I worry about the relationships in my life. I know that having a relationship with someone who has mental illness can be a challenge so I complied a few thoughts. This is a lexicon, a cipher on relating to me. Maybe it applies to somebody else you know!!
On relating to people with mental illness:
1. We are different from other people and we know it. Our lives have given us perspectives and reactions that others may not understand. We can’t ignore it, hide it or camouflage it. We already know we are different. It is ok if you know it too.
2. We want you to welcome us as full participants in life, despite our disabilities. Living a life with mental illness does not make us less capable of dealing with the world, it just makes us very aware of how we need to approach the world in order to feel safe in it.
3. We know our illness make us challenging to deal with. Please look beyond nightmares, panics, mood swings and limitations to see the real us.
4. We hope you’ll stay in our relationship but we don’t really believe that you will. This distrust was born out of trauma and is a learned response. Thank you for all your reassurance that you are going to be there for us in the long haul.
5. We need people who are like us and people who are not like us. Diversity helps all of us to understand our sameness in a world where we feel very different from everybody else. Don’t extract yourself from our lives just because we are different.
6. Sometimes we need relationships that pursue us because we aren’t sure we are worthy of your friendship or love. Mental illness can take a toll on self esteem so any extra effort from our friends and family means the world.
7.The first sign of anger, frustration, displeasure or disaster in our relationship will be terrifying. We have little understanding that people can work through tough situations in a relationship and survive it. We’ll come out fighting but inside we are sure its the end of a relationship. Abandonment is real and relationships bring out our worst and best. We cling strongly to those who attach to us and despair when those relationships go away.
8.Self care can cause us to be unpredictable. We may decide on a moments notice that we need a day to ourselves or don’t feel like we can handle the pressure of people.. This is not about you even though it causes you disappointment. This is about us taking care of ourselves.
9. We may joke about medication but it is a daily battle for most of us. We are grateful for their effectiveness on our diseases but have a loathing for the side effects and even for needing them every day. Thanks for understanding that we aren’t just trying to pop a pill to cure our problems. Its not our crutch. We really would rather deal without them.
10. We are not our disease illness or trauma. We are not a category. We are individuals who love, try, fail and triumph. Allow us the dignity of being all these things without crediting our disability for all of who we are.
Finally, we love you but it may be hard for us to show it. Medications and mental illness can dull or intensify the reactions and responses of an individual so while we really want to express our love and appreciation for you it may not come out as expressive as we want.
Please be patient with us.