You've probably seen that quote floating around the Internet, often attributed to Marylin Monroe: "If you can't handle me at my worst, then you don't deserve me at my best."1 People who like this quote might take it to mean that people who walk away from us in hard times don't deserve to be in our lives during the happy times. I agree with this sentiment, but the wording doesn't quite sit right with me.
Mental Illness Impact on Others
Apologizing when we wrong someone is an important social skill, but overapologizing, when it isn't necessary, can actually put a strain on our relationships. My anxiety compelled me to say sorry any time I felt insecure, guilty, ashamed, or worried in a social situation, and people would become annoyed and frustrated with me because of it. I would then apologize for annoying them with my apologizing, which continued from there in n cycle that was exhausting for everyone involved.
Love is a powerful force, but when it comes to loving someone with mental illness, we have to think about how to love through a different lens. We all likely have seen this type of story before where someone with mental illness or trauma falls in love, finds happiness, and suddenly all pain and hardship disappears for good. These stories put the emphasis on the partner as some type of savior, valiantly rescuing a "broken" person through the power of love. These savior stories create unrealistic expectations of what it's like to love people with mental illnesses as if the right person can rescue them from their darkness and pull them back into the light.
Anxiously overthinking a social interaction is a common event. We all have likely experienced a time when we couldn't stop ruminating over a conversation we had, thinking about everything we said or what we could have said differently. For those of us with anxiety disorders, this anxious overthinking can spiral out of control, affect our social lives, and even make our anxiety worse. I personally have a problem with overthinking. I often ruminate on these questions: Is that person mad at me? Did I say something wrong? Did I talk too much? Should I have said something different? Maybe these thoughts as familiar to you as they are to me.
When your partner doesn't understand your mental illness, it adds an extra level of difficulty to a relationship. I am highly sensitive and feel my emotions deeply and extremely. When depression or anxiety strike, I lose my ability to think rationally. My partner of eight years is a laid-back math teacher who approaches each challenge in life like an equation he can solve. I am an unsolvable equation to him. We enrich each other's lives with our differences, but sometimes it feels like we don't live in the same world. Part of our relationship journey has been accepting that we may always live in different worlds, but with intentional effort, we can build a beautiful bridge between them.
Feeling shame in a relationship can begin a cycle of shame that's debilitating to mental health. An ex-boyfriend once told me I was a liability. My mental health was a risk against his future, and he didn't want his professional friends to know that he dated me. He made it clear that he was ashamed of me.
I joined HealthyPlace as I began to reckon with the mental symptoms of my chronic illness. For years, I struggled with depression that came as a side effect to my steroids, the disordered eating that I developed as a result of my gastrointestinal trouble, and the trauma that came from a lifetime of health problems. But I was never able to treat these symptoms with the same regard as my physical ones. The HealthyPlace community helped me validate my struggle with mental health. But the time of COVID has been especially scary for those of us with chronic illness and I'm struggling to stay on top of my business, my graduate studies, and my health. So, though I will miss my HealthyPlace community, I have decided to leave the Relationships and Mental Illness blog in order to lighten my load a little and protect my physical and mental health.
Two years ago, I went through a breakup with my therapist. I ghosted my therapist when I began to suspect we weren't a good fit. I started small, canceling an appointment here and there. Then I went on vacation. When I came back, I "forgot" to get in touch. But when she reached out, I felt guilty. I scheduled a session. But a few weeks later, I repeated the cycle. Finally, she stopped reaching out. We were done.
Family dinner with disordered eating is always uncomfortable. Here's my deal: I was born with an autoimmune disorder called Behcet's Disease. My symptoms include gastrointestinal ulceration and pain when I eat. This has created a complicated relationship between me and food.
If it wasn't for my weekly virtual therapy session, my avoidant attachment behaviors would have caused far more mayhem in my quarantine life. What is avoidant attachment? It isn't a mental disorder or illness. Rather, it's a style of attachment.