A woman has shared how her boyfriend has been helping her cope with her mental health issues by leaving her daily notes filled with small to-do lists, giving her something positive to focus on.
Danielle Montgomery, 27, began her recovery from bulimia and other disordered eating in 2015, but has recently been struggling with depression and stress, having left her job in April. A fortnight ago she told her partner, Phillip Pratt, that she was worried her symptoms would spiral out of control and he responded by writing her a surprise note before leaving for work the next day.
The note contained a check-list of simple activities such as “make bed” and “put clothes away”, alongside the gentle encouragement: “Remember, don’t put pressure on yourself to do all of these, start with the easiest one and go from there. Love you.”
Danielle said reading the note “just brought a massive smile to [her] face”, despite it being a difficult time. “He’s very logical and methodical, whereas I am a bit airy fairy with my head in the clouds, so it was lovely to wake up to a sweet handwritten note with the intention of getting me through the day. He didn’t have to, but he did, and that means a lot,” she tells HuffPost UK – Phillip has since written her a note each day.
Before Phillip began writing the notes, Danielle had been feeling overwhelmed at home by herself, which she said led to “dangerous coping mechanisms”.
“In my head there’s a thousand things I want to do and a thousand things I need to do, but I just sit there letting them whirl around in my head and taunt me for not actually doing them,” she says. “I end up doing none of the things, which leads to guilt and self-loathing, which can lead to bingeing and purging.”
But she has found the act of ticking items off her to-do list therapeutic in itself as she can “physically see the progress and productivity” of her day. Phillip’s choices of activities has also reassured her that he understands the challenges of mental illness.
“When I text him to say I’ve got up and made the bed, he replies with praise and encouragement. With depression, getting out of bed can sometimes be too daunting, so I appreciate that his notes take this into consideration and they’re not stacked full of important, daunting, scary tasks,” she explains.
Over the past week the notes have provided her with “a reason to get up” as she’s keen to find out what Phillip has written for her each day. Because of this she thinks small gestures can make a big difference to people coping with mental illness and would like to encourage other loved ones to follow her boyfriend’s lead.
“Just showing your support and not putting enormous amounts of pressure on that person to ‘be happy’ or ‘accomplish everything in a day’ can help, as these are often things a person with mental illness is already beating themselves up for,” she says. “The way in which you offer your support or advice doesn’t need to be monumental. Leave a note, send a medication reminder text, take on a simple task for that person to relieve them of added stress. Whatever it might be, and however that person is struggling, the littlest of gestures often mean more as they come from genuine, selfless place.”
Rebecca Field, head of communications at eating disorders charity Beat, agrees: “Carers can play a vital role in helping their loved one along the path to recovery, from listening to offering reassurance and coming up with actions.”
But she warns that carers also need support, when helping a loved one cope with such issues: “Families of someone with an eating disorder should have access to information about the illness from the NHS and from charities like Beat. Beat’s website has a section dedicated to carers, with practical advice and links. Beat’s helpline is also open for sufferers and for anyone who is concerned and is every weekday from 12 – 8pm and on weekends from 12 – 4pm via phone, email, or one-to-one webchat.”
Useful websites and helplines:
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