“New relationships are exciting. You learn so much about a person in a short period of time and get to experience another human being’s life. It’s exhilarating. For someone with a mental illness, dating is difficult.”
“New relationships are exciting. You learn so much about a person in a short period of time and get to experience another human being’s life. It’s exhilarating. For someone with a mental illness, dating is difficult.
Do they actually like me or are they just killing time?
How will they react when I tell them I have depression and anxiety?
When should I tell them about my mental illness?
Should I even tell them?
Being with someone with depression, anxiety or another mental illness takes a special person. Loving someone with a mental illness is hard but well worth the effort. We are just as good as someone without a mental illness. We just take a little extra TLC.
1. Learn about it.
If your partner has a mental illness, then do some research. Google is a great place to start. Try looking for videos or articles about their illness to familiarize yourself with what to expect. Every person is different. While some people with depression may experience poor hygiene, low motivation or lack of interest most of the time, others may experience it for short bursts a few times a month.
2. Be supportive.
This is the most important thing to remember about loving someone with a mental illness. I, and many people like me, have been in relationships where the other person simply “doesn’t get it.” When a panic attack comes along, they stand far away and look dumbfounded. After the attack, they don’t ask if you want to talk about it because they’re scared and don’t know enough to discuss it.
People who struggle with depression and anxiety may experience a feeling of uncertainty or, for me, a feeling that what just happened was foolish and embarrassing. It is not an embarrassing thing to be anxious or depressed, and you need to justify that with your words and actions. Being supportive means checking in with your loved one to see if they’ve taken their medication, asking how their appointment went, providing a support system after an episode and constantly being available when mental illness overtakes them.
This might sound scary, but it’s no more work than any other relationship would take. Just as you’d ask your loved ones if they are doing OK after a natural disaster or a death in the family, asking about their mental illness is no different. A huge factor in healing is being able to talk about your illness with others. Allow your loved one the chance to trust you and be open to discussion.
3. Be available.
Make sure your partner or loved one knows your limits. Is it OK to wake you up if your loved one is having a panic attack and can’t sleep? Are you willing to talk them into going to their therapy sessions or taking their medications or even take them to appointments when necessary? Is their mental health a priority in your relationship? If you make plans and have to cancel because your loved one is having a hard time leaving the house, will you be able to set aside your plans to reassure your loved one that you understand?
I can not stress enough the importance of loving and supporting your loved ones during times of difficulty. Love means making sacrifices for the sake of your relationship. Be willing to sacrifice watching the game or getting a few extra hours of sleep for comforting your loved one when they can’t sleep. Loving someone means accepting and understanding who they are and assisting them in their battles. After all, we’re pretty awesome people, and we deserve love, too. Just as you support us, we will support you.”