Maintaining a relationship when you have any kind of mental health difficulties can be a challenge. I’m not talking exclusively about the relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend, I’m referring to the strains it puts on any sort of ‘relationship’ whether it’s a loving relationship, a friendship or the relationship with relatives such as your parents. Now bear with me whilst I explain my odd metaphor, but, I think mental health should be spoken about in the same way people speak about having a baby. People say a baby will cause enormous amounts of pressure and stress on both parents, testing your relationship to the max. Mental health is exactly like that, a whole separate entity to contest with, like a small human being you have to fit into your lives, nurture and care for. It’s constantly growing and changing and you’re both expected to adapt and know what you’re doing.
Well, news flash, you don’t.
We simply cannot expect the people who love and care about us to understand our troubles and know how to help us without any guidance.I mean, I didn’t even understand or know how to support myself, so how can I begin to expect my parents, boyfriend or close friends to just ‘get it’.
Now, I know personally, it’s hard enough being the individual who deals with mental health difficulties but I’m not going to talk much about how I personally have dealt with and manage my own in this specific post. (But I have written about a few of my struggles on here and over on Instagram if you are interested.) Instead, in today’s post, I want to talk about the other person involved and how we need to recognise the struggles they’re faced with and challenges they’re presented with when maintaining a relationship with someone who has a mental health illness.
It is incredibly difficult to sit down with those people you love and explain how you’re feeling, when you’re feeling it and why. It’s my natural reaction to push those people away to keep my struggles private and protect them from my ‘abnormal’ mentalities/ways of thinking. But thinking about this now, how hard is that for our loved ones to deal with? They want to help us but don’t know how.
For them to help us we need to share with them ways they can do so. I have spoken to all of my nearest and dearest and tried to explain what some of my triggers are so they can do their best to prevent them from occurring. I’ve shared with them how I may act when I’m having a down day, or typical signs to look at for; I am quiet, more withdrawn, agitated and irrational. They now know to look out for this and can recognise when it’s not a good day without having to ask me – which often didn’t help.
On most occasions when it isn’t a great day/week I just want to be left to my own devices, but that doesn’t always help me get back on my feet – so I need my parents and boyfriend to persist when I try and push them away.
Friendships can be subject to stress’ and strains without the uncomfortable addition of mental health difficulties. Sadly, only your true friends will stick around and try and help you fight it. One thing that springs to mind for me personally that has caused a few friendships to change or end over the years – is due to my anxieties surrounding going ‘out out’ i.e. for drinks/clubbing/dancing. I love the idea of this and have made plans so many times, but when it comes to the day I just can’t go through with it (there are obviously exceptions to this, which makes it harder for others to understand!).
I’ve often got to the stage of having my hair and make up done, my outfit on and on occasion also managed to get on route. But, by the time I’m halfway there I’m so overwhelmed with anxiety that I have to turn around and go home again, or I didn’t even make it out the door in the first place.
For years I’ve always tried to fight my anxiety and some nights I managed to win, others I didn’t. There are so many other similar situations, where friends can become frustrated and angry that you cancel plans and if they don’t understand the source of the issue, they will often just say you don’t make enough effort or are unreliable.
I’m lucky enough now to have gotten to a place where my boyfriend, parents, other close relatives and friends understand me and my mental health issues. It’s not something that happens overnight, but it is something you both have to work really hard on.
I’m forever grateful for each and every one of them that supports and loves me. I’m always quite conscious that I tell these people how thankful I am, and how much I appreciate their support – but if you’re reading this, you know who you are – Thank you.
As always, I would love to know what you thought of today’s post so please leave me a comment below.