3 important things to understand about being in a relationship with mental health problems

If you’ve read my other posts you’ll be aware I suffer from mental health problems. If not, hi. Yes, I do have depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. WOO. I am also in a relationship, have been for around a year and a half. I know that people don’t tend to like it when others post about their relationships online so I’m going to try not to be too annoying.

I was first told I had depression in October 2015, so I was ill before I went into my relationship which was a hurdle I very much had to overcome with him in the beginning. So, how did I tell him I had these problems? To be quite honest, I’m not the master of subtlety so I just told him whenever I took mental health days from school at first – a tell tale sign of mental health problems, isn’t it? I think that kind of introduced him to the idea that I wasn’t completely stable. I told myself that I needed to be honest, because if I kept something as big as my depression from him it would become more difficult to be honest with him about it if the relationship did go anywhere.

Which it did, obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. And the most amazing thing happened, the relationship helped my recovery so much. I don’t really know if you can say you go into “remission” when you have depression, and I think it was a combination of therapy, medication and having that positive element in my life that really helped me become happier for a while. So for the first few months I don’t think he faced the true darkness of my illness, because really by the time he showed up I had it far more under control and I didn’t really have any episodes (he may of course correct me on that, because I may be forgetting something).

I don’t know when he first witnessed an episode of mine, but over the past couple of months things have become harder for me again, I have to admit that. And he has definitely seen me in my darkest moments now. One huge difficulty I have is my brain switches off when I’m in an episode, I don’t remember a huge amount of what I say or do. So a couple of months ago, after a meaningless spat, I went into a horrible place and he had to physically hold me down to stop me from hurting myself. I can’t even remember most of what I said other than repetitively telling him “I can’t do this. I want to die”. Imagine that, hearing your girlfriend/boyfriend say those things. They say in relationships you see the best and worst of each other; this is definitely true of our relationship. It is something that we have had to face to make it work, because my worst moments are inevitable and worse than you can imagine unless you suffer from mental health problems yourself. So, the first thing about being in a relationship with mental health problems is that you show your weakest points and lean on your other half to keep you alive sometimes.

I struggle when he can’t understand my brain. I don’t expect him to, because to be honest I don’t even understand it myself! However, it can be hard when something small triggers a huge response from my “bad brain” and he doesn’t really understand how even the tiniest things can turn my entire world upside down. When you’re ill like this, you turn into an eggshell, one little tap and you crack. It makes us both angry, and inevitably we argue and things get worse and even then he doesn’t understand why I got so upset in the first place, or how we got to the point of screaming at each other. The difficulty is that, when I get into these states, I find it impossible to explain my thoughts and rationalise them, which makes me very frustrated with myself and I often end up shaking and hitting myself, in these sort of spasms, which only makes the situation worse, but I can’t help it and I need his help to calm down. He has to figure out how to handle me in the exact moment, what to say, what not to say. It is not easy as my mind isn’t the most consistent, it definitely puts a strain on our relationship because one day one response might be perfect and the next it might ruin everything and that’s something with which we both have to cope.  But I have to make allowances for when he gets it wrong, because he’s only human and he can’t carry all my weight on his shoulders and predict how every little thing will impact me. All you can ask your partner to do is be there for you and take care of you when they do crack your shell accidentally.

It has taken him time to understand my illness as much as he does now, and with every down I have he learns more how to handle it. He’s not perfect at all, and sometimes I get so angry because I expect the world from him in those moments, when really he can only cope with so much at a time. So, I suppose that the second thing about being in a relationship when you suffer from mental health problems is a lot of give and take, much more so than in any normal relationship. You have to be understanding that your other half can’t always fix everything, and be grateful for whatever they try to fix anyway.

When you’re in a relationship and also have mental health problems your mind constantly tells you horrible, untrue things and claims that’s what your partner thinks. So, mine tells me that I’m not good enough for him, that he’d far rather be with a skinny girl, that he’s going to break up with me any minute. There’s not much to say about that other than you have to look to your other half for reassurance; I constantly beg him to remind me he likes me just the way I am, to tell me that it’s just my stupid brain speaking. And sometimes I don’t believe him, sometimes I let my brain win because it’s just easier, but I am always honest with him about how I feel. There. That’s the third thing. You have to face horrible, bullying thoughts and ask your partner to help you knock them away. Punch them right in the face. The thoughts that is…not your partner.

So, there you go. Three things about being in a relationship with mental health problems; I’m sure there are so many more but those are the three main things I wanted to talk about. It’s normal if you’re suffering from mental health problems and these are some difficulties you face in your relationship. That’s what I’m trying to do, remember, make sure you know that your illness doesn’t make you weird and point out the normal effects it can have on your daily life.

Until next time, World. Remember, you’re not weird because you’re ill, you’re wonderfully imbalanced.

 

PSA: I’m not OK.

I’m writing this from a dark place. I have to confess from the start; this isn’t going to be positive. I don’t think. I haven’t planned it. But I’m making myself vulnerable, thinking that possibly this might help someone. Of course, that someone may only be me.

Answer me this, how do you tell the people closest to you everything you’re feeling, all the screams from within your head which are starting to hurt you physically, without seeming to be seeking attention? I think it’s impossible. Opening up guilt-free and innocently is a myth. Bloody hell, I’m exploding from within. I have to show you.

So, here it is,


a segment of my whiteboard in my room (which I put up because I wrote this sort of stuff on my wall before – baby steps to improving behaviours). Here are tonight’s feelings: one serving of self-loathing with a side of guilt for being so selfish, garnished with temptations of temporary relief strategies. Why am I sharing this? Why have I posted this for all the world to see if they wish? Because I’m sick of being scared to admit how I feel.

I want to make this clear to everyone. Mental illnesses are constant, as I’ve said before, some days are easier than others but it’s continuous endurance. Every single day I am under attack from my own brain and it hurts me relentlessly. How do you explain that pain to someone else though? You can’t. That is the most terrifying part; no matter how you try to get it across, nobody else can understand the suffering inside your head. Not even those who suffer themselves. And I have to admit it, there’s not a magic “but” coming next, no sweet phrase of reassurance. Suffering from mental illness is frankly s-h-i-t-e: So Hard It Takes Everything. Always. It takes everything to will yourself to get up in the morning. It takes everything to try to want to keep fighting. It takes everything to hold back when your brain tells you to hurt yourself. It takes everything to remind yourself to keep breathing. (obviously you do that naturally but you get my metaphor, yes?)

I can’t pretend to be fine all the time. I need to admit that I’m struggling. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up (there’s your reassurance I suppose), it means I’m fighting harder than usual. And it’s tough.

But there’s my public service announcement, admitting I’m not very strong at all sometimes, admitting that for the time being I’m not A-OK, and confessing to those who care that I’m struggling. And I suppose the reason I’m sharing this with everyone is, as I said at the start, in the hopes that it might help just one person in any microscopic way.