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Why Being in a Relationship Doesn’t Make All the Bad Stuff Go Away

Mental health issues don't just resolve themselves because you're with someone.

Image by Alex Iby, Unsplash

"It’s okay for you because you’re in a relationship,” a friend said to me once. “Surely things don’t get you down so much because you’ve got a partner,” a colleague told me. “It can’t be that bad when there’s two of you,” a family member offered.

Two. Two times the anxiety, two times the mental health issues, the self-doubt, the days when no amount of motivational quotes will fill your energy bar more than 0-1.

My husband and I have been together since we were teenagers and married for five years. He is my best friend, the person I call to talk to about my day, whilst I’m on my way home to him. He is the person who makes me laugh like no one else can, lifts me up, supports me, believes in me, loves me.

But…

Our mental health issues do not simply melt away because of our unwavering love for each other.

Just because we love each other doesn’t mean I won’t have an anxiety-fueled melt down every day. Or get a new lock installed to the front door before we go on holiday so I don’t lie awake at night worrying about people breaking in whilst we’re gone, nor does it stop me photographing the door as I lock it and saying out loud three times “the door is locked” every time we leave our apartment.

Having each other and our loving relationship doesn’t make my Dermatillomania disappear. Being together doesn’t make my husband’s anxiety-induced acid reflux go away. Or his shortness of breath when he’s having a panic attack. Or the fact that he needs sound to fall asleep.

Mental health issues don’t just resolve themselves because you’re with someone, and when you tell people you think they do, you’re belittling something that likely takes over every waking moment of their day.

I am fortunate to be in a loving relationship. I know that. My husband knows that. But our mental health is our own responsibility. We have to put our own work in, be responsible for ourselves, to improve our mental health.

And I have learnt that comes from such a simple thing: loving yourself.

Loving yourself might feel like a bit of a stretch if your anxiety is anywhere near as debilitating as mine is. So let’s start with being kind to yourself.

For my husband, whose anxiety manifests itself as physical symptoms, being kinder to himself means giving up smoking. It means eating better. Getting his five a day. Moving more. Practicing breathing exercises. Finding solutions, like a weighted blanket to help him fall asleep easier at night.

For me, being kinder to myself means taking a moment for reflection when I let the voices in my head get carried away with negative comments. Writing down affirmations and saying them into the mirror when I put on my makeup, or out loud when I’m alone in my car. Giving myself more time to complete tasks, and plan things more efficiently, so that day to day life doesn’t feel so unmanageable and overwhelming.

And when we do these things, my husband and I, we are better for it. Our relationship is healthier when we pour the same amount of love and attention into ourselves as we do each other.

We don’t have to do it all alone, either. We can work on being kinder to ourselves together. Take a daily walk. Cook a healthy meal together. Bring each other glasses of water. Help each other to find moments of calm in a stressful work day.

We are motivated by each other’s acts of self-kindness. But we are our own responsibility when it comes to our mental health. Our own works in progress. We have to take agency of our own mental health issues and accept that we are not someone else’s responsibility. We don’t expect our mental issues to be healed just because someone loves us.

I have also learnt that I need help with my anxiety. There was a point over the last year when it became so bad I couldn’t sleep. I was running to the toilet first thing every morning. I lost weight. No amount of affirmations can fix that. So I sought professional help, and went to counseling—which in itself was a huge accomplishment for me, because I have bad social anxiety, even on a one-to-one basis.

At counseling, I learnt to be easier on myself, to start with small steps of self-love. It was there I realised that I am better version of myself when I practice self-love, not just for me, but for my husband and those around me, too.

“If someone does not want me
It is not the end of the world,
But if I do not want me, the
World is nothing but endings.”
- Nayyirah Waheed

Know that the only person that can fight your demons is you. And to do that, you need to learn to love yourself with as much fire and passion as you would love someone in a relationship.      

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