Loving Someone With a Mental Illness
Valentine’s Day is a day to express love and affection towards family, friends and loved ones. It’s an emotional day for most, but it can be a frustrating day for others.
I remember the first Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend. It was a new relationship, getting to know each other, but for us Valentine’s Day was just like any other day; for me it was a day to show affection but not for him.
You see, my boyfriend lives with mental illness and when he first moved in two months prior I discovered he was not on any medication and couldn’t tell me how he felt. I didn’t completely understand then, but I do now.
He lives with clinical depression and with that comes with sleeping all day, not wanting to do anything or go anywhere, emotions being put on hold, no laughter. He also lives with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), so on top of the depression is the anxiety. That includes a fear of going outside, talking to anyone, not wanting to text, call or email anyone. He sometimes would ask me questions like, “Do you love me?” “Why do you love me?” “Why don’t you find someone else, someone with a stable mind?” He couldn’t be touched when he was upset, anxious or panicky. The best thing I could do was just talk to him and provide reassurance.
What helped me the most is reading all I could on mental illness but information based on other people’s experiences. I found it helped me better understand him and his needs.
I’m not afraid to say it was a rough year, but it was worth it. We made it through, he’s been on medication and going to therapy for two years now, and we couldn’t be happier.
If you have a loved one who lives with mental illness, I have some advice for you:
1. Please be patient. I know it may be frustrating and upsetting, but it will be worth it
2. Your loved one may need reassurance. Don’t be afraid to tell them you love them even though they may not be able to express the same
3. Be sure to take time for yourself. What you’re experiencing may drain you mentally; take care of yourself. Overall, just remember you’re with your loved one because you do love them, you’ve seen them for the real them and not the mental
illness. Also remember they do love you.
Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from the author’s boyfriend.
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Thinkstock photo by Oleg Breslavtsev