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When Anxiety and Depression Are Just as Much a Part of Your Relationship as You Are

My boyfriend, John, and I have been together for close to a year. He is the first person I call with good or bad news, my biggest supporter, my Netflix-watching partner, my favorite coffee shop study date, my first love and my best friend. He is the most genuine and thoughtful person I know. Despite all of this, we have never been on a date, just the two of us.

My depression and anxiety have always accompanied us.

Navigating a relationship with mental illness in the mix can be tricky. My depression tells me I don’t deserve such a great guy, while my anxiety whispers he can probably find someone better. Panic chimes in and tells me I should probably just push him away before he can hurt me. Depression jumps back into the conversation and says he deserves someone who doesn’t cancel dates because they need an emergency therapy session, someone who would never burden him with their dark thoughts.

Despite the influence that my illnesses can have on my mood and my thought processes, John has never looked at them as an inconvenience, and I’m continually impressed with his willingness to accompany me on a journey I sometimes don’t even want to be on. I will never forget our third date when I had a panic attack for no apparent reason. I was so scared for him to see this part of me so soon, but he handled it with grace. He calmed me down, asked what I needed and provided comfort. I doubt this memory even sticks out in his mind, but it meant everything to me, and still does.

Nonetheless, our relationship is not perfect. He is still learning about depression and anxiety, and I am still learning how to allow someone to see the dark parts of me. Many of our fights stem from misunderstandings regarding my moods. Often, when I’m in the midst of a depressive episode, I withdraw from our relationship. I become a prisoner of my own mind, and lack the motivation to explain how I am feeling. This leaves John feeling hurt and rejected, and we end up fighting about it. I don’t blame him for getting upset, as I know how depression can flip my mood like a light switch, which must be hard to navigate. We have worked really hard on our communication skills, but it’s still a work in progress. I have to work on communicating my needs, even if that need is to turn off my phone for a few hours and be by myself. Naturally, he worries about me when I’m down. He is working on accepting that sometimes, there’s no cause of my depressive episodes, and that he can’t fix it even when he tries his best to support me. His intentions are purely good 100 percent of the time, and his support truly has been life-changing, but depression cannot be cured by love.

Navigating a relationship while trying to cope with mental illness can be daunting. However, it is important to note that it is better to let people in than to shove them away. Even if depression makes me want to stay in bed all day, it is comforting to have someone willing to curl up next to me and watch game shows. When I don’t want to talk to anyone, it helps to know that someone will pick up the phone in an instant when I decide I’m ready. It helps to know I am not alone, that I am lovable, that I am worthy of something good. Depression and anxiety won’t stop me from gaining everything I want out of life. They may make things more difficult, but it is undoubtedly possible and worthwhile to ride out the storm with someone you love.

Photo via contributor