CW: Some of the themes discussed in this article might be triggering for people with mental illnesses.
When it comes to navigating relationships, some external factors like mental illness affects the dynamic of said relationships. What’s it like being in love with someone that wants to commit suicide? Who finds it difficult to start each day? We ask seven Nigerians what it’s like being in love with people having mental illnesses:
As someone who is also mentally ill, it gives me a sense of comfort. I know that this is a space in which there will be no judgement when I have episodes or when life does what it does. It’s comfortable but scary. Scary because I know that death is an option. I don’t know which of us will go first, and it makes me worry.
Honestly? It can be exhausting, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Someone I fell in love with had anxiety and bipolar disorder. I knew she couldn’t always control her actions, but some of them hurt me as well. There was a time she cancelled on a date I had planned because she was super anxious that day and was unable to leave the house. It hurt. I wasn’t equipped with the facilities to understand or deal with it, and I don’t think I still am.
A guy I was in love with has terrible anxiety. It gets so bad that sometimes he can’t go outside. He’s always thinking of a million and one possibilities and he always came up with the worst possible option. If I go without texting him for a few hours, he could assume the relationship is over. This led to me constantly over-explaining myself so he wouldn’t make assumptions. He was afraid of me triggering his anxiety and that was a lot of pressure on me. Loving someone with a mental illness is having to constantly be aware of your every action and inaction because of how much it directly or indirectly affects how they feel mentally.
As someone that thinks of committing suicide a lot, dating someone who probably thinks of it even more than I do is hard. Very hard. When he takes breaks, I get scared. I worry that this time he has to himself might cause him to hurt himself. I’m really worried and scared when he makes statements like “I just need a break from anything and everyone”. Also, when I am having an episode, I can’t really bring it up because he might be having one too. I don’t want to feel self centred. However, everything is nice when mental illness gives us a chance to breathe. It just doesn’t give us a chance to breathe often.
My current partner and I are both depressed, but I don’t think it affects the quality of the relationship. It’s just that when the low points happen, they’re really low and can be really scary. Sometime this year, my partner tried self-harming and that really broke me. I was far away at the time and all I could do was panic. I know how bad it can get and I want to protect him from everything but I can’t do a lot.
Depression is shit, and having to keep going because of someone is hard. I’m grateful to be dating someone that goes through the same stuff as me because it makes us very kind and understanding towards each other. Also, it allows me to see things from both sides. As loving someone that has a mental illness and also by navigating your own mental illness while loving someone. I worry that my love is not enough to keep him happy, but I know that I alone can’t be the only source of his happiness and it’s a combination of varying factors. We are mentally struggling, but we manage to keep each other afloat with practical and emotional support.
It’s not fun. You love your person with everything in you, but when they get manic, it takes everything to love them twice as hard. Being equally mentally ill doesn’t make it easier to deal with. Sometimes, you’d be going through things too but they are in a worse condition so you suck it up and be there for them. If you are in love with someone suicidal either passively or not, you wake up every day wondering if this is the day they die. You will listen to them talk about how much they want to die even though all you want is a long life with them, but you can’t tell them that. You know that’s not what they want to hear, so you listen because that is all you can do. Loving someone with a mental illness means you will learn to leave your insecurities at the door and be softer and kinder while dealing with people.
I think for me, knowing that she goes through so much makes me want to keep some of my own things from her because I don’t want to add to her problems. I’m just glad that when she needs someone, she knows I am there. I’m not her therapist or a mental health care provider and I know that there’s so little I can actually do, but I do it regardless. I encourage her to seek help and just be there for her.
Being in love with someone with a mental illness means I have to make a lot of sacrifices. You sacrifice your sleep, your own mental health, your peace, and so many other things. I try to remind myself that love is sacrifice, but does love sacrifice so much? I’m mentally ill myself and whenever I feel overwhelmed and unable to love my partners anymore, I ask myself if I’d want them to give up on me. It’s hard. It’s extremely difficult and it’s not something just anyone can do. At the same time, it’s also safe. It gives me a space where I can live without judgement. My mental illness means I already play life on hard mode, but it’s not all bad. There are days where it feels soft and everywhere is filled with laughter. Loving someone with a mental illness means I have to enjoy each day as it comes, because you can lose everything in a second. It’s reminding myself that at the end of the day, the illness is not about me. They’re the one suffering.
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