Mental Health Advice for Adults 40-60
When it comes to serious mental illness during the mid-life years, burden of care will sometimes shift to a spouse, a sibling and/or the state. This isn’t always the case, of course.
By this point in their lives most individuals have been sick for a long time: two, three or even four decades. They may have come to terms with their illness or may still suffer from a lack of insight, but they have come to understand the mental health system and recognize their lives are made easier if they participate in treatment. This does not mean it is all smooth sailing, challenges do remain but this can be a gift toward their active recovery. The key is to focus on supporting their journey, recognizing it as separate from your own, and not attempting to pressure or threaten them.
Partners can help their loved ones through patience and understanding. It is also vitally important to recognize one’s own limits and be clear about them. While mental illness can be at the root of bad behavior, it’s not an excuse to treat others poorly. Both you and your partner will benefit from you having a life outside of your relationship. A self-care practice is critical for any relative group but of particular importance when it is a spousal or sibling relationship.
Partners and sibling caregivers of middle-aged adults with mental illness suffer from a different type of stigma. There is, often, pressure to leave or walk away from the relationships. Why would you stay engaged, right? It can be incredibly complicated, whether they are living together or they are not. And those who do not have experience struggle to understand.
If you want to continue to be the best advocate you can for your loved one in this age group, remember above all to take care of yourself. You are, and have been, in this for the long haul. Figure out and define your own limits. How much you can support and in which ways. You don’t have to do it all, and truth is, you can’t even if you wanted to so don’t waste energy trying. Find a good support group either in person or online. Keep yourself fueled: water, food, exercise and sleep. The fuel will help carry you through the harder parts.
When it comes to your loved one, focus on connection and gratitude. Remind yourself you love this person. Look for something about them for which you are grateful, every day. When they do so say something that makes you smile, savor it. Come back to it in your mind when you are struggling. Keep the connection healthy. It is easy to slip into co-dependence. Allow your feelings to be your guide here. If you are feeling constantly resentful or angry, that could be an indicator you need reflect on your limit-setting and up your own self-care. While it might feel counterintuitive to focus on yourself in this way, it really is the key to being able to best support your loved one.