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Mad in Love

How to Love Someone With a Mental Illness

“And with a kiss it was broken. She felt the weight of everything slump off her shoulders and she was whole again. She was alive and nothing could ever change her back. The fear was gone.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what most people think cures mental illness. Love and positivity. Well I can tell you that’s bullshit. No amount of love will fix a mental illness.

You want to know how I know that? I've tried. And I've seen it be done. Especially between mentally ill lovers (bad idea by the way). So the question remains “how do I love them? How do I fix them?”

I’m here to give you the answers. But it won't be easy and it won't be pretty. It sucks to be mentally ill and it sucks being in a relationship with someone who is. But this is how to do it to the best of your ability.

Research

Best first step, whether in a relationship or not, is to look online at their mental illness. Let it sink in. Is this something you are mature enough to handle?

If the answer is no and you're already in the relationship for more than the first two or three months, you're in this. Either bring it up to them or deal with it. You loved them before you can love them now.

If the answer is yes however, then make sure it stays yes. There really isn't the option to go back once you're committed without doing some harm. Which is the opposite of what you want if you're reading this.

The other big thing with research is that if you do it and find out something you hate about the illness, talk it over with your partner. Just because their brain doesn't work correctly doesn't mean that you can't use normal relationship advice. Talk to each other.

Oh, and don't say “We need to talk” because that can set off most anxiety disorders and a fair number of personality disorders. Instead say something non-threatening like “I want to talk about {insert their illness} if that's okay with you” or “I want to understand what you're going through.” Never put blame on them simply for having it. Trust me, they hate it too.

When to Leave

While it may sound like I said to never leave, in reality it's okay to leave. Under certain circumstances. If you leave because you're bored, you're an asshole. Plain and simple. That would wreck someone who's in one piece.

The best time to leave is when they are being abusive and use their illness as an excuse to be abusive. If they honestly can't help it and aren't in therapy, talk to them about therapy. If they are in therapy, talk to them about medication. If they are doing both, then still don't leave. Talk it out and develop a system for when you need to give each other space.

If they refuse to do any of that, dump them. Yesterday. While they suffer with mental illness, it is still true that some disorders result in violence or abuse and your safety should be paramount. 

Day to Day

For day to day life, just be gentle and understanding. Use discretion based on their illness for what to let go. If a symptom is to never want to get out of bed and eat a lot, don't call them fat or lazy. Be patient and understanding, but still try to help them.

This is going to be hard, but you know them best. Offer them things they want and do the small caring things that makes them want to get out of bed and have something good for them.

The other thing day to day is don't hold a grudge for something they can't help. They probably feel guilty about it and if not, time to go. Lack of guilt and empathy is a red flag that shouldn't be ignored.

If You're Ill

Don't do it. Honestly. It will almost always end poorly. If you do decide to make the jump then you and your partner need to get it out in the open IMMEDIATELY. If you are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, say what you think you have and what the actual diagnosis is. If neither of you can handle it, it's over. If you can both handle it, good. Now prepare for a really tough time.

If you have different illnesses, then this is marginally more okay. Different plans to deescalate is going to be your friend. If you have the same illness then I will not attend both funerals. The same illness builds off of the bad of itself, even in one person. Imagine what it's like having a reflection of your illness lying in bed next to you. If that terrifies you, good. It needs to.

If you're in a relationship with someone who has your illness and it's going okay, then obviously either something is working or you're both still riding the high of being in love. Either way, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. If you're serious enough, set mental health emergency contacts and sign a prenup. YOUR MENTAL HEALTH CONTACT CANNOT BE EACH OTHER AND CANNOT HAVE YOUR ILLNESS. The purpose of that person is someone who loves you and chooses to come save you two from yourselves and each other. Don't pick someone who will fly off the handle or join you two in whatever state you end up in.

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