My Mental Illness Doesn’t Have to Destroy My Relationships
From the time we’re infants, we are bombarded with depictions of love and belonging, usually in an idealistic film or a sappy novel. It’s natural that we stumble into the desire for that same sense of belonging. We have an innate need for it–we yearn to love and be loved.
Mental illness, though, makes this tricky. Very few stories involve a protagonist struggling with bipolar disorder, an eating disorder, or another serious mental illness. In real life, unfortunately, a friend or partner might treat you unkindly because of your illness. Combine all of that with a crippling self-critic and it’s no wonder that so many of us stop believing that we deserve love.
Mend Your Relationship with Yourself
In high school, I didn’t believe I was worthy of belonging because I hated myself. My anxiety ruined my confidence during simple interactions. My depression stole my desire to be outgoing and meet new people. The cycle continued, and I dug myself into a pit of shame. It was hard to believe that anyone would show up for me or be willing to listen to my broken record of mental illness woes.
Then I realized something. What if I were the one to show up for myself? What if I were the one to give myself compassion in the face of my embarrassing weaknesses? What if I believed that I was worthy of love, as I was, even though I struggled with mental illness? In truth, I was the only person who would be there for me one hundred percent of the time. I discovered that I was the best gift I could give to myself.
This is true for you, too. When you love yourself, you can then share that love with others.
Believe You Deserve to be Loved
You might still fear rejection, and rightly so. There are people who cannot handle being in a relationship with someone with mental illness, but there are also people who can. These people usually need some time to learn, and you may need to exercise some patience–the same patience you would like them to have with you as you strive to manage your illness better.
It’s easy to fall into the trap that you are too much, that no one would want to be with someone as sick as you are. However, you can always remember that you are not too much for you to deal with. And if you can love yourself, then certainly someone else can, too.