sad girl holding heart by tip of finger on table

Why I'm Scared My Mental Illness Makes Me Hard to Love

I’m scared my mental illness makes me unlovable. It’s a statement I hate writing and a sentence I hate thinking about. But it’s how I feel. I feel like as my depression and anxiety become more chronic issues, my thoughts about falling in love and the chances of it happening to me start to slim. While this is a small part of me, I can’t help but feel as though there is a giant neon sign following me.

The truth is, when I tell the people I’m dating it usually starts out OK. They seem to understand and accept this is a part of me, but it isn’t all me. But the further we get down the path of being together and the more they realize how much it actually affects my everyday life, that is when I see them start to look for the exit.

I’ve had exes tell me they can’t make me feel better because I’m letting these “issues” consume me. I’ve had exes tell me they don’t feel as though they can tell me the truth about things because they’re worried it’ll send me into a tailspin. I’ve had exes try to tell me how to manage my illnesses even though they’ve never experienced it themselves.

I don’t need someone to tell me what to do or how to do it when it comes to depression or anxiety. All I want, all I truly want, is someone just to love me through it. That’s the part that is sometimes lost on potential partners. I don’t need someone to fix me. I go to therapy. I take my medication. I work hard each and every day to ensure I am doing all I can to prevent the bad days from occurring more often than not.

What I do need is for someone to just be there when things get hard. When those bad days come on and I can’t think of a reason why I should get out of bed, I want someone to be there to just tell me I can do it. I want someone to hold me when, in the middle of the night, I can’t breathe because my anxiety is out of control. I want to be able to tell someone my deepest darkest secrets when it comes to my illness and not have them look at me like I have three heads.

I know it’s not easy to ask someone to be a part of my life when most of the time my moods are a little unpredictable. I know it’s not fair that I’m going to let someone down because I just can’t help myself from wanting to hide from the world on really bad days. I feel it’s not reasonable that sometimes my problems become their problems because I just need someone to shoulder a bit of the weight that comes with depression and anxiety.

I know all of these things but it doesn’t mean I’m unlovable or incapable of giving love. Because I so am. I know I am.

I will love the shit out of people despite the fact it’s sometimes hard to love myself. I am able to listen and accept criticism when things just aren’t working for my partner. I am able to just be there for someone when they’re having a really, really bad day. And I’m able to empathize, not sympathize or compare, when talking to someone about their problems.

So, I’ve been with people who don’t get me or my mental health. I’ve been with people who have told me that my mental illness makes it so it’s difficult to love me. I’ve also been the person pushing people away in order to protect myself from them potentially leaving me when it gets a little too hard to deal with.

But no one is perfect, and neither am I.

I’m scared my thoughts sometimes tell me that my mental illness makes me unlovable, but I challenge them daily because I am lovable. So are you.

Your mental illness doesn’t define your ability to love and be loved. So on those hard days, just try to remember how completely lovable you are. Because you are.

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Thinkstock photo via andrej_k


A woman drinking a cup of tea and staring out a window

When You’re Anything but OK

Let’s get real with each other. You’re struggling. I can see it. Your family can see it. Hell, even you can see it. The problem is you’re not sure how to fix it anymore. You started out so hopeful and bright eyed, but now here you are, just trying to get yourself out of bed. You’re trying to remind yourself the reasons why life is worth living.

It started out like a regular day. You were just a ‘normal’ person, casually walking through the streets when it happened. “Is this it?” your brain asked you. You tried to shake that thought from your head. Is this really all there is? Is this how life is supposed to feel? Is 20 percent of the time being happy enough? Do you really give a shit about yourself anymore? Why are you even here?

The harder you fight to have those thoughts disappear, the more they continue to pop up until you can’t breathe. Until you can no longer handle it and you collapse. Struggling for air. Tears streaming down your face. It’s pain. It’s pure, extreme pain.

So while you try to beat your demons on your own, your family and friends are watching. Confused on how to help. They don’t know whether to bring it up or let it go. They don’t know if this is just a bad day or week or month or year. They don’t know if this is a passing phase or if you’re going to continue to pretend that you’re fine.

