It’s okay to date me, I’m not crazy.
This is what I wanted to say when my partner had taken the time to read up on depression and bipolar II disorder. I’m lucky that my partner didn’t run as soon as he found out about my diagnosis, however I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did. The media has managed to project this notion that all people with mental illnesses are dangerous and unstable. However this is not true. Many people find positive ways to cope with their illness and are highly productive citizens.
This piece is not about dating with a mental illness, but about learning from those with a mental illness. So here are five things you can learn from dating someone with a mental illness.
1. You will read and a learn a lot
There are many myths that surround mental illnesses and their triggers. When you begin dating someone with a mental illness, you will need to read up on symptoms, triggers and possible ways to manage the illness. Sites such as Psychology Today, Psychology Tomorrow and Healthline will become your friend. You will gain more insight on the working of the human mind and human behavior. The facts of behavioural traits and personality classification will aid your interaction with both your partner and broader society.
2. Emotions will no longer scare you
In today’s world people are taught to hide their emotions. However if you suffer from a mental illness and see a psychologist on a regular, then talking about how one feels becomes normal. If your partner is anything like me, then emotionally charged conversations will be a regular occurrence in your life. This constant interaction with varying degrees of emotion will make you more comfortable to explore your own. You realise that it’s okay to have a bad day with the knowledge that they do not last forever.
3. You will learn that health is gold
Many people, especially millennials, take advantage of their health. People indulge in food and alcohol with no real thought as to how it affects ones body. Health is taken as a given, but those living with mental illnesses know that this is not the case. Apart from the side effects that come with medication, mental illnesses take a toll on the body. Eating healthy, exercising and resting is very important. It encourages you to slow down and be thankful for the healthy mind and healthy body you have.
The knowledge you have gained will also allow you to encourage and support your partner on days when they do not want to be healthy.
4. Patience is a virtue that you will poses
Living with a mental illness is hard, but loving someone with a mental illness is challenging. There will be days when their illness dictates the day and you simply have to be patient. You cannot make them “snap out of it”. There is little they can do about their illness and thus will rely on you to be a good constant in their lives. The manner in which you react on the off days is important as it can be the difference between getting better or going over the edge.
5. The quality, and not the quantity, of relationships will be important to you
Positive relationships are a crucial lifeline for those living with a mental illness. You will find that their circle is small but filled with people that love them fiercely and will protect them at all costs. Your partner will show you the value of love and stability in a relationship and how that trumps everything else.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to love and respect. If you love someone and respect their boundaries and decisions, you will learn so much from them.