Posted By: Ruth Chawngthu
Art By: Reyansh Naarang
First things first, I bet we’ve all come across posts on tumblr or instagram that romantacise the hell out of unhealthy relationship dynamics and posts that say “double tap if you would date someone with depression” etc., etc., The problem with these posts, although some of them might have good intentions behind them, is that it leads to the mystification of mental illnesses and makes the lives of people living with it so much more difficult.
Depression is more than just about being sad or melancholic, it is a constant condition, a state of being that someone has to live with, has to survive with. Anxiety is more than just about being worried easily or being shy, it’s a constant state of mind game you play with yourself with no apparent master. Being bipolar isn’t about being a “crazy” or half happy and half sad, it’s more confusing for the person suffering than it is for the observer. People with mental illness are often romanticized for being the “mysterious” one or the “quirky” one, and therefore even though we come with warning signs that say “Please respect my boundaries”, “I am sometimes flaky”, “I mostly can’t feel”, “I make irrational decisions”, people see the sunshines and unicorns and say “I can take it all”.
But the truth is, a majority of the so called mental health allies can’t deal with the symptoms that come with dating or even being friends with someone with mental illness because it requires tremendous amount of trust, communication, patience, and mutual understanding. I remember back in middle school when being emo was the cool thing to be and people would romanticise my cut marks. Flash forward to 2015 and I have my first serious romantic partner who “accepted everything”, except he wanted to fix me. I was a damsel in distress; and he, a knight in shining armour. That’s what a lot of people in romantic partnerships with mentally ill people see themselves as. It’s called the “saviour complex”. What mentally ill people need out of their relationships is safety and you being the no.1 support in their journey of self improvement.
Mental illness is neither romantic nor quirky nor fun. Its sufferers are battling silently in their head everyday. Don’t be surprised when you consciously choose to befriend or date someone with mental illness and they show their symptoms, because recovery isn’t linear. Consequently, mental illness doesn’t excuse a person’s toxic behavior towards others or the harm that they cause to your own mental well-being. In order to be supportive you must be kind to yourself first.
Communication, communication, communication. Communication is so important in every relationship and when dating with mental illness it is important and vital that you communicate verbally and otherwise to each other your needs and your distresses. Because living with mental illness is already so tiring and taxing, the last thing you want to do is let your relationship be an addition to the burden. Be clear and open about your needs, boundaries and requirements and if this doesn’t work out with the current one, eventually you’ll find someone with the same cracks as yours and you’ll glue your hurt together with gold.
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