Today is Valentine’s Day – a day to express love and affection towards family, friends and loved ones. It’s an emotional day for most but it can be a frustrating day for others; especially for those living with a mental illness.
I remember the first Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend. It was a new relationship, getting to know each other, but for us Valentine’s Day was just like any other day; for me it was a day to show affection but not for him. You see, my boyfriend lives with mental illness and when he first moved in 2 months prior I discovered he was not on any medication and couldn’t tell me how he felt. I didn’t completely understand then but I do now.
He lives with clinical depression and with that comes with sleeping all day, not wanting to do anything or go anywhere, emotions are put on hold; don’t want to laugh, don’t know how or what to feel. He also lives with GAD ( generalized anxiety disorder ), so on top of the depression is the anxiety. Now you deal with the fear of going outside, talking to anyone; you don’t want to text, call or email anyone. When you’re in a relationship you may see paranoia, at least I did. He would ask me questions like “Do you love me”, “Why do you love me”, “Why don’t you find someone else, someone with a stable mind”.
Something else I noticed is he couldn’t be touched when he was upset, anxious or panicky. The best thing I could do is just talk to him and provide reassurance.
What helped me the most is reading all I could on mental illness, but information based on other peoples experiences. I found it helped me better understand him and his needs.
I’m not afraid to say it was a rough year but it was worth it. We made it through, he’s been on medication and going to therapy for 2 years now and we couldn’t be happier.
If you have a loved one who lives with mental illness, I have some advice for you:
- Please be patient. I know it will be frustrating and upsetting but it will be worth it
- Your loved one will need reassurance. Don’t be afraid to tell them you love them even though they may not be able to express the same
- Be sure to take time for yourself. What you’re experiencing may drain you mentally; take care of yourself.
Overall, just remember you’re with your loved one because you do love them, you’ve seen them for the real them and not the mental illness. Also remember that they DO love you.
Anita Levesque is a web and graphic designer, a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. The goal with my website, http://mentalillness-doyouknow.com is to focus on personal experiences rather than articles by doctors and medical professionals who haven’t experienced mental illness. Anita writes articles for several websites on topics such as OCD, Addictions, Suicide, PTSD and more. She resides in Stoney Creek, Ontario and interests are photography, reading, music, learning, spending time with her family.