A closer look at the effect mental illness can have on relationships.
I want you.
I need you.
I love you.
Your life can change with just three little words. I know it’s scary. What’s even scarier is not having the strength to say them at all.
Imagine being so crippled by fear that you stay silent out of comfort. It’s easier not to do the thing that scares you, even if it could make you happy. This feeling goes far beyond nerves or insecurities because it’s daunting enough to stop you from going after what you want.
So, as you get ready to say those three words to the person you care about your mouth remains shut. Instead of speaking, you blink away the tears while you try to nurse your broken heart. This is not a fear of commitment.
It’s called anxiety. It’s a mental illness.
Now imagine not hearing from your boyfriend all day. I know it’s easy to assume the worst, but the truth could be something you never even considered. Maybe you’re picturing him hanging out with friends, or maybe even cheating on you. Let me give you secret option C- maybe he’s been crying in bed all day with the covers over his head. He turned his phone off because he didn’t feel like talking to anyone. He’s not avoiding you. He’s avoiding everything.
It’s called depression. It’s a mental illness.
Okay, here's another scenario- imagine your fiancé goes out on a shopping spree. When she maxes out your credit cards, you get a bank notification on your phone. She spent thousands of dollars on clothes she doesn’t need. So the moment she walks through the door with dozens of bags on her arms you start a huge fight. It’s easy to assume that she was just being irresponsible. But ask yourself, why would she do that? Maybe she was experiencing a manic episode.
It’s called bipolar disorder. It’s a mental illness.
[Song: 24/7, Kehlani]
“From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand.
From the inside looking out, it’s hard to explain.”
The truth is, unless you or your significant other has dealt with mental health struggles before, it’s really hard to understand the impact mental illness can have on a relationship. Not knowing or understanding what your partner is going through could result in both of you being hurt.
Do you know the signs? Would you know if the person you loved was struggling?
Maybe not. Then again, how could you know if you’ve never been exposed to it?
So let me give everyone some easy advice- if the person you love has gone silent all day, just reach out.
But what if you don't know that your partner has mental health struggles?
The chances are you may not know. I can tell you from experience that a lot of people are far too good at hiding it. It’s okay if you don’t realize right away- just pay attention. There are many different signs but here are a few that I've found are easier to notice:
1. Withdrawal from friends / social activities
2. Unusual silence
3. Major differences in eating habits
4. Extreme mood changes
5. Alcohol / drug abuse
Of course, mental illness is not a cookie-cutter thing.
Everyone has their own experiences and symptoms, but use the list I gave as a starting point. Simply be aware of what’s going on with your partner.
“Just because no one can heal you or do your inner work for you, doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone. Mental health is a battle, you don’t have to struggle in silence.” -L.P.
Whether it’s agoraphobia or schizophrenia, if you love them, be there. That’s it.
I'd love to go off and use the line about how mental health is just as important as physical health, but I know it's overused, so let me put it in a different way.
Imagine you're pushing your significant other in a wheelchair because they got hurt. After several hours of pushing you're tired. Would your first thought be to abandon them on a sidewalk? Of course not. In a similar manner, you shouldn’t abandon the person you love just because they’re struggling with their mental health and you're a little tired of helping.
Although mental illness is discussed more frequently and openly today, there is still a lot of misunderstanding on the topic. The only way to truly fix this is by becoming educated. So learn as much as you possibly can, then if one day someone you love asks you for help, you'll be in a position to truly help them.