Honey, you’re not fine.

You’re not fine if you walk around in a haze. A haze that clouds everything great in your life. We all go through tough times. We all have times in our lives when we need to fight harder to see the good instead of the bad. We all have times where life really just isn’t giving us any breaks. We feel as though we’re the only people going through this. We feel like this storm is never going to pass.

You feel things start to slip, too. At work you can barely concentrate on the tasks in front of you. You miss things. You never miss things. You go one day without a shower and that’s OK, but by day three of not giving a shit how you look you realize that’s not the person you used to be. You even start pretending you’re busy in order to not be around people. Going out in public, surrounded by different bodies, is your current nightmare.

Your depression has gotten the worst of you. You wonder again if this is it. Is this what life is going to be from now on? Is this your new normal? If it is, then you’re not sure you even want to keep doing this. You feel so worn down, so tired of continuously trying only to be pushed right back down to the bottom again. Again and again you fight and again and again you lose. You’re losing the battle internally because you’re just so exhausted.

Resilience. This word has come up. You’re wondering if you would be considered resilient because of the amount of times you’ve come back from the darkest places in your mind. Your bounce back isn’t as quick as it used to be. Now you’re just struggling. You’re floundering. You’re down right losing your battle to your internal demons. You’d like to go one goddamn day without crying. Is that too much to ask?

So while everyone can see you’re stressed and you can feel it, what can you do to help lift some of the weight on your back?

You need to talk about it. You need to allow someone else to help you with what you feel like would only be a burden. You need to be able to admit when it’s too hard and you need to be able to talk to someone, anyone, when you need help.

I know that’s not easy. It’s definitely easier said than done. But if you don’t do it, if you don’t start talking or start allowing someone to see you in those vulnerable moments, the harder it will be to find yourself again.

So don’t keep everything to yourself. Someone who loves you wants to be able to help you. All you have to do is let them.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via evgenyatamanenko

teen looking out over lake at sunset

Why I'm Going to Keep Attending My Counseling Sessions

I started attending the counseling service at my sixth from college last week, and I already feel like this was a bad idea. But I am determined to stick with it. I know these are just nerves, and I know this will get better. And this is how I know that, although I currently want to sink back into my protective hole and continue on alone, counseling is the best next step for me.

1) This is someone who is a specialist.

This is someone who deals with people just like me on a day-to-day basis. I know that no two cases are the same, but this person talks to loads of teens, my age, in my area, who also self-harm; who also struggle with food; who have parental issues. This woman will have seen it all and will have knowledge far beyond myself or my friends or my parents. She will know what best strategies to offer to cope, how it will be best to talk to my parents, and how I can get past this stage in my life. This isn’t just a random person I happened to bump into on the street: this is someone who can help.

2) It will be a constant support.

This scheduled, weekly session is something I know I can rely on, and when living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) this is a godsend. It will be punctual, routinely and organized. I won’t have to worry as to when I have to talk to someone, when I need to reach out for help. A constant support provides a steady hand, and that is just as important as the actual help — to know someone is there, without the fear they will leave, without the fear they will give up hope on you — that is the one thing everyone in need deserves, and it is the one thing the counselling will always offer.

3) It will give me an anchor in my worst times.

When I happen to find myself at a low point, the tether of hope linked to the counseling sessions could be the last string to hold me up. If I stopped the sessions, I would be giving up my lifeline. One thing everyone should have, but sadly not many people do have, is a lifeline they can hold onto. That could be the one thing which saves a person. I’m not implying counseling is a guarantee, but what harm can a little extra protection do? Especially for those who need that little bit extra.

4) It gives my friends and family hope.

Even if it may not seem all that useful to me yet, my seeing a counselor will let those close to me relax a bit. They will have support in the knowledge that I am being proactive — that I am getting help. If they see I am trying, they are sure to have a weight lifted. Counseling is something you have to do for yourself while helping those around you too. I spoke to one of my friends about counseling for a long time before I finally signed up, and I could see the light shine in her eyes when I finally went. She wanted me to get better, and that is a magical piece of hope in itself.

