This post is the last part in this “Dating With Depression” series. You can read the first post about putting yourself out there here, the second post about talking about mental health with your partner here, and the third post about what your partner should know about your mental health here.
As I’ve gone through this series, I’ve been looking at different stages of a relationship in chronological order, and that was done for a specific reason. Every part of a relationship requires different advice, knowledge and tips, and having romantic interests while living with mental illness can make those parts even more complicated. But to wrap the series up, I want reflect on something for the readers, and it’s this (potential hot take coming up): for people living with mental illness, it’s possible to give and receive love in a romantic relationship. Not only is it possible, but being who you are can actually improve the relationship.
For a long time, I was afraid to be in a romantic relationship. To be fair, it wasn’t like anyone was knocking down my door to date me. But I was fearful that when the day came when I really met someone I connected with, I wasn’t going to be capable. I wasn’t going to be able to emote well enough to maintain a healthy relationship; I wouldn’t know how to accept compliments from my partner; my anxious brain would constantly forget important things. I projected all of that self-hate and self-loathing of myself and my own mental illness onto an imaginary partner, and the more time passed, the worse those fears became.
On some level, I always knew that these feelings were a little ridiculous, but I tried to qualify it because I was different. It’s easy to qualify things in the name of depression and anxiety, and no one had ever really pushed me on this. But then I started to hear other people’s experiences, their fears about not being capable of feeling something deeper, and I started to understand that this is also a human issue. And, as it has in other areas of my life, I could begin to heal knowing that I wasn’t alone in my struggle (even though it was by no means over).
Living with mental illness can get in the way of so many things in life. It can rob us of moments, experiences, relationships, you name it (and it has for me, more than once). Sometimes, it even robs us of the ability to feel like we’re human. But we’re human. Just as much as anyone else. And we deserve the good things in this world just as much as anyone else does – no matter what our brains our telling us. People who live with mental illness are capable of romantic love, and are capable of accepting that romantic love.
A long time ago I wrote a blog post that talked about what’s possible with our mental health, where I reflected on all that we can do in life in spite of mental health conditions. But I always put a qualifier on romantic relationships because I didn’t think I was capable. What I learned was that, just like in other areas of life, thing happen, and these events illicit an honest, human reaction. My hope is that you know that there will be ups and down as you go through these romantic waters, but that these ups and downs are no different than any other person’s or couples. Dating with depression isn’t always easy at times, but it can help form a strong, stable connection with the right amount of communication and understanding.
Writing this series has helped me understand some of the more complex parts of living with mental illness. What kinds of topics would you want me to write a similar series on? Let me know in the comments!