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Knowing the differences between dating someone with a mental disorder and someone who has the potential to abuse you and possibly end your life is vital to all parties involved. So, I am going to address some of the mandatory steps of dating someone with a mental illness, no matter what it may be.
- If the person you are dating has a true mental disorder, he should firstly be aware of the problem(s) he may have along the way. If he has not sought out medical attention and given himself the potential for stability through medication or through a daily routine, then that person is not ready to date you. I do not personally believe that you must be medicated to be successful. However, professional guidance is necessary to live a healthy lifestyle. For instance, if you are dating a mentally ill person who believes that he can get off his medication whenever he wants, this can be a dangerous situation. Those who have continued on medication for long periods of time and have chosen to drop them suddenly could be potentially dangerous for him and for you. Leave it alone. However, in Josh's situation, talking to someone and self-medication with marijuana are the best outlets. Josh has watched many personal relationships go down the drain through pharmaceuticals. Please check into your local state laws before taking on this routine. Nonetheless, there must be a routine of some sort set up before they will be ready to date.
- A person with a mental disorder will also understand the social consequences of his actions. Josh has never made excuses for his behavior in front of people; he quickly reevaluated and returned to his routine and worked on any quirks that would increase his stability. No convincing was necessary for him to do this; he is well-aware that the person he is when depressed does not deserve to have me. Abusive people say that they will change and do nothing.
- Understanding that dating or marrying a person with a mental disorder places you in a situation that many people simply will not understand is vital and could tie as first. You may have to explain yourself over and over again to people who love you. You cannot become frustrated with this, as you will bring this negativity and frustration back into your relationship which is sure to hurt your relationship.
Now that we have covered some of the most important points, I am going to try and help you really dig deep in identifying where the fine lines of abuse and mental illnesses are. These lines really are fine and if you have any doubts, please reach out to your counselor and/or a local community center for abuse. They can help you better understand what I may not be able to cover in this book for you. I commonly get told by members of Josh's family that he is very narcissistic, controlling, and he will never ever change. As I mentioned earlier, not understanding his mental illness can be very complicated and misconstrued. So here is why narcissistic abusers are not to be confused with bipolar grandiosity. According to Wikipedia: "Grandiosity refers to an unrealistic sense of superiority — a sustained view of oneself as better than others." Miriam Webster defines grandiosity as "the quality or state of appearing or trying to appear more important or valuable than is the case."
Bipolar grandiosity can sometimes masquerade as a representation of narcissism. It may look and also feel the same and because of this, it can also lead to misdiagnosis. Too avoid this misunderstanding I'd like to clarify Bipolar Grandiosity, we typically see this in times of hypomania that is associated with elevated moods. When an individual has elevation in their moods, you'll notice things like an overlook of optimism, more productivity, higher creativity, a euphoric presence. Generally, happy. This can cause the individual to feel as though the work they have completed is superior or extraordinary, when the end result was not at all special or superior. This is mood-phase specific; this does not continue over a period of time, nor does this happen when the mood that involves depression and low self-esteem is more dominant. Now, Narcissistic Abusers, these individuals typically develop the following happens from lack of a primary parent or even the lack of full development of ones personality. Narcissistic personality have a consistent way with making everything that do or say feel superior to all others. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. This is not dependent on moods or manias. This is a consistent behavior seen in many contexts including relationships, in most cases leading to mental and verbal abuse of the significant other, leaving them feeling down about who they are and not equal to their significant other. While both can be considered mental illnesses, they do not go hand in hand.
Be mindful of the signs. Everyone feels superior at some point in their life, or overly proud of an accomplishment. It is not okay to bring others down to make yourself feel good. Please seek help if you feel like you may be in this situation and never forget your worth.
Some of you reading may still be wondering the differences between abusers and bipolar are. How do you know you're in an abusive relationship? Aside from the obvious physical abuse, which is never okay, Josh has never and will never put his hands on me. Never make excuses for this. Physical abuse is not the only kind of abuse and knowing the signs can be very important. Emotional and mental/verbal abuse is very real and here are some of the signs.
- Humiliating or embarrassing you. (This is one of those fine lines; if this is a constant behavior, this is abuse, not mental illness.)
- Constant put-downs. (keyword: constant; everyone says things they don't mean, mental illness or mentally healthy.)
- Refusing to communicate. (Communication in any relationship is key. Josh is always mindful and communicates his state of mind as well as an apology for actions during mania, if needed. Lack of communication makes you feel at fault even when it's not at all your fault.)
- Ignoring or excluding you. (You should always feel important.)
- Extramarital affairs. (Cheating is abuse and using a mental illness as an excuse is just that... an excuse.)
- Provocative behavior with opposite sex. (see #6)
- Use of sarcasm and unpleasant tone of voice. (Everyone gets upset but repetitive behavior can lead to abuse.)
- Unreasonable jealousy. (Everyone gets jealous; jealousy becomes unhealthy when every guy that walks past you is causing issues even if you don't know the guy from Adam.)
- Mean jokes or constantly making fun of you. (Limits should be in place, and respected.)
- Saying “I love you but…” (You either love me or you don't. There is not "but"... this is bullying.)
- Saying things like “If you don’t _____, I will_____.” (It's never okay to coerce someone into something or threaten them.)
- Domination and control. (The only time this is okay is under set rules and in the bedroom with a safe word.)
- Withdrawal of affection. (If this is constant and stands alone with no other signs, talk to them. Sometimes there is more to this than abuse.)
- Guilt trips. (Everyone makes mistakes you should be allowed to learn and move on from them)
- Making everything your fault.
- Isolating you from friends and family. (It's important to have others around you and to take breaks for yourself away from your S.O. every now and again. Don't let them take this from you.)
- Using money to control. (You should always have equal access to funds and/or your own funds.)
- Constant calling or texting when you are not with him/her. (Checking in with you to make sure you are safe is one thing. Ssking who you are with, what you are doing, and/or demanding you come home is another.)
- Threatening to commit suicide if you leave. (This WILL NOT happen; this is the manipulation to get you to stay. They will have nothing is they can no longer have control of your mind. Rest assure they will find someone else when you leave for good. Leave.)
So now we know the signs of mental/verbal abuse, the differences of bipolar and narcissistic personalities, and the key notes of dating someone with a mental illness. As women, we always prefer to be the ones with the freedom to act; however, if you are planning on a serious life with a person who has a mental illness, this is simply one of the sacrifices that love calls on you to make. Your partner will need your mental stability in order for the relationship to work.
Most importantly, you must be able to separate the mental illness from the person who is suffering from it. This is perhaps the biggest lesson that my relationship with Josh has taught me — the physical body is a slave to nerve endings and neurons and blood chemicals. The spirit, however, is completely separate. It is truly difficult to explain, but if you cannot fall in love with the spirit of a person through the noise of biology that a mental illness creates, then you should immediately let that person go. The relationship will not go well for either of you.
Josh and I set up physical boundaries, as well. For instance, it is agreed among our entire family that if he ever hits me for any reason, I am to immediately leave. Though this has never happened, this is the agreement and is known by everyone involved in our lives.
There are ways to overcome the difficulties that mental illnesses bring to a relationship. True love will always find a way.