Mental illness effects every aspect of a person’s life. Just like any illness, every person that’s in the life of someone with anxiety, depression, PTSD, bi-polar etc, also has to learn to cope with what that diagnoses means. Now, don’t get me wrong, the person who has anxiety is definitely more exhausted than the mother of the daughter with anxiety; we can’t deny that being the person with the diagnoses is the hardest but the loved ones also struggle.
It isn’t easy, especially when there really is no “fix.” It isn’t the same as having a headache where taking an over-the-counter pain reliever is going to fix the problem in approximately fifteen minutes. Often times there isn’t a solution at all, it’s basically being on a roller-coaster and realizing that it’s awful. You can’t just get off the roller-coaster, you have to finish the ride and hope for the best.
I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression since high school and that means one of the things that have always been poorly effected were my romantic relationships. It’s difficult getting into a relationship with someone at seventeen and expecting another seventeen year old to just know how to handle long bouts of depression or the multitude of symptoms that anxiety brings along.
I recently had a conversation with one of my friends and we were talking about relationships. She mentioned to me that the reason she isn’t seeking out relationships is because she doesn’t think it’s fair to ask someone else to deal with the “issues” she has. She said “I don’t even want to deal with my poor mental health and everything I have going on, why should I ask someone else to, and how do I know that they won’t just get sick of dealing with it and leave.” Well, the truth is, you can’t know anything for sure unless you try. Even saying that, I understand where she’s coming from. I self-sabotage all the time because of that exact mindset.
I’m lucky enough to have incredible human beings in my life; however, I’ll get insecure at times and question “why does my best friend even like me? I’m awful” and then I’ll want to distance myself from her in order to protect her from having to deal with me. I’ve not gone out with friends or family members and bailed on plans for fear that my anxiety will show it’s teeth at dinner and I won’t be any fun. I understand fully where her fear comes from; yet I do disagree with the idea of isolating ourselves.
Yes, it’s terrifying to open up to someone and let them see our ugly, dark, vulnerable parts and if that person ends up seeing all of that and leaving, well, that’s traumatizing. I’ve seen family members bail on their sisters, mothers, children, grandparents all because things got to be “too much” and they couldn’t handle it anymore. I think that’s disgraceful. Set boundaries, prioritize self-care, don’t take on more than you can handle, but never leave a person who is already scared and feels helpless. That’s cruel.
I often think about my boyfriend and what it’s going to be like when we are officially moved in together. How he’s going to handle my three in the morning pacing back and forth panicking about something I don’t even know. I think about the days I’m going to disappoint him when I cancel plans to stay in bed all day because I can’t move. I think about how everything that happens with me is going to ultimately effect him as well. And I’m unafraid. I know that I have a good man who isn’t going to leave. I know that I have someone who is going to give extra on the days I can’t give at all and how I’ll return the favor when he has days he can’t give. Because that’s what you do for people you love.
Especially in close relationships. It’s never “let me know when you’re over it.” We wouldn’t look at our loved one who was diagnosed with cancer and said “oh, this is tough, I don’t want to deal with it. Let me know when you’re healthy again.” Because when we love someone their problems become our problems and our problems become their problems.
Truthfully, there isn’t a single person on this planet who doesn’t have something going on. Mentally, physically, emotionally, at some point we all are going to struggle with something and we’re going to have people who stick around to help us and people who take off and only care to come around when things are going smoothly.
I would say being cautious about those we let see our most vulnerable states is the smartest idea. Not everyone needs to be let into our weak moments because not everyone is going to help us back on our feet. Some will take advantage of the weak moments. I wouldn’t say to just not let anyone in at all. That isn’t the healthiest option and no one deserves to be alone. No matter what they have going on.
No, mental illness isn’t fair. To anyone. But neither are financial troubles, work troubles, family troubles, the common cold… And we don’t abandon those we love the most when something goes wrong. We take care of one another and on the days we can give 110%, that’s what we give, and we take care of those who take care of us. There are genuinely good people on this planet who want to love us for the messy and beautiful beings we are without conditions or limitations. Let those people love us. We deserve it.