Author and journalist Poorna Bell has shared her advice for anyone supporting a loved one struggling with mental illness, following the death of her husband, Rob.
Bell was speaking about her debut book ‘Chase The Rainbow’, which follows her life with Rob until he took his own life in 2015, after years of battling depression and addiction.
“You feel like you’re going through it alone, but you’re not,” she said on AOL’s ‘BUILD’ series.
“There are so many other people, in some way or another, whose lives are touched by any one of these things, whether it’s addiction or mental illness.
“And if you can somehow tap into a support group, it matters so much in terms of making you feel less isolated.”
As well as reaching out to those around you for support, Bell, who’s an executive editor at HuffPost UK, said it’s important to maintain your true sense of self.
“You’re dealing with a lot. You are patient, you are kind, you are loving, but you have to look after yourself because it’s very easy to lose a sense of yourself when you’re dealing with something like this,” she said.
“I can tell you from personal experience it’s unbelievably important to hold on to who you are.
“I had to learn that the hard way, but I did get there in the end.”
Bell added that looking after yourself is not only essential for your own mental wellbeing, it can actually benefit the loved one you’re supporting.
“When you’re caring for someone who has mental illness, it is really easy to be consumed by it,” she said.
“Remember what you love doing and keep doing it, because you’re not being selfish – you are no use to your loved one if you lose your sense of self.”
She admitted that getting the balance right wasn’t always easy, but shared how she practiced self-care.
“It took me a long while to get it, but I kept my head above water by still continuing to meet up with friends, reading books and going to the gym,” she said.
“I also made sure that Rob and I had date night – even if it meant sitting on the sofa and cuddling because he wasn’t well enough to go out.”