It may not seem like counseling is helping much when you first start, but all we can do is keep going with it. These things take time, and — although I’m not there yet myself — I know this will get better.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Unsplash photo via Tim Mossholder

young woman happy in morning sunshine lying in bed

Having a Good Day When You Have a Mental Illness

Today was a good day.

I woke up at 6:35 a.m. I opened my eyes to sunlight coming through my blinds, but it was different from the day before. Today, it signified a fresh start, a beautiful beginning and happiness. Most days, the sun feels like it’s mocking me. It usually feels cruel, how it makes everything so bright when my brain stays so dark. Today, I rose with the sun.

I looked beside me and there was my boyfriend, still dreaming sweetly with a slight smile on his face. At that moment, his eyes blinked open and his smile grew. He reached for my hand and drifted back to his dream while I smiled next to him. How lucky I was to be able to catch that moment. How lucky I am to have someone so caring, so loving, so gracious and so kind.

I quickly realized that this day was going to be unlike many I have had in awhile. My brain has been an awfully messy place to be. My anxiety usually doesn’t let me rest and it’s been evident with my sleep patterns. Usually, my mornings are filled with dread, panic and a million questions I ask myself before my feet touch the floor. I overanalyze things until I cry and stress to the point that my eyelashes have started to fall out and I break out in hives all over my body. I find myself wishing I would be able to outrun my thoughts and I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times I have cried into tear-soaked pillows at night until I fall asleep. I have taken my sadness and anxiety out on my loved ones more times than I feel comfortable admitting. Anxiety and depression have had their way with my soul and mornings have gotten increasingly bad.

It was so refreshing to wake up and take in the beginning of the day without worrying about something. I thought clearly for the first time in months. I felt loved and appreciated from not only my boyfriend but from myself too. I felt like I would be able to not only get through the day but really, truly make it mine.

For those of us who fight anxiety and depression, good days can be few and far between. I believe they are designed for a reason and reach us at the exact moment we need them. We savor the good days because we know we may not get another one for a while. We enjoy the good days even more because we know how bad the bad days can actually be.

I am not foolish enough to tell you to find a day and make it good because it isn’t that easy, but I will tell you when the good day arrives, grab on to it with both hands. Squeeze every second of joy you can get out of it. Make memories to calm you when the hard days are upon you. Know there will eventually be more days like this, but never take for granted the one you have been given now. Laugh loud and laugh hard. Smile, breathe, feel the warmth of the sun on your face and remember you are worthy of days like today.

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Thinkstock photo via mladenbalinovac

promotional art for guardians of the galaxy vol. 2 with baby groot raising his arms

What 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' Taught Me About My Mental Health

I learn a lot about myself and my mental health from watching television and movies. If it wasn’t for Claire Danes’ character on “Homeland,” I may never have gone to see my doctor about my mood swings. Now that I have a few diagnosed mental illnesses, I like to see myself in fictional characters, especially superheroes.

When I went to see “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” I was surprised that the film reminded me of a few things I believe to be true about my mental health.

1. “Only we can remake the universe.” One celestial being is not enough. We were put on Earth to live in connection with others, supervillains or otherwise. We need each other to share in our joys and in our sorrows. I need the help of my husband to know when I’m starting a depression relapse because I rarely catch it myself before it takes over completely. It’s up to me to communicate how I’m feeling because unlike Mantis, he can’t feel what’s in my brain. I like to think this sharing further strengthens our bond.

2. Music and beautiful things help my mood. Music, dancing, exercise, gardening and good food don’t cure my depression, but they bring me joy if I allow myself to let go. Seeing Baby Groot dance without a care in the world reminded me that it’s OK to let go and be joyful. We can find joy even in the midst of sorrow or a crisis.

