May is Mental Health Awareness Month. So let’s have an intentional conversation about your mental health and its connection to your marriage.
Chances are, whether currently or in the past, you’ve found yourself “in a funk” or “in a rut.” Maybe you’ve identified that as depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue. Or maybe it’s been more of a naggy, just-below-the-surface frustration that you can’t quite put your finger on.
Whatever the case, that funk can have some pretty terrible effects on you. You find yourself irritated, easily upset, sad, or even numb most days. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with all the worries running through your mind at 1000 mph. You want to crawl in a hole and avoid all the pressures and stress that come with daily tasks and expectations. You keep feeling like you’re letting everyone around you down, and you just can’t get it right. Whatever “it” may be.
Your mental health isn’t feeling very healthy.
Let’s take it even a step further. Maybe, just maybe, everything in your life seems to be going pretty well. From the outside looking in, you have your shit together. You have a great job, you and your spouse have some free time. You’re involved in lots of things and people see you as the person they can go to- for help, advice, support. Anything. You pride yourself on being dependable, hard-working, and caring. Others don’t tend to see your flaws in the same bright light that you do. And you like it that way, keeping the negative talk internal. But you can only manage that image for so long.
And you’re now realizing how quickly the wall can all crumble when the funk hits you.
And when you finally acknowledge that funk, it gets louder.
Depression. Anxiety. Stress. Anger. Panic. Self-Esteem. Loneliness.
Your spouse is noticing it too. And when they do, it often leads to tension. They pick up on your irritability. They may see your worries as attacks on them. They notice you isolating, and they don’t know what to do to help.
Or, on the other hand, maybe you see your spouse dealing with the funk. (I’m willing to bet you both deal with it at some point). You might be catching some of their frustrations, or seeing them pull away and shut down. You want so badly to be close to them, but you can’t seem to break through the cloudy mess of depression and anxiety between you.
You and your spouse might even take turns going through funks. As soon as one of you begins the healing process, the other of you starts to become more aware of everything you’ve been holding in.
The mental health issues seem to just cycle around, leaving you both frustrated, having more conflict and tension, and shutting down, putting more distance between you.
You and your spouse don’t know how to help each other heal when your own mental health is suffering.
You spend time trying to care for each other, focusing on each other’s needs, and then dealing with the conflict and avoidance that happens between you when you’re either shutting down and isolating or irritated and lashing out.
You don’t know how to break the cycle and find healing for yourself and your marriage.
Your marriage and your mental health go hand-in-hand.
You’ve probably figured that out by now.
But it can be challenging to know where (or how) to start realigning priorities and getting your mental and emotional state back to a healthy, mindful place.
So, what can you do when you notice your or your spouse’s mental health issues affecting your marriage?
First of all, take a deep breath.
Chances are, one or both of you has expressed frustrations toward the other. You might have had a really bad day, or your spouse may not have handled that in the most supportive way. Frustrations and hurt might be building up. So take a long, slow, deep, belly-filling breath of fresh air. Soak it in in a peaceful moment.
Let it out slowly, being mindful of all the frustrations and hurts and letting them all out as you breathe out.
With fresh oxygen, give yourself and your partner grace. When the funk hits, it often hits hard. Depression can be crippling. Anxiety can be overwhelming. You can easily feel stuck. Neither of you want to be in the pit of funk, so give yourself grace knowing you didn’t actively try to get there.
Take a few more deep breaths if you need to. Encourage yourself to find a calm, open, peaceful place in your mind to do some exploring.
Check in with yourself.
Are you ready to really make some changes and work through what’s going on? If so, let’s go to the next step.
Take time to explore what the funk is for you.
What does it feel like? What thoughts do you experience when you’re in the funk? You might be very negative and critical of yourself or others when your mental health is suffering.
How do others see the funk you’re in? Do you tend to express anger or lash out? Or are you isolating yourself, pulling away from typical activities and ignoring text messages?
