Dealing with Mental Illness and Relationships

It is almost a well-known fact for all those who struggle with mental illness that this puts a strain on your relationships with people. This can vary from friends and family to a significant other.
I was diagnosed with anxiety, OCD and depression when I was 14. Of course, just like any other mental disorder, this has made everything more difficult and meant that I have prioritised my irrational thoughts over every relationship I have in my life.
I’ve been quite lucky. I have an understanding family and generally have understanding friends. Of course, we all have our ups and downs with each other and there have been moments where I’ve felt like both parties couldn’t make my life any harder but again – irrational thoughts.
Not only suffering from mental illness, I also have friends who deal with mental health issues and this has meant I have seen what it’s like to be in the front seat and also the backseat. This has helped me understand how my friends feel and also increased how patient I am. However, this doesn’t help me when I am the person putting a strain on relationships in my life.
The most important thing I recommend doing is telling people when you’re struggling. Let everyone who you care about know that you’re feeling the way you’re feeling and this will mean you may act a certain way and for them not take it personally. I have had relapses over the past few years and I have sent messages to group chats explaining what’s going on. I’ve also been very open with my parents (anxiety was a big thing and it was hard to avoid explaining why I refused to let them leave me and kept crying) and that really, really helped a lot.
Another thing I did which really aided me in avoiding ignorance and insensitivity from people was explaining what your disorder is and how it affects you. I remember sitting my friends down and explaining exactly what was going on. I showed them my notes from therapy and let them have a look through themselves. It was one of the scariest things I’ve done but it was SO worth it, it’s helped me become more comfortable with my mental illnesses and meant I was able to go to them if I ever needed help.

The final thing is to try and be patient with them if they’re ever impatient. Understand that your mental health has the biggest impact on you but can also impact them and is part of their life. Before saying ‘but it’s selfish of them to make it about them’, I have experienced people being impatient with me and it sucks – but I have also experienced being stressed about other people and their health whilst trying to look after myself. Remember, you have to look after yourself first. That applies to everyone.
Relationships can be a lot of pressure on both sides but with the right amount of understanding of one another, they can still be as healthy and strong as a relationship between two neurotypical people.
Also – always remember that if you are struggling, get help. Go to your GP and they can provide you with the health and assistance you need. Friends and family can only do so much, professionals can help you in the long term.

– Scarlet

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