Something has been on my mind for the past little while. There is such a stigma around the topic that I will be talking about today. Once you know you have it, you have been labelled and there is nothing that you can do about it. We live in a world that doesn’t like imperfections, and people are severely judged for the imperfections that they have. These imperfections really hinder relationships and connections with others. I hope that today, I can open some eyes and maybe, open my eyes a little wider to a problem that needs addressing. Please stay with me as some of this may be hard to hear for some. For others, you might be able to relate and know that you are not alone. I also hope that when reading this that I do not offend. It is not my intention to do so. This is my story and journey and I am learning just as you.
I hope that some of you can already guess what this article is going to be about…. Mental Illness. Yup, that taboo topic that society doesn’t want to talk about. I am both new and experienced with mental illness. I know that doesn’t really make sense when I put it that way, but hopefully this will make sense. There is so much mental illness in my family. From a very young age I knew there were some things that were very wrong with some members of my family. There was extreme anxiety and depression, along with this came personality disorder and bipolar disorder. On top of all of these were extreme medical conditions that were not treated the way that they should have been. This wasn’t due to malpractice. This was because the individual in the family didn’t think it important to treat these conditions and take care of themselves as a result of depression. I was raised in a world that knew mental illness and accepted it in unhealthy ways. It was just the way things were and it was allowed to control the way that people treated others. To defend oneself to the point of attacking another was a common method of communication. Saying horrible things to the children against the other parent was a way of “expressing” or “venting” the emotions built up. This was a norm is my family environment. It was a hard environment to grow up in. This is why I say that I am “experienced” with mental illness. How could you not when it is all that you know. I lived in a world of paranoia, anxiety, and shame because that was the only way that I knew to act. That isn’t too different from how a lot of others lived. We all put on a face and pretend to some extent that we are OK, when we might not be OK.
It has been a few years since I lived in the same environment that I was raised in. The world is very harsh and I had to figure out how I wanted to be in the world. I honestly didn’t know this way of living was affecting me until about 4 years ago. I had a friend that came to live with me and my family. That was when my eyes were opened to the poison that had taken over my mind. My friend (even though struggling with her own history with mental illness) was able to help me see this. I learned that I wasn’t my family. I learned I had control of my emotions and how I thought about myself. I was learning that I wasn’t the horrible person that I was told that I was. I was starting to learn that I can be the person that some man might be happy to marry and share a family with. All because of an outsiders opinion. It has been the longest journey of my life to reprogram my brain. It has been exhausting, full of long nights, tears, screaming, and emotional torture. In the past 4 years I have learned that I too have depression and anxiety. I still struggle with the same feelings of being disliked and judged. I still have to fight the idea “I am never going to be good enough to get married.” The struggle is everyday. It never ends. I get a little better everyday at fighting it, but the voices that I heard growing up are always there. To some I might appear that I don’t struggle with being confident or being happy with who I am. They would be wrong however. I am just another person doing their best to defeat her own struggles with mental illness.
Obviously, this blog is about dating. I can’t tell you the excruciating pain that I have experienced when it comes to dating. Each guy that I have been interested in has helped me in on way or another to overcome the terrible ways of thinking that had possessed my mind. I have come so far, and I am so proud of it. I am not perfect at all. Not even close, but I am happy and OK with what my opinions on dating are. I am still working to improve. I know that I need to be just as concerned with how I am as an individual, as I am with how my future spouse is. I need to be working to be my best self for me, before I can invite someone else into my life. Just as I deserve the best, so does my partner.
I really want to talk about how mental illness comes into relationships. There are so many ways that mental illness can affect a relationship. Keep in mind this isn’t exclusive to romantic relationships. This is human connections that is at threat here. In my family mental illness was mostly involved with my parents. It is something that they struggle with to this day. It is part or who they are. It is how they raised me. Naturally I didn’t want marriage at all. I wanted to escape it. It was a trap in my mind. Who in their right mind would voluntarily subject themselves to so much pain, with no happiness in site. It was a joke to me. I became someone that could depend on me and only me. I didn’t let people in. I kept them all at a distance. I knew if I let them in they would have the power to hurt me, or worse, I would hurt them. It took one person to begin the change in me. This friend that came to live with me and my family loved me for me, scars and rough edges included. I would go on dates and come home in a panic crying and hyperventilating because it was too scary and hard. It was only the first date, and my anxiety couldn’t handle getting any closer. I wasn’t getting close to getting married or finding “the one” (which I don’t believe in “the one” but that is for another time) it was getting to know another person with the intention of dating them… potentially.
I have been on many dates since then. I am learning that I don’t have to be afraid, if the guy doesn’t want to work with me in a partnership no matter what comes, then he isn’t the right partner for me. I used to be so afraid of dating someone that had anxiety and depression. Mostly because I knew what it could do in a relationship, but I have also seen how people can make it work. I know that it is something that I will have the rest of my life and I will have to grow and adapt with it. Life is never certain and things never go as planned. I know that I want my future children to not be afraid of mental illness. They will need to be prepared for whatever comes their way. There are sometimes and some situations that self care isn’t enough. We live in an amazing time of wonderful technological and medical advances. It is hard to get to the point of self acceptance. Your journey is yours and you are the only one that can take it, but don’t shut those out of your life that love you and will stand with you no matter what happens. They are out there. Cut out those that are a hindrance to your growth. You are loved and the most important person to learn that is yourself. Love yourself first and you will be capable of finding love that you deserve!! We always deserve the best, but we are the only ones that can learn that for ourselves.
As for my family, they are still suffering from the pains that mental illness has created. The wounds are deep. There are things that we will never forget. I try to use those memories remind me of what I don’t want in my life. I love my family. We have hard times just like any other family. We learn and grow and try to accept others hardships. They don’t define us, but they help strengthen us if we let them. Love can exist among mental illness. In fact it can thrive. We only need to take a leap of faith when we find someone that is working taking that leap for. We win when choose to love and be loved. One of my favorite movies has a wonderful quote “The greatest things you will ever learn is to love and to be loved in return.” – Moulin Rouge.