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I don’t want to come off as though being with someone who has a mental illness is bad because it shouldn’t be at all.
Nothing is simple, and relationships are no exception. However, when also trying to cope with mental illness, it’s imperative that we not fool ourselves. Though it may not seem like it, loving someone in recovery offers the greatest reward. Our end goal is to be the best people we can be, and you get to be a part of that.
You have to be able to put enough trust in someone to know that on a “down” day, you’ve done nothing wrong. Many relationships struggle because of our penchant for self-blame, and we create problems where there were none before. It’s also not uncommon for us to mistaken love with codependency. Sadly, trauma tends to come hand in hand with mental illness.
Growing up, I felt like everything I did was wrong or my fault. Unfortunately, as adults, we don’t realize how much our trauma and mental health issues affect us until we’re burning every bridge over troubled water.
There are specific tendencies that a lot of us have in relationships, and we are often misunderstood. The fear of abandonment, for instance, masquerades as “neediness.” People get annoyed when they tell us they wouldn’t abandon us, but we don’t believe it offhand because usually, the ones who tell us are the first to split. So instead of getting angry and taking it personally, it’s essential to recognize why we feel that way and to know that it won’t be that way forever.
Intrusive thoughts are a common occurrence as a symptom for a variable of illnesses. Depression alone makes you second guess everything. I realize that there’s been a significant amount of potential partners who never understood the battle that ensues in my head regularly.
In a perfect world, we can be both mentally ill and maintain healthy and manageable relationships. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but the love it takes to grasp, understand, validate, and support us is a test like no other.
Confusion is also a common issue for those of us who are in recovery. When you say something, it’s vital to mean it; even in regular relationships, you want to be able to take a person at their word. With mental illness, reassurance is a strong foundation, as is speaking with clarity. If you’re mad, say it and explain it; if you’re happy, say it and explain why you feel that way.
Balance is key because, for every agitation, there needs to be an equal amount of validation. Self-hatred runs rampant with mental illness, and often we can’t help it. Feeding into our self-doubts and shame is belittling and so is false assurance.
Also, please don’t make excuses for us. Mental illness is not a free-for-all pass to do whatever we want. The best thing that we can do is be in treatment and take our medication, if that is the route we take. You have every right to call us out for inexcusable behaviors, because our wellness is our responsibility, relationship or not. Triggers are a sensitive issue, but one that there’s no getting around. I’ve had friends who are also dealing with their mental health, and their partners say cruel things.
There are certain things that you shouldn’t say to anyone, but multiply that sentiment 10, and you’ve got us.
Don’t tell a mentally ill person to “kill themselves,” and don’t push all of the blame on them. Your stubbornness should never, ever come before someone else’s well-being. When we love someone, they can push our buttons better than anyone—and the wrong people will do that.
You get to watch us blossom, learn, and feel.
Those without a direct diagnosis often don’t value the beauty in growth like we do—because it’s the difference between life and death. We have no choice but to heal because we know what happens when we don’t.
My preference is to spend my life with someone else who also has a diagnosis. People who don’t understand the intricacies and vitality of finding peace within will tell you that two mentally ill people shouldn’t date. I’ve always made this joke about finding a person whose crazy works well with mine.
We get it, see it, share it; we experience the world in a whole new light together.
We value the things that many may take for granted—helping each other to get out of bed in the morning, comprehending the urgency for individual space and thought processes, taking over the chores when the other begins to get overwhelmed, comforting a pain so profoundly deep that only someone else with a mental illness could understand.
Our mental illness wants to tell us that we’re damaged, broken, and undeserving of love and happiness, and that’s the true battle, learning that we are no less deserving than anyone else and that we are not our trauma and our diagnosis. The contentment that comes with years of depression is a hard habit to break, but it’s entirely possible.