Loving Someone with Depression or Anxiety

Sometimes I have others write for my site. I’ve known Lon for a little while on Twitter and through blogging. He sent me this wonderful post on mental health that I couldn’t not post. Thank you, Lon. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

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You’re probably familiar with this passage of the Bible written by the Apostle Paul:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13:4-7, ESV)

We love these verses, don’t we? Beautiful written, wonderfully inspiring. You may even have had them recited at your wedding.

But what if loving this way involves supporting a spouse or a child with emotional health issues? What does 1 Corinthian 13 look like in that kind of real, often dark, life?

I live with three such women—one wife and two daughters—and I want to share what I’ve learned about loving and supporting them as Paul instructs. I hope you’ll find inspiration and new courage to love a similar someone in your life.

  1.  ACKNOWLEDGE IT
    Love believes all things… 

    What your spouse or child is feeling?—It’s real. It’s not “just in their head,” not in the dismissive way we usually use that phrase. The single most loving thing you can do for someone struggling with a mental health issue is to let them feel the validating sense of relief that comes from being believed. 

    Let your loved ones know it’s safe to confide their weird, icky, creepy, dark, scary thoughts with trustful, trustworthy, compassionate you.

  2. DON’T GUILT
    Love is not arrogant or rude… 

    Most mental health issues aren’t caused by sinful decisions a person has made. Being bipolar, or depressed, aren’t sins people commit. Rather, they are specific manifestations of the universal human fall into sin and misery. They are signs of the same broken, sinful nature abiding within you. Anne has written more about this in Your Anxiety is Not a Sin.Let your loved ones know you still respect and admire them. They need to know your good opinion of them hasn’t changed.

  3. LISTEN PATIENTLY
    Love is patient, not irritable…You may hear the same, or similar, story over and over and over…Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t let exasperation slip out, even if you feel it once in a while. Instead, listen actively, patiently. Ask gentle questions, not to fix “it,” but to hear “it.”

    Give your loved ones the sounding board they need to process how they feel.

  4. KEEP LIVING
    Love hopes all things… 

    “It” is real, but it doesn’t haveto be the 24/7 center of family life.Keep your daily routines and annual traditions to maintain a sense of order and rhythm to life. The idea isn’t to pretend nothing is wrong, but to remind you and your family that life is still worth living.Help your loved ones see the meaningful enjoyment of small accomplishments, and family games, Sunday sermons, and trips to the beach. Make fun together. Make memories together. Laugh together.

  5. PRAY TOGETHER
    Love bears all things…
    Pray with them. For them. Out loud.Few things will fire more warmth and trust in a relationship than the simple act of asking God to help your loved one. A childlike plea will do. Often, the very act of praying for a loved one in need becomes the answer in the moment of need.
  6. GET USED TO IT
    Love endures all things… 

    Life as you knew itmay be interrupted for a while. You may have to become a caregiver and life coach for a season.You may be needed at 3 am to sooth a panic attack. You may have to make time just to help your loved one walk outside, to experience the sun and grass and flowers. You may need to do the laundry, at the last minute, just because. You may need to attend counseling or a support group. Maybe because he wants you to, maybe because she won’t go without you.You may have to become more than you imagined you could.

But, love will endure all this and more.

OVERWHELMED?

Where will you find the inner resources to love this way?

I’ve found that I have to rely on God for that.

I have to bring my weakness to Him to ask for His strength. I have to confess my inadequacy to ask for His sufficiency. I am the average husband and father who makes mistakes, speaks too harshly, listens half-heartedly, who sometimes, just doesn’t get it.

But God is great for us in His Son, Jesus Christ. God will pour out the Spirit of Christ to fill you with His love, patience, kindness, endurance, and all that you need to love the struggling person in your life well.

And even if this season of life lasts longer than you can imagine, set your hope on Christ’s promise of eternal peace and rest beyond the present suffering. Trust Him for this.

He is great, even when life isn’t.

****

Lon_square headshot_3Lon Hetrick writes a blog with his wife, Dawn, to inspire regular people to hope in God when life is crazy. They live, learn, work and worship in Atlanta. Find out what they’re learning about emotional health and the Christian life at Average Us.

Comments

  1. Deaphine Dew says

    Well written article to support families whose love one suffer with anxiety and depression. As , I read the article it was reputable because I suffer with the illness and I can imagine how my family struggle on how to support me. I will copy this article to start a discussion.
    Blessings to you and may God Bless you and your love ones and give you strength to endure as you continue to support your love ones.

  2. says

    Very well stated. As the spouse of someone who struggles with mental illness, I have at times felt alone wondering if anyone could understand the struggles I have endured. I have hung on for many of the reasons stated above. I just appreciate how it is said here. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Albertenna Gillespie says

    I feel like this is a message from God to me. I live with my daughter to help her and three children and it is not easy and I do it because I do love. I hope to God that all will be well one day and I can move on with my life. I trust God that’s all I can say and I continue to wait on him but this time I will think about love endures all things and
    1 cor.13.I will read this and what u wrote about keep living and praying together. I did think this was a joke at first but I see that it is not. Thank you. please keep me in prayer and i will do the same for u. God Bless.

    • says

      Albertenna, I’m so sorry to hear that this season of life is hard for you and your loved ones. You’re right, 1 Corinthians 13 is a message from God to all of us. Sometimes we have to learn what Scripture means, how to live it, how to depend on Jesus Christ (not ourselves) to work His grace in us, by experiencing hard things. May God assure you of His good and wise care for you and your daughter’s family even now.

  4. says

    Lon,
    Thank you for your beautiful words, infused with such love and grace, I know in our marriage dealing with these issues have taught us not only how to love, but how to let go and be loved.

    Blessings on you and yours!

  5. says

    Very thoughtful, moving, and well done. Thankfully, I don’t have to live with this kind of problem, but have worked with such people in the past, and no doubt will in the future. This will help. Thanks for sharing.

  6. says

    Wonderful article. I’ve suffer periodically from depression most of my life. You’ve offered some wonderful ways to provide real support. Thanks for sharing your experience and insight. Those were some of the things my husband did which helped me tremendously. You’ve articulated well the importance of combining God’s truth and grace into practical action!

  7. Dee Yen says

    Wow. So accurate. I suffer from depression and anxiety . Have lost relationships because of it. BUT God’s good and just. I need to let go and let God :-)
    GOD bless!!

  8. Brad says

    I don’t know if my anxiety issues are a sin or not but I can finally admit that it comes with an extreme amount of guilt. I experience guilt as a Christian thinking I’m not supposed to “worry” while in a relationship with Jesus. Also, I have guilt as a husband and father that I’m supposed to be confident as a leader in the home, but now my wife has to deal with my issues and I have to hide part of me from my kids. Life doesn’t stop while going through this and I hope this book as a companion to scripture would help my spouse or others weather the season of our life and I pray that she learns how much I want to manage this but can’t right now.

  9. Brenda says

    Thank you Lon I really needed this.
    I almost lost my husband July 22 this year. The emotions have been up and down as I try to hang on asking God for help. Each day I go to visit my husband God gives the strength to make it through. My husband is in Rehab and will be coming home this week end. I know we still have a ways to go and I know God will give me strength and wisdom as I need it.
    Thanks again for the encouragement to keep hanging on and to remember where my strength really comes from.

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