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The Value in Having the Same Mental Health Diagnosis as Your Partner

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Editor's Note

This story has been published with permission from the author’s ex-wife.

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I was a consultant for the local rape crisis center, and she was a board member for a local nonprofit that served incest survivors. I was consulting with her organization on a video they were making for our rape crisis center volunteer orientation when we first set eyes on each other. We sat across the room from each other, and I just could not keep staring. She, as I later found out, was sitting next to her soon-to-be ex-partner.

After I left that meeting, I set out to find out what I could about her and with some super sleuthing, I found out she was a lesbian and was soon to be single. I knew she was my soulmate, and I was determined to enter her life. It took a couple of months, but I worked my magic, and we went on our first date. I was hooked. (And if may say so, so was she.)

I do not remember exactly when, but she confided early on she was an incest survivor and was having significant ramifications of the abuse psychologically. I shared I was a survivor too, and that I had struggles as well.

At some point, we both agreed to stay in individual therapy during our relationship so we could both stay as healthy as we could be under the circumstances.

I must admit, at first, I was apprehensive about being in a relationship with someone else who had a mental disorder like mine, but I soon learned the mutual experience had its value.

Value like:

Helping me see the value in breaking away from my toxic parents.

Helping me see I was still being abused.

Someone to always talk to who understands your struggles and victories.

Having shared values on how to raise children abuse-free.

Noticing changes in me I should bring to the attention of my treatment team.

Holding me when I am sad and do not know the source.

Understanding when I cannot be intimate because of flashbacks or body memories.

My partner and I struggled a bit, but always took the time to understand why. She and I came from quite different backgrounds, but what we had in common as survivors bonded us.

I remember the day I came home and told her the doctor had diagnosed me with bipolar, dissociative identity disorder (DID) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She did not shy away or treat me any differently. She held me and said she understood and would do whatever it took to help me heal.

I was considered to be “high-functioning” with my mental health condition, but I was dealing with a lot of symptoms. At times, it made it hard to be an equal partner in the relationship. I needed to lean on her and sometimes her on me. We balanced each other out and sometimes we needed too much of each other at the same time, but we both understood.

As I was in my early days of recovery from abuse, she was my rock. She was a few years ahead in her healing and she was able to help me see there was light at the end of the tunnel. She was my champion and biggest defender. I had to hold her back sometimes.

I recently asked her what, if anything, she found of value having a fellow survivor as a partner, and she responded:

“I had a deep knowing that I was understood and not considered broken when I was having a bad day.

I knew she had compassion and understanding of the level of pain I could be in at any given moment. As well as that it could pass, and we could have a happy life.

I felt we brought each other up to the next level of healing.

We took on many social justice issues that we shared in wanting to help other survivors.

We also volunteered our time together and attention to help a men’s organization that was focused on men learning to heal and stop violence.

When working together on projects, I felt empowered and that was what helped me become a thriver.”

Value Matters.

Her strength inspired me to be the survivor I am and I will forever be indebted. We made great friends and partners. It was clear we valued each other and loved each other abundantly.

I am not saying you should seek out another survivor as a partner. Not all of these types of relationships work out in the long run, as ours did not, but I am saying you should look for this kind of love and understanding. You should understand the value added of any partner and make sure they are not causing you more harm than good.

My wife and I divorced after nine years together. Some issues related to our past, but mostly not. After a break after the divorce, we now talk every day. Still supporting each other in our healing and helping provide salve on a wound so deep only another survivor could understand and help heal.

You deserve a Mighty strong relationship!

Getty image by Raul_Mellado

Originally published: September 3, 2021
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