How Love is Possible, Even When You Don’t Love Yourself
People who say you can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself clearly don’t struggle with any form of mental illness. If anything, we learn to love ourselves through the eyes of our loved ones, be that romantic relationships or family. But for the sake of this written piece, I’ll be specifically talking about our romantic partners.
You can love someone even with a severe mental illness. Or in my case, multiple mental illnesses. It’s all about finding that right person. That’ll take a while, but that’s OK. The only thing is, you can’t try to find love thinking it’ll fix everything, because in all reality it won’t. I know I can’t be fixed. I’ll have all these illnesses for the rest of my life. I’ve been diagnosed with my conditions for over five years now and lived undiagnosed with them for over 10 years. I’m going to turn 20 this year, so that should give you a good time frame of how long I’ve been dealing with these conditions.
In the province of Canada where I live, I’m considered disabled by my conditions, but that hasn’t stopped me from falling in love. He’s a kind man and has admitted to me he doesn’t understand my conditions, but that doesn’t stop him from caring for me. He’s there for me before and after an episode. He knows the best way to help me personally is to just hold me and that’s how we work. Before an episode can start, we will talk about it and whatever is on my mind. During those inevitable down days, we’ll spend the day together just cuddling or going out somewhere quiet and familiar.
My mate has taught me slowly how to find love in myself. When I was younger, I was severely underweight and terrified of gaining weight. I was never diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, but I had symptoms. While I was growing up, I was disgusted with how I looked. I downright hated myself, to put it bluntly. Children at school added onto this hatred by pointing out my flaws and socially outcasting me. I never thought it would be possible that I’d ever look at my reflection and go, “Whoa, I do look beautiful.” It was through his eyes I learned this. Every time I visit, he greets me by calling me beautiful, which over these three years of being together has my brain finally thinking, “Maybe he’s not ‘crazy.’ I am beautiful.”
After all this time, he still loves me and I love him, even though I believe I’m so undeniably flawed. He has taught me through everything that if he can find something about me to love, I should look for something about me to love too. So overall, to those who think no one can love them because of their conditions, you’re wrong. Try to look at yourself through someone else’s eyes. Reach out for help and remember you do matter. If you are reading this, please, from one broken person to another:
It’s OK to not be OK.
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.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash