Today, October 6th, is my partner Carolyn’s birthday. As we celebrate her birthday this week, as well as Mental Health Awareness Week , I want to highlight what a supportive partner looks like and thank her for her example.
As a person with anxiety, depression, and trauma, finding a partner always seemed daunting. However, since we first became friends and then quickly started dating, Carolyn has supported me 100% in my mental health recovery. It is difficult for me to open up and depend on other people, but she makes me feel comfortable to share anything with her. When it is difficult for me to accept the support sometimes, she is patient with me. When I am frustrated or down, she never invalidates my feelings, but helps me move through them. All this to say, find a partner that supports your physical and mental health. Don’t settle.
1. You’re allowed to do things you enjoy.
Do things you enjoy. All the time, whenever you think of it, even if it’s not practical. I can get caught up in what has to be done, and she reminds me that it’s okay to enjoy myself even when there’s a lot on my plate.
Take a break from dishes to play Mario Kart. Sing in the car. (I did that one before meeting her.) If we drive past our favorite bakery, we always stop. Put music on and dance in the kitchen.
2. Not everything has to happen right now.
This goes along with #2. When I need to run an errand or pay a bill, it often turns into, “and I need to call this person, and write this email, and get a car wash,” and then I get overwhelmed and don’t do any of it. My partner reminds me to do one thing at a time. Whether I always listen is another story, but I know she is right.
3. Vegetables are important.
I have never met someone who eats such perfectly balanced meals. She always has the veggies, the carbohydrates, and the protein, always. This may sound trivial, but her commitment is impressive to me. This is so different from how I eat. I eat what I want, when I want. Sometimes I forget to eat. On busy days at work, I often get a text in the early afternoon saying “did you eat?” I used to be defensive or feel like a burden, but I have learned to accept this little act of care.
My partner has helped me be more intentional about scheduling and cooking healthy meals – we even made a cookbook filled with polaroid photos and recipes of our favorite meals we cook – and she also absolutely supports me on nights I just need to eat half a carton of Ben and Jerry’s.
4. Caring for myself means caring for our relationship.
This goes with #3. I cannot contribute to our relationship unless I care for myself. The more energy I put into nourishing and caring for myself, the more I have to give to her.
On the other hand, if I forget to drink water all day at work, I’ll end up with a migraine and I’ll spend the night in bed with a cloth over my face instead of enjoying time with my partner. Just as an example. It’s never happened. (Read: it’s happened a lot.)
If I’m not doing a good job caring for myself, she nudges me with gentle reminders and encouragement. It’s the same the other way around. When one of us is feeling tired, we lift the other one up.
5. Total self-reliance is not healthy.
Total self-reliance is not healthy, necessary, or normal. I can’t do everything on my own, even if I think I can. It’s so much easier when you let someone help you.