Have you ever had that sinking feeling when your partner pulls you aside to give you some “useful feedback”? You know the way it goes… “Darling, you’re so grumpy all the time”, “You’re not spending enough time with the family”, “You’re drinking too much”, “You’re putting on weight”, “You’re always on the phone/email”, “You’re not yourself” and so on.
If you’re anything like many of my clients (goal-oriented, driven, successful executives), it’s likely that your first reaction will be to dismiss the idea, make light of it, or play it down. But, in the back of your mind, you’re really annoyed because you suspect that maybe, just maybe, your partner could be right.
How could it be possible that your partner is more right about your mental state than you are yourself? It seems ridiculous. But there is a logic to the idea. The reality is that your partner (like many partners of very busy people) is watching you ride the waves of success, stress and failure and getting to know your patterns. You, on the other hand, are so immersed in what you are doing that you don’t notice how you are going. Or, if you do notice, you dismiss the way you’re feeling on the basis that you don’t have time to worry about it.
The potential is that you do so at your own peril. On the one hand, partners deserve the respect of having their views being taken seriously, considered and talked through. On the other hand, your partner may be offering you an early warning alert.
The World Health Organisation estimates that about 40% of mental health problems are avoidable. Taking action early, when you are first showing signs of stress, is the easiest way to avoid serious mental health problems. For example, common early signs of depression (the common cold of mental illness) are:
> Poor sleep
> Poor concentration
> Withdrawal from usual social activities
> Substance abuse
> Suicidal thinking
> Feeling agitated
> Difficulty winding down
> Significant unintentional weight loss or weight gain
> Crying too easily
Of course, your partner is (probably) not a mental health practitioner, but their everyday observations of change are a great litmus test of your emotional state. And they are concerned about you.
There are three terrific reasons to seek early intervention if you are beginning to exhibit any of these changes:
> You’ll probably need far less intervention if you have only one or two symptoms than if you wait until you (or your partner) just can’t cope anymore.
> You reduce the risk of damaging your reputation at work, relationships with co-workers, and relationships with your family members.
> The less severe your symptoms are at the time you reach out for help, the less likely you are to succumb to pressure in the future.
Thanks, Darling. You’re always right.