Maybe journaling or practicing some mindfulness can help you with this step. Whatever the case, try to expand your awareness of the issue.
Just work on recognizing your experience with the funk and how others perceive it.
Deep breath again.
Actively working to improve your mental health can be quite challenging, so with each step, give yourself time, space, oxygen, and grace.
Now, try to build awareness of what your soul has been missing.
Do you have a self-care routine? Have you given up most of your hobbies? Are there things you used to enjoy that you stopped doing?
Maybe you used to paint or do some sort of relaxing craft or activity every week. Maybe you’ve held all the tension in your body and your muscles are sore and tight. Maybe you’ve been neglecting going for coffee with that friend that you know will see through your mask and genuinely care about what you’re going through.
How is your sleep? Are you barely getting a few hours a night? Or are you staying in bed way more than usual? Maybe your sleep routine is off.
Have you had an extra stressful few weeks/months at work? Are you trying to save up all your vacation days, knowing that using one to rest would probably be ok?
What about your eating habits? Maybe you’ve been hitting the drive thru more frequently, and you’re feeling very slow and heavy from some unhealthy emotional eating. Or are you not eating enough at all? Maybe your body is missing some key nutrients that restore your energy.
Again, it may look different at different times, and you and your partner may have different experiences. But bring some awareness to what has been happening for you lately, and what you might be missing.
Deep breath again.
Yes, I mean it. Slow your mind down enough to stay peaceful and focused. Keep yourself present.
Now, talk with your partner and come up with a plan.
Share with your partner about your new awareness. The thoughts and feelings you’ve noticed, the behaviors you know your partner has noticed, and the healthy habits and routines you’ve been missing.
This conversation is important. As we discussed, you and your partner may each have mental health struggles, but you see how it affects your relationship with each other. Your marriage is filled with conflict, tension, and stress when one or both of you is suffering. So, improving mental health happens much more effectively when you talk about it together and support each other’s needs.
This plan might involve each of you agreeing to take a day each week and handle more of the household tasks so your spouse can keep up with part of their self-care routine.
Maybe you both need to come up with a meal plan together, or agree on a way to stick to a schedule and have an earlier bedtime.
You might need a date night, and you each might also need some time alone. So talk with each other to find that balance. Maybe in the next 2 weeks you can have one date night, and each of you have an afternoon to yourselves to go get a massage, go for a walk, or whatever it is that your soul needs.
Again, what’s important here is that you’re supporting each other’s needs as well.
Get out your calendar (whether that’s an app on your phones or a paper calendar where you can write it out). Now both of you schedule those times.
When you’re both aware of the other’s plans and needs, you can do better in supporting each other and holding each other accountable to caring for personal mental health.
Deep breath again.
This next step can be intimidating, so hang in there.
Consider going to therapy.
I know, it’s something that many people would rather avoid or put off. It’s challenging because you’re there to change. Which means of course that you’re going to become more aware of the issues you’ve been facing. But I imagine that as you go through these steps and build self-awareness, evaluating what sort of mental health funk you’re in, and what your needs are, it probably seems overwhelming and it may be hard to do on your own.
Going to see a trained therapist can give you the professional, empathic help you need to be able to improve your mental health. A marriage therapist will also be able to understand the ways your and your spouse’s personal mental health issues are connected to your marriage. They will be able to help you improve your marriage and your mental health.
Sometimes, mental health issues are too big to handle alone. And that’s ok. You weren’t made a to live a life of isolation. Even when you try, you know it affects others. So seek help. Get support. Address the depression, anxiety, anger, self-esteem, or any other issues head on.
Deep breath. You can do this.
If you’re realizing how far from peaceful your mental health has gotten, and how much your marriage may also be strained, don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist today. If you’re in Greenville, Simpsonville, Mauldin, or surrounding areas of Upstate South Carolina, feel free to reach out HERE today and schedule a free consultation. Or, if you need help finding a therapist in your area, feel free to CONTACT ME today and I’ll be happy to help you find a therapist and get on the path to health and well-being today.