Roughly 1 in 6 of us suffer with a mental health condition. Even more suffer without being fully diagnosed, and the proportions are even higher for millennials and Generation Y (which most of us in the LDR community belong to). As I wrote here in my blog, our generation are growing up amid economic decline, rising inequality, we’re under far more pressure than our parents and grandparents before us, and we feel so distant from the generations before us. It’s arguably why so many of our parents and elders judge our relationship choices. It’s also why there’s been a threefold increase in teenagers self-harming over the last 10 years, why over 50% of 18 to 30 year olds say they’re worried about the future, 47% say they lack self-confidence, and 42% feel worn down.
Add to this the struggles and loneliness of a long-distance relationship, it’s no wonder that so many of us suffer with mental health conditions. This article is probably slightly more aimed at those with depression and anxiety, and those who have significant others struggling with the conditions, but many of the problems, ideas, and tips are also compatible with other conditions, and can be helpful for the sufferers themselves.
You are not alone
A paper by Centre for the Study of Long Distance Relationships identified that of 25 reviewed studies of separated relationships, every participant described feeling slightly more lonely, depressed, and were prone to more flare ups of their mental health symptoms. These studies also found that the length of time the couples had been separated wasn’t a big factor, all couples still reported an increase in mild depression, difficulty sleeping, losing interest in daily tasks, and difficulty concentrating.
Even though an LDR can be magical and make you ridiculously happy, the downsides (not seeing your partner, time difference) can often cause the symptoms of mental health conditions to flare up even more. And as many of us know this can often have detrimental effects on the relationships themselves. I know during my LDR my depression at times made me snap, seek alone time, and meant that I wasn’t always the best boyfriend I could be. If their mental health does cause your partner to snap, try to remember that it is simply the illness itself. Try not to take it personally, your partner cannot help how they feel, and it really isn’t anything against you.
Be there for each other
However, if you are the one that is prone to these episodes, make sure you explain to your partner why. Don’t bottle up the reasons and how you’re feeling. A relationship is a journey as a couple (quite literally in a LDR), and if you can’t communicate effectively to one another it’s going to be extremely hard to make the relationship work. This also works both ways. If you are upset with how your partner is treating you, let them know. Explain how you feel. I really wish that I had been told throughout my relationship, it would have made me a better boyfriend.
Mental health issues might also cause someone to become increasingly irrational, and at times worry unnecessarily about practically anything, especially the relationship. I understand that this might well be incredibly annoying for the partner or SO, but it’s important that you help to reassure your partner about these things. It might well be repetitive, and tiresome, but they aren’t choosing to feel this way, and it’s important you’re there for them. One idea might be to record some reassuring messages, so your partner can listen to them when the feelings stir up. Make sure you both know that you’re there for one another always, and that you love each other, it will really help I promise.
Some tips and tricks for you and your partner
There are many things that you and your partner can do to try and counter and remedy many of the symptoms and effects of mental health conditions. Together you should try and identify the main triggers of the illness, and try to find solutions and counters for these. If your partner is suffering with anxiety it might be helpful to keep them in the loop of what you’re up to. If they’re suffering with an ED it might be helpful for you to talk them through each mealtime. As I said earlier, relationships are a journey, both need to compromise, as long as you’re with someone worth compromising for.
It’s important that you both understand these conditions won’t go away on their own. For the person suffering it’s important to realise they will need someone to help them, and it’s important for their partner to realise that they are going to need to help, and it’s not going to be an easy ride. Of course, try not to constantly rely on your partner at every situation, they have their own life to lead, and spending time with each other should be a thrill, not a chore. When you are spending time together, set up skype dates, surround yourself with friends, listen to music, watch movies together, read books, play games together. Find activities that can, if only for a few minutes, distract you and your partner from the mental health conditions, and re-use them again and again to keep the relationship light and happy. Focusing only on the mental health condition will make the relationship feel heavy and will not help the affected partner.
Of course, I must stress for any sufferers of mental health problems, or anyone who believes they might do, please do go and seek professional help. Go and visit your local GP or doctor, and do go and speak to someone. Even if you do not get fully diagnosed, talking to someone may well help, and they can also find methods and techniques that may help you. You need to look after yourself, and you need to look after each other. It’s okay to not be okay, and you are never alone. You have your partner, your SO, you friends, your family, and please, don’t ever feel like you’re not normal. Keep fighting together, just like you fight to beat the distance together.
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