Roommates and Mental Illness

Is it a coalition of tortured artists? Is it a pile of essentially formless humans on the floor waxing poetic on the futility of life? Probably not. Mental illness isn’t glamorous–in fact, it more closely resembles a mess. In a house with people suffering from mental illness, breakdowns are inevitable and the best you can do is be prepared for them.

Tissues!

Have them in every room, and one for every horizontal surface that functions as a table (ie coffee table, dinner table, side table, etc.)

Tea!

Herbal is probably best because caffeine can interfere with any medication you or your roommates may be taking. But sometimes there’s problems that none but a hot spicy chai will fix.

Ice and ice packs!

Thermoregulation is something that falls by the wayside if someone is having an anxiety or panic attack. Holding ice cubes or putting an ice pack on your forehead has been found to stimulate the vagus nerve, which can help decrease your heart rate.

Mutual accountability!

Do regular check-ins with your roommates and have them do the same to you. Have you had food and water today? Have you taken your medication? Have you engaged in any physical exercise to get rid excess lactic acid that might exacerbate panic responses? Make it a habit with your friends, to make sure that they are okay and so that they can do the same for you.

Pre-symptom communication!

Talk about the ways that your roommates can support you when you start experiencing flare-ups, and learn about the ways you can help as well. Ideally this happens before you have your first breakdown so that there’s a degree of preparedness and the breakdown doesn’t have to be any more stressful than it already is.

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