Dating with a mental illness. 10 tips from people who are kinda getting it right.
I know society tries to outcast people with mental illnesses by labeling us too impossible to love or even incapable of love but that is far from the truth. If anything, I believe people with mental illnesses see how precious and important love really is. Not to say that neurotypical people don't believe in the sacredness of love but I'm not neurotypical so I can't really say! What I know though, is that I have loved deeply for all of my life.
Brian and I have been in each other's lives since the 5th grade. We have gone through so many rough times that I'm not even sure how we're still together. I know that love isn't everything, it takes understanding, communication, compassion, and respect to make this all work. We want others who are in relationships with a mental illness to know that it is possible to be in love, it takes work but when you love someone, you'll do all that you can.
Here are a few of my tips that I would give to you, the warriors, to help keep your relationship healthy, honest and bountiful.
1. Give yourself some mental me time.
Because of my mental illness, I need my space to feel all of my emotions and allow them to be. It's important Brian does not get stuck in the crossfire of my emotional release, so there are times where I need to be alone. This is perfectly normal and should be established at the beginning of the relationship so no one is confused or gets their feelings hurt.
2. Help them understand.
I have heard countless stories from ladies ( with no mental illnesses) how they like to play mind games with their guys and each time I would find myself looking bewildered at them wondering "who the hell has time to be that petty". But my next tip to you is to help your significant other understand your mental illness or at least the parts you understand. If you're going to be with someone, it's only fair that you teach them as much about your mental illness as you teach yourself. A relationship that works as a team will make it farther than a relationship playing mind games.
3. Be truthful with them.
I know it's frightening to be open about your mental illness but if you're getting into a relationship with someone, they have the right to know. Far too many people try to keep their struggles under wraps and then one day it all comes out of nowhere and ruins everything, you know why? Because honesty is the best policy; I don't care if you're afraid of what they will think. If you want to be in a relationship with someone? you tell them the from the beginning.
4. Self-love will grow all love.
I'm not saying that self-love is easy, most of us with mental illnesses had a time in our lives where self-loathing was all we could do. We felt like no one could love a crazy person like us, so why should we love ourselves. If you're in this moment right now, fight through it and fight really fricken hard. Why? Because you matter and the love that you have for yourself will water all of the other types of loves in your life. This tip is extremely important.
5. Understand that your love is not going to be their love.
I find myself comparing my relationship to a neurotypical one sometimes and it's wrong. DON'T DO THIS or at least try to understand that our type of loving, those of us who have mental illnesses, will never compare to those that are neurotypical. I'm not saying we're better or worse but we are different. The way we will love will be different, the way that we interact with our significant other will be different, the way we express our love will be different. Don't compare because it will only bring you more stress that you do not need.
My last tip before Brian writes down his, is this. The mind is complex, life is complex, love is complex. Nothing is meant to be easy but nothing is also meant to be hard. When you treat someone with respect, you'll feel good. When you love someone with all that you have, you'll know it's true. If you can live and love in your truth then you will be a-okay! Go on, love hard, live harder and always, always believe that you are worthy of it all.
1. Patience is more powerful than you know.
Patience can be difficult when you disagree with a loved one. If you ever feel like your patience is wearing thin; Put yourself in their shoes, it will be hard and it won't always work because even to this day I too have issues with that. We're all human some of us are more sensitive than other and it can be challenging but it is so much more rewarding.
2. Do not blame them for having their mental illness.
Things will be said and feelings might get hurt but something you should NEVER EVER do is blame them for having a mental illness. Your S/O is already dealing with enough scrutiny because of their mental illness. If things are getting out of hand don't say things like "see how crazy you are?", or "Maybe if you didn't have a mental illness" because when they need you the most at that moment they are vulnerable and asking for help.
3. Reassurance goes a long way when they're "stuck".
There will be moments when they ask you, "why do you love me?" or "do you love me?". When a moment like that happens you have the opportunity to let them know how much they mean to you. Take that time to just sit them down and cuddle, make them feel secure because it helps them when they are fighting inside their mind thinking that they shouldn't be loved or that they aren't worth it.
4. Affection & the little things help.
Remember all of the cute things you would do that would make them smile, or feel normal? You know the little memories that you guys can't forget because there was such a great connection between the two of you at that moment. Do them again, remind them of those moments to bring them a little joy because when they are battling their mental illness they sometimes forget.
5. You will NEVER fully understand a mental illness.
This last one is a tough one for me and it will be for many people because I know you want to help them, you want them to feel better but you can't be a hero and save them with something that you cannot understand. Stop trying to understand something that has no answer and look for the hints that they are giving you, listen to them follow through and at that moment, support them.
These are the tips that I have for you the S/O that doesn't get it and you know something, don't beat yourself up because you're trying. Even to this day I still don't get it but every time we face a challenge, I learn and prepare for the next time. Jacklyn, I love you and I wouldn't have it any other way, the strength that you have given me, the compassion and empathy that you have shown me and most importantly the love and support that you have gifted me with is all I could ever ask for. Thank you.
Jacklyn & Brian