I want to be clear about this post. I want you to know that loving yourself is a crucial part in accepting your mental health issues but it is also imperative to build up a strong sense of identity in order for others to love you back. And one of the hardest parts about dealing with mental illness is thinking how to best open up to those closest to us and being real about who we are.
Will they accept us?
Will they understand?
Will they treat me differently?
This is a great way to also find out who your true friends are. Process of elimination, baby! In all seriousness though, I’ve read the lists written by other bloggers or authors on mental health website. I’ve seen the points made in each article, outlining the appropriate course of action in loving someone with, say, depression. Some points made are extremely valid. Others can be argued just like anything you read on the internet, including this post by me!
Because loving someone who struggles to love her own self on a daily basis has no set rule book or strict guidelines to adhere to. I feel like if there were such things, there were be amendments and clauses and all sorts of fine print because there isn’t a clear path to success. My days are typically the same. I wake up late, change my outfit four times, poke at the small tired around my waist for a bit, smile with my teeth showing and quickly press my lips back together, look at the clock and realize I will be late again. I people-watch on the train to work while fidgeting with my third generation iPod and skip around to songs that express my current mood. I think of everything on my to-do list, already overwhelmed and exhausted, and I’m finally at my computer with everything spread out on my desk and deciding how to prioritize.
And I realize how monotonous my day is. I realize I have so much to do in order to build myself up as a yoga instructor. I doodle and daydream and think about how my career path is such a winding one with no real end goal in sight. I think about how different I feel compared to everyone else, how highly sensitive I am to another’s energy or emotions. I think about how my mom ever puts up with me, how I wear her out with my mind that never stops. I think about my friends and realize I’ve lost quite a few because I over-commit or disappear for days, lost in my own world and disconnected from my phone or email. Of course I feel awful about it but I don’t dwell on it for too long because I’ve got a million other thoughts to work out in the next 24 hours. Some nights, I can’t sleep. I wake up at 2 or 3 AM because my skin is uncomfortable. It’s suffocating. It’s confining. And it is nearly impossible to explain this to others who simply haven’t experienced this emotional rollercoaster, like, ever.
So how do you love someone like this? How do you love someone who struggles to love herself every day?
Well, for starters, understand what you may be getting yourself into. Loving someone that struggles with mental illness is a two-way street. Both parties have to put in effort to make a partnership work. Understand that our low days are exacerbated by the something you might consider trivial. Understand we often don’t know why we’re sad or angry. These feelings just get caught in our throats and become difficult to verbally communicate with you because we don’t know where each emotion stems from.
Please also understand that compassion is key and when we snap at something you say or do, it’s almost never personal. There is an internal conversation going on in our own head and our lashing out is often a result of what we’re processing inside our mind. But most importantly, understand this.
If you are going to love a depressive, love them entirely. Don’t half ass it. Don’t say you understand and then walk out on us. If you have any shred of doubt in mentally and emotionally supporting someone at their worst, run. I would rather have someone tell me it’s too much for them and know what they’re capable of giving than get involved only to want out of it all a few months down the line. It’s important for the “saner” of the two to also practice self-care and respect their own boundaries.
Love us like you mean it. Love us when we can’t get out of bed or when we’re planning adventures with you. Love us when we don’t answer texts from you and fall off the face of the earth. And if you can’t love us, that’s OK, too. Just make sure you are up front about it. Be honest with yourself. One of the saddest and most gut wrenching things someone has ever said to me was, “You are too much–too emotional, too flaky, too all over the place.” I already know that. Anyone with mental health issues is their OWN WORST CRITIC. We spend days beating ourselves up over past events and words we said. We think we should be better than what we are. We think we’re awful human beings at times. We think about everything you’re calling us and it stays with us…for days, weeks, months, even years.
So if you are going to love a depressive, tell them they are emotional and all over the place but you accept them anyways. Love them without condition just as we love you for all the wonderful and terrible things you are.