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5 Things You May Learn From Dating Someone With a Mental Illness

It’s OK to date me. I’m not “crazy.”

This is what I wanted to say when my partner had taken the time to read up on depression and bipolar disorder type II. I’m lucky he didn’t run as soon as he found out about my diagnoses, however I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did. The media has managed to project this notion that all people with mental illnesses are dangerous and unstable. However this is not true. Many people find positive ways to cope with their illness and are highly productive citizens.

This piece is not about dating with a mental illness but about learning from those with a mental illness. So here are five things you can learn from dating someone with a mental illness.

1. There are many myths that surround mental illnesses and their triggers.

When you begin dating someone with a mental illness, you may need to read up on symptoms, triggers and possible ways to manage the illness. I like sites such as Psychology Today, Psychology Tomorrow and Healthline. You can gain more insight on the working of the human mind and human behavior. The facts of behavioral traits and personality classification can aid your interaction with both your partner and broader society.

2. Emotions don’t have to be scary.

In today’s world people are taught to hide their emotions. However if you have a mental illness and see a psychologist on the regular, then talking about how one feels can become normal. If your partner is anything like me, then emotionally charged conversations will be a regular occurrence in your life. This constant interaction with varying degrees of emotion may make you more comfortable to explore your own. You may realize it’s OK to have a bad day with the knowledge that they do not last forever.

3. We shouldn’t take our health for granted.

Many people take advantage of their health. People indulge in food and alcohol with no real thought as to how it affects their bodies. Health is taken as a given, but those living with mental illnesses know this is not always the case. Apart from the side effects that come with medication, mental illnesses can take a toll on the body. Eating healthy, exercising and resting are important. A mental illness may encourage you to slow down and be thankful for the healthy mind and healthy body you have.

The knowledge you gain may also allow you to encourage and support your partner on days when being healthy is a challenge.

4. Patience.

Living with a mental illness is hard, and loving someone with a mental illness may be challenging. There may be days when their illness dictates the day, and you simply have to be patient. You cannot make them “snap out of it.” There is little they can do about their illness and thus may rely on you to be a good constant in their lives. The manner in which you react on the off days is important.

5. The quality, and not the quantity, of relationships is what’s important.

Positive relationships are a crucial lifeline for those living with a mental illness. You may find that your partner’s circle is small but filled with people who love them fiercely and will protect them at all costs. Your partner will likely show you the value of love and stability in a relationship and how that trumps everything else.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to love and respect. If you love someone and respect their boundaries and decisions, you will learn so much from them.

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Thinkstock photo by Uber Images