I recently read a post regarding an individual’s experience on dealing with relationships during her mental health struggles and it has inspired me to write a post on this too, and also I strongly encourage others to read her experience here.
There is a big stigma behind relationships and mental health.
I’ve come across posts and pages where people have warned others of getting involved or being friends with someone who suffers from mental illness, calling it draining, or calling the individuals selfish and claiming they are better to stay away from.
In fact a recent study by the UK mental health charity Time To Change found that 57% of single people would not date someone with a mental illness.
As many of you can imagine with feelings of possible inadequacy already at play and a realization that you struggle with mental health an individual may come to believe that they’re a burden on loved ones, or possibly even incapable of being loved. These have been thoughts I myself have struggled with at times anyway…
This post is not focusing on the stigma behind these comments or feelings though, but more so how these thoughts affect the individual and can cause ‘coping mechanisms’ which create almost an emotional numbness to the outside world.
You can start to distance yourself from others, guilt ridden that you shouldn’t burden them with your problems and that they wont understand. Or you smack on that fake smile leading others to be none the wiser of any inner turmoil you’re going through. It can lead you to be less sociable and less available, and even coming across as slightly rude and uncaring at times.
For the individual this may seem like the best option and not necessarily just for themselves but for those around them. They want to protect those they care for from their sadness, as they torture themselves with how they ‘should be’ or who they ‘used to be’ and the reality of who they believe they are becoming.
Now what I have found is essential is attempting to see the other person’s point of view. The person who loves and cares for the sufferer. Now not everyone is very educated or knowledgeable on mental illness, so a distance can be created both ways with the person on the outside asking questions such as… ‘Why is she not talking to me?’ or ‘Why does he not come out anymore?’ and ‘Why do they keep cancelling on me?’
Without communication the sufferer is not aware of the support they have and can be suffocated and drained by their own damning thoughts. Where the friends, family or partners of that person can be left confused, frustrated and at times even angry.
I think the reason we don’t open up can be due to fear. I know personally I fear I will become vulnerable just to be rejected again, that I will put myself out there just to have my own condemning thoughts confirmed true. That ultimately, my little world of sadness isn’t worth being risked on that tiny glimpse of hope which could possibly end up sending me even deeper down into my depression. I feared if I reached up for help I would eventually just drag others down with me.
For me at least I realised two things which helped give me the courage to try and break my patterns.
1. I cannot read peoples minds as much as they cannot read mine.
2. Yes some people may reject me but ultimately they are not the kind of people I need in my life.
So I started talking and the world didn’t crumble, I opened up and others opened back up to me, slowly but surely the chains started to release and I was free to feel a bit like myself again.
This is my encouragement for others and my apologies to all of those I hurt when I was spending all my time hurting myself. A sorry for not being there, a sorry for pulling myself away and pushing you away, a sorry for not coming out or cancelling on plans and a sorry for all I did and all that I didn’t do…
And an encouragement to those who are still sat in uncertain silence SPEAK OUT take that risk and keep taking it as people do prove you wrong, and eventually those negative voices about yourself suddenly start loosing their grip on you and the hold they have on your life.