In the past few weeks I have been forced to deal with something: not all people are going to be able to handle mental (or neurological) disorders. Not all persons are willing to be empathetic, compromise, and put the needs of another before their own. This is a harsh reality. However, I am here to tell you that just like they are not willing to pick you up and help you, you do not have to stay. You do not owe them your loyalty.
Though I am only 22 I have been on both sides of mental illness. I have watched countless family members struggle with disorders. Schizophrenia, Anxiety, and Major Depressive Disorder are just some of the hardships that have faced various family members. Alongside misophonia (a neurological condition causing fight/flight from audial and visual stimuli) I have struggled with depression and anxiety for much of my teen years, and even as far back as 7 years old. I have seen the devastation that comes in the aftermath of suicide — both before my time, with my dad’s father, and during my time with my childhood idol and cousin.
Through my experiences I have realized that though challenging, mental disorders should not be factors that account for love. You should not have your disorder held over your head and used as a reason for a relationship failing. Perhaps a relationship is ready to fray and mental illness will push it over the edge, but in a healthy and loving bond, it will not be the main reason.
“My disorders have made it hard to feel deserving of love. It is strange to accept affection when you are unable to get out of bed.”
My disorders have made it hard to feel deserving of love. It is strange to accept affection when you are unable to get out of bed. It is strange to accept that another person is willing to love you regardless of your flaws. That’s just it though: if they love you, they will not leave due to these reasons. When you love a person with a disorder, truly love them, your care and compassion will outweigh your desire to belittle them for their faults.
If a person with a disorder is belittling their partner and they leave, this is not due to the disorder. This is due to a lack of respect. This is not a mental problem, this is a relationship problem. Both members of a relationship need to be willing to compromise and listen to the other.
Loving a person with mental illness is not easy. Life rarely is. Living with mental illness is not easy either. However, if we are going to associate our feelings with a word as strong as “love” we need to be willing to work with our partners and be sure that they feel safe and understood. Relationships, even with mental illness, are going to end. This is another fact of life. However, we need to stop blaming the failure of these relationships on the illness. This stigmatizes persons that are otherwise loving individuals. Persons with depression and other disorders do not need to be told that they’re difficult to live with. We understand this because we find it nearly impossible to live within the barriers and bonds of our minds.
“Persons with depression and other disorders do not need to be told that they’re difficult to live with.”
We need to separate mental illness from toxicity. There is no reason why a person should abuse another in a relationship. This is not a loving or healthy relationship. Sure, disorders can heighten these symptoms if left untreated, but I am in no way saying that one should stay with a partner that they do not feel safe or appreciated by. However, there needs to be a balance between how we see mental illness in the world.
It is completely possible to live a long and happy life with mental disorders. Through adversity many of us are able to push through and be fully functional members of society. This is furthered by loving and appreciative family members, friends, and romantic partners. Mental illness is not a reason not to love some one. It is not a reason to tell a person that they are unworthy of your love and affection. While there are many reasons not to be in a relationship, we should not quantify a person’s worth based on their brain chemistry. If we want to change the face of mental health we need to first change the face of love. Love is not about perfection — it is compromise, compassion, and persistence.