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6 Things to Know Before Moving in With Your Significant Other With Mental Illness

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A few days ago, my boyfriend and I went from jokingly talking about him moving in with me to seriously talking about him moving in. The choice has been made and he is going to move in at the beginning of next month. While I’m excited for this to be happening, I’m also very scared.

I’ve lived with a boyfriend before but it didn’t go so well. He was under the impression my anxiety attacks had completely stopped and that it was my only problem. Back then, anxiety was the only thing I had been diagnosed with. Although, I knew I had depression and I knew something else was wrong with my brain. I just didn’t know what. When my mental illnesses began to surface and become extreme, he began to resent me and even hate me. He called me “crazy” and asked me, “Would you want to marry you? Look at you!” He said this while I was in the middle of a panic attack. Let’s just say, I’m a little scarred by the experience.

So, in an effort to make this relationship last, one that’s much healthier, happier, loving and caring than my last, I’m writing this to my lovely boyfriend. I’m sharing this with The Mighty community as well in case someone out there may be going through something similar but may not have the words to express themselves. It’s scary letting someone close to you when you have a mental illness.

For those of you wondering, I’ve been officially diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, an anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADD and major depression.

These are tips I think you should know before moving in with your significant other who has a mental illness:

1. Unless you also have a mental health condition, accept the fact you may not understand.

Mental illness is something confusing to both those who have it and those who are around the person. We do things that may not make sense to you but make perfect sense to us. It can be as simple as arranging something a certain way to how we function on a daily basis. We’ve developed our own coping mechanisms to help us and you may not understand. Unless we are harming ourselves, trust we know what’s best.

2. Be patient with us.

It takes a lot out of us to constantly be fighting a battle in our own minds. Even on our good days, we’re still continually fighting. Imagine having a separate voice in your head reminding you of things you hate or are ashamed of about yourself. Then, imagine weights being tied to your legs. It makes it hard to smile, it makes it hard to move.

3. Remember to comfort us.

Especially those of us with anxiety and PTSD. I’m like a little baby when I’m scared. I feel like everything is out to attack me, even you. You can tell me you care and want to help and I might still feel like you’re attacking me. I can’t help it, my fight or flight instincts are in overdrive and I don’t know what’s going on. Hold us, if we allow you to. If not, use comforting words and sit still by us. But please, don’t yell at us or raise your voice.

4. Sometimes we need tough love.

Everyone responds differently to things. I don’t respond well to tough love. However, there will come a day when you see the light sucked out of me. But, there’s a little flicker trying to turn into a flame. You’ll know when that day comes, I’ll be talking about “how pathetic I sound.” That’s when you encourage me to get off my ass and take control of my life again. Don’t try and force this moment to happen sooner than it should, that’ll only make it worse.

5. Remember we’re not lazy or crazy.

There will be days when we can’t get out of bed. There will be days when we have a panic attack. On the days when we’re in bed, be kind to us. Remember we’re exhausting all of our energy just to keep from ending it all. We’re trying to stay alive for you. We’re trying to survive. On days when we have panic attacks, remember we are still sane. We are completely aware of how “crazy” we sound and that’s partially why we’re panicking. If they’re anything like me, the physical aspects of a panic attack will scare you. We will rock back and forth, cry uncontrollably, shake our hands and hyperventilate. Hold us, let us know we are safe.

6. Remember we love you.

We love you more than anything. You are where part of our strength comes from, you’re the reason we keep fighting. We don’t want you to see us struggle and we don’t want to make you struggle along with us. We feel guilty, ashamed. Please remember who we were on our good days. The reasons why you love us. Because we’re doing all we can to stay alive for you.

I hope this helps someone going through a big change in their lives. Living with someone can be one of the best things in this world. Have each other’s backs.

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.

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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: February 22, 2017
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