63% of people with mental health issues who have told their partners about their condition, state that their partners ‘weren’t fazed’ or were ‘really understanding’. Mental health is becoming a much more commonly spoken about topic, yet we still hide it in our sock drawers when it comes to our partners. We are afraid of losing them, of putting too much pressure on the relationship, of affecting their own mental health if they too suffer from a mental illness. However, relationships are one of the strongest forms of human connection, love binds people together and makes it possible to fight through the hardships of mental health. I, myself suffer with depression and social anxiety disorder and partners in the past have been either supportive or the complete opposite, yet now I am in a relationship in which I know I can express my lows as well as my highs and vise verse for him. Here are some things that I personally have learnt from being in a relationship with mental health issues whilst also dating someone who too has mental lows.
- Establishing that the mental disorder is external to us both:
Viewing your disorder as external to the relationship stops it from consuming both of you – you do not want to become intertwined; the mental illness affecting and feeding into your relationship and vise versa. Acknowledging that your partner is acting a certain way towards you because of their mental state rather then the state of your relationship is a better way to look at the current situation. Just because they do not want to be all lovey dovey doesn’t mean they do not love you, it may be their mental health is at a low and they need space and you must understand that it is nothing against you or the relationship. A good way to counter this is to create your own language between each other that can be used to signify a moment of low, so that you know to give them space and that it has nothing to do with the relationship, merely a chemical imbalance.
2. Different perspectives:
Understanding each other’s mental illness can be tricky because mental health is unique to everyone, however, trying to let your partner into your thoughts and feelings more allows a stronger unit of support. Talking can be the rest remedy. Whenever I feel down, feeling like there is no hope and that the light at the end of the tunnel looks appealing, my boyfriend will remind me of the positives of life and in that moment, I never believe him because my depression is thick over my head like a cloud, however, I do the exact same to him whenever he is down! Those moments are important, sometimes getting a perspective from someone who is not inside your head can help clear the mind especially from someone you care deeply for. In those moments of irrational thoughts, our loved ones can be the voice of reasoning.
3. Help each other when help is needed:
Therapy is tough. I have been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. Yet, what I got from therapy was not the actual one on one contact with the therapist but the support from a partner. Without them, I would never have applied to therapy to begin with and I would certainly have cancelled appointments many more times than I did. Pushing yourself to go to therapy and to stick to it can be incredibly draining, having a loved one by your side can really change your outlook on therapy. I wanted to get better for him and to prove that I could do it, to show that I was stronger then the chemicals in my brain. So, when my current boyfriend asked me to come with him to the doctors to speak about his mental health, I was there beside him in a flash. When he told me, he was going to try therapy, I was over the moon that he was taking that step. Sometimes, we need that push to see professional help, sometimes that push is best from a loved one. Of course, I would not push my boyfriend to tell me anything about his meetings, yet if he ever wants to share, I’ll make us a cuppa, grab us a blanket and sit and listen to everything he says.
4. Read. Read. Read:
Reading up on your partners illness can be a great way to understand it without pressuring them to speak about it. Sometimes, people need space and do not want to recite their mental issues day in and day out so reading up on it is a great tip. Understanding why they may feel a certain way, perhaps tips on how to help or how to cope with that illness whilst in a relationship with them builds a strong foundation for the relationship. What is a house without the foundation? Of course, please DO NOT self-diagnose or diagnose your partner! Leave that to the professionals but reading up on their already diagnosed illness can benefit everyone!
I could list many more tips for coping in a relationship whilst yourself or partner has a mental illness, I could comment on lack of social media presence, lack of photos, communication difficulties, insecurities and behaviours but I did not want this to be a negative article. Being in a relationship is tough already and adding chemical imbalances can make it tougher yet, the miracle of love is that it can be the strongest bond between two people. I could not thank my partner for being as supportive as he is for me when I have my lows or when my anxiety takes over and hopefully, I provide that same comfort to him. Mental health is always priority, it is about your own health and you must put yourself at the top of the list, however, letting your partner in and allowing them to understand your mind better, helping and providing comfort can boost your mental health and make you a sturdier unit as a couple.
Be kind to your mind, be kind to your partner.