My Mental Illness Doesn't Have to Destroy My Relationships

October 7, 2020 Annabelle Clawson

When your mental illness impacts your relationships, it can harm your self-esteem and happiness. From the time we're infants, we are bombarded with depictions of love and belonging, usually in an idealistic film or a sappy novel. It's natural that we stumble into the desire for those same kinds of relationships. We have an innate need for it--we yearn to love and be loved.

Mental illness, though, makes relationships tricky. Very few stories involve a protagonist struggling with bipolar disorder, an eating disorder, or another serious mental illness. In real life, unfortunately, a friend or partner might treat you unkindly because of your illness. Combine all of that with a crippling self-critic, and it's no wonder that so many of us stop believing that we can have mental illness and have successful relationships.

Self-Compassion Helps Your Relationships that Are Affected by Mental Illness

In high school and college, my mental illness made me believe I didn't deserve meaningful relationships. I was never good enough for myself, and because of that, I thought that I would never be good enough for someone else. I felt like I would never find a support person who would show up for me. My anxiety ruined my confidence during simple interactions. My depression stole my desire to be outgoing and meet new people. The cycle continued, and I dug myself into a pit of shame.

Then I realized something. What if I were the one to show up for myself? What if I were the one to give myself compassion in the face of my embarrassing weaknesses? What if I believed that I was worthy of love, as I was, even though I struggled with mental illness? In truth, I was the only person who would be there for me 100 percent of the time. I discovered that I was the best gift I could give to myself, and I started to practice self-compassion.

This is true for you, too. When you love yourself, you can then share that love with others.

Mental Illness and Relationships Can Coexist

Even when you love yourself, you may still fear rejection from someone else because of your mental illness. There are people who cannot handle being in a relationship with someone with mental illness, but there are also people who can. Your friends, family and romantic partners usually need some time to learn how to best help you. You may need to exercise some patience with them--the same patience you ask them to have with you as you strive to manage your illness better. Mental illness and relationships don't have to be mutually exclusive.

It's easy to fall into the trap that you are too much and that your mental illness will destroy your relationships. It doesn't have to be that way. You can combat these negative thoughts by remembering that your relationships with others begin with your relationship with yourself. You are not too much for you to deal with. And if you can love yourself, then certainly someone else can, too.

APA Reference
Clawson, A. (2020, October 7). My Mental Illness Doesn't Have to Destroy My Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 23 from

Author: Annabelle Clawson

Find Annabelle on Facebook, Instagram and her personal blog.

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