3. Never judge someone else’s story by their appearance. Baby Groot gets bullied in the movie, but at the end, he’s just as cute and happy as ever. I can never tell by looking at someone what they might be facing and I lose connection with them when I make assumptions.

4. Possessions and skills, even superpowers, don’t give meaning to our lives. No matter how much I have had in my life, when I feel worthless it is all meaningless. I constantly feel the need to prove my worth by accomplishing my goals, but as soon as I check something off of my to-do list I add two more things. I want to remember that a lifetime spent chasing tasks is no life at all.

5. Empathy brings us together. I don’t have to be an empath like Mantis to practice empathy with everyone I meet. When Drax said, “You don’t have to believe in yourself because I believe in you,” I realized my husband does that for me all the time just by being present.

I want to learn to treat myself the way the Guardians treat Baby Groot — with compassion, kindness and patience. After Groot is bullied, the Guardians ask for his help rather than smothering him with sympathy. And they do it with patience, asking him only for what he is capable of doing. It’s up to me to remember the Baby Groot inside of me that wants to learn and grow and help others, and sometimes do a little dance.

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Image via Guardians of the Galaxy social media.

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How I Learned to Be the Parent I Wanted to Be Despite a Traumatic Upbringing

Many people have wonderful and nurturing role models for mothers growing up. Some mothers, even as children have gotten older, are still the most important women in some people’s lives. I know this to be true, as I often hear many of my friends talk about fun outings they have with their mothers and the endless array of phone calls they share each day to discuss important life issues or just to say, “hi.”  However, I’m willing to bet a few of you, like me, have absolutely no concept of what this kind of relationship feels like. Some of us have mothers who do not fit this description.

I have very few memories of early childhood, but the ones I do, all have two common themes: sadness and fear. I can recall being outside on the driveway crying, my brother holding me, covering my ears so I wouldn’t hear my parents fighting inside. By age four, they began a lengthy and horrific decade-long divorce. The details are not important, but my mother was often emotionally and verbally abusive my brother and me. Today, I can look at my reflection in the mirror and see the terrible scars of the decades of abuse, so invisible to many, but ever so clear to me.

Much of this abuse still goes on today. Even as a grown woman, with children of my own, her words and actions still manage to slice through my heart and my psyche. Despite understanding the futility, I continue to look to her for the validation I never got in my youth. It’s been a long road to acceptance, but I know now I will never receive it in adulthood either — not, at least, from her. I wish I didn’t feel this way and sometimes want to erase them from my history altogether. But alas, I cannot. Despite my past, right now, I am happy and proud of the woman I have worked so hard to become.

Though my upbringing was difficult, I learned the most important parenting lesson of my life: I did not have to be the same kind of parent as my mother. As a mother of two incredible children, I refuse to continue the cycle of unhealthy parenting and abuse. I strive to be a loving, supportive, competent mother, a mother whose children are not afraid of her. 

Sure, I learned other good things from my mother as well — she wasn’t all bad all of the time. She taught me how to cook and passed on her love of all movies involving 18th and 19th century costumes. She made sure to instill a love of reading and education, beautiful art and baking of incredible desserts. But in the past year, as I have made changes in my life and grown emotionally stronger as a woman and a mother, I realize I wanted a different life for me and my family.

My mother has a mental illness. I work hard at happiness because I have seen how unhappy she can be. Despite sharing some of her genetics, I choose to work at not allowing my mental health to dictate my life in its entirety. I have come to understand her behavior and her actions, as a mother and as a person, can come from a place of untreated mental illness. Because of this understanding, I have the capacity to not only forgive her, but to understand I have the choice for recovery. I choose to no longer be a victim of parenting, to no longer allow her words and behavior to bring me down. And for this, I am lucky.

I swam through the shark infested waters of my childhood, and though I came out on the other side damaged, I am not beyond repair. Through it all, I learned some important truths about the kind of parent I want to be. This would not have happened had I not gown up the way I did. So, ultimately, I am thankful for my past for teaching me I have the strength to break the cycle.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Thomas Kelley.

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