?
Friend: she often pushed me away and would not talk to me for days or weeks at a time because she never felt like talking. She was upset at her health and how she was feeling inside. In the end, it has made us closer because she knows I am someone she can talk to without being judged.
Husband: Oh boy! When we were dating, he constantly felt like I was going to leave him and would have anxiety attacks because something else was making him anxious, and he thought I would think he was a freak if he told me; then, he would get anxious once he told me that he was afraid I would leave him because of what he was anxious over.
What symptoms or behaviors do you notice in the individual who struggles with mental/emotional health challenges and disabilities?
Friend: When it comes to talking about her feelings, she puts a lot of thought into it as if she is filtering her thoughts and feelings to sound more “normal”. She often says she is “okay” when I know she isn’t just so she doesn’t have to talk about herself again. She, also, apologizes for her feelings, and no one should have to do that.
Husband: He wants to be alone so he can hide from his issues rather than address them and “burden” other people.
Did you have an intervention, a conversation, or receive a “plea for help” with this individual? And if so how did you respond?
Friend: Yes! We were able to sit down for a few hours. We weren’t intending to even talk about these things, but we were able to do so, and since then, she hasn’t tried to push me away or hide her feelings. She knows that I understand and will offer help and advice as she asks for it.
Husband: My husband and I have to talk often when he feels stressed or overwhelmed. We can often combat the anxiety before it takes over too much of him.
Do you feel that you’ve played a role in their treatment and healing process? If so, how?
Both: Yes for both of them. They both know they have someone to talk to anytime they need to about anything they want to. I think, before, they didn’t know who would be able to help. Someone who would listen without passing judgement or offering solutions to their problems is really all that they needed, and I feel I am able to do that.
Has this experience made you more aware of those around you who may also be struggling? And if so, what actions are you taking to be there for love and support?
Everyone struggles, and everyone is allowed to have feelings. Yes, even boys! It’s never okay to tell someone that they are too much to handle because of their mental or emotional needs. I love to offer to listen to people, and anytime someone wants to talk, I am willing to be there for them because it helps more than we know.
How do you cope with the bad days, flare ups, and ups and downs in their mental/emotional health?
We all have bad days. Just reaching out to them with love and offering support is all that I can do. It’s okay to feel things and not hold them in. I try to help them realize that time and space doesn’t matter, but their feelings do, so let’s talk about them and allow ourselves to have an off day!
What advice would you give someone who is witnessing the mental/emotional struggles of someone they love?
Just Love. Listen. Allow them to feel like they are the most important person at the time they need you.
Is there anything else you want to say about this experience of witnessing and caring for someone with mental/emotional health struggles?
It’s sooooo hard! But it’s especially hard when you don’t understand where they are coming from or where those feelings are coming from or how a certain situation created so many feelings. Yet, I have learned that listening and allowing them to talk often solves their problems on its own.
Thank you for sharing, and thank you for caring!
Continuing The Conversation
The final question I asked as part of this interview was whether she was willing to connect with others about her story. She agreed and said that she would be willing to talk with those interested over Facebook. To continue to protect her privacy though, I will not disclose the information you need to find her on Facebook in this post. If you are interested in connecting with her, please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will forward your message to her directly.
Feel free to continue the conversation on mental and emotional health in the comments below. But please understand that your comments are being moderated and will be deleted if they are hurtful, hateful, or inappropriate in any way. This is a safe space to share your story about mental and emotional health and disabilities and find support. Please do what you can to keep it as such.
A Note For Readers
If you feel inspired to share your story, please click here to be taken to the introductory post where you will learn where the inspiration for this blog series came from as well as how to participate.