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December 29 , 2009

Loving Someone with Mental Illness


I have lived with mental illness all of my life. It propelled me into success but the severity has grown with time, eventually resulting in my disability. For more than 20 of those years, I have been in a relationship that never failed to rise above the illness and let love shine through. However, it did falter at times as my dear wife, Lynn, and I learned (by trial and error) what works and what doesn't. I looked and looked for resources that would help us through the rough waters in which we found ourselves. I found plenty of material, books, support groups, and such, for other relationships such as parent-child, but nothing that addressed the unique needs of a loving couple. I wrote this book to correct that.

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Lynn and I have been through the worst time and have emerged with a relationship that is strong and that supports both of us in living rich and fulfilling lives. Herein, I offer what might be called, "tricks of the trade."

As I passed in and out of psychiatric hospitals I met many patients like me who had loving partners. They, too, struggled with the day-to-day management of their illness in conjunction with their partners. These patients suffered a variety of illnesses from depression to schizophrenia. I spoke to them at length about their relationships and how they coped, about what worked and what didn't. Some of these relationships were good, and sadly, some of them were not.

Then, after interviewing couples from around the world I compiled this work that pulls no punches. It is nothing less than a survival manual. I tackle subjects as diverse from psychosis to suicide, from medication compliance to sexual intimacy, and many more. I address the most common problems and concerns of couples to help them live meaningful lives both together in a loving relationship and apart as unique individuals.

I include many examples from Lynn and my lives. They show how we had our own difficulties too. At the end of chapters I include questions that you, as a couple, can discuss that will help you move through the difficult challenges of beginning mental health treatment.

My aim is to obtain the highest quality of life for both partners in a relationship. Although my primary focus is couples, much of what I write is applicable to every kind of relationship where someone is supporting a loved one with mental illness, be that a child, a parent, another family member, or a good friend. People in general can benefit from Chapter 1 where I write about communication skills. The same holds true for Chapter 2 where I talk about psychological defenses.

This is an important work that should be on the shelf of everyone who engages with someone suffering from mental illness.

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