In honour of mental health awareness week, I wanted to share my experience of mental health in relationships. This is a big deal for me. I’m not one to Tweet about a panic attack or even tell my friends what is really going on. But, for all those people in the same boat as me, who haven’t quite been able to be as open about the struggles they go through – this post is for you.
I am a strong person. Those who know me know that I don’t take shit from anyone. I am confident and never afraid to go against the status quo. I like that person and I am very proud of her. That is the person that everyone sees but underneath that is a fragile girl, one that is very unsure about her decisions and one that seeks approval in more ways than the confident me would like to admit. Every day is a constant battle between these two personas and that’s hard enough for me to deal with, let alone someone who can’t relate to how I am feeling.
Anyone who suffers from mental health issues knows that it’s something that is very hard to explain to others. These issues are personal to ourselves and anxiety or depression mean different things to different people. The fact that mental health has so many faces means that it’s hard to see it from another’s point of view and that’s how it creates problems in relationships. For years Clint struggled to understand the things that I was going through, in the same way, it took time for me to identify issues he was having, and it’s taken even longer for each of us to learn how to cope with each other’s issues.
Some days I feel like I can’t make a single decision out of fear of doing the wrong thing. I’m not talking about big and life-changing decisions I’m talking about whether or not to go for lunch on a Sunday or stay in and tidy the house. My mind goes a million miles an hour worrying about being healthy, having fun, keeping the house clean and doing what I am ‘meant’ to. In the space of a minute about 30 different outcomes pop into my head; I can’t make sense of any of them so I’ll just sit and cry. It gets to the point where neither option is the right thing because no matter what I do I am going to feel guilty for not doing the other thing.
If I go to the pub on a Wednesday night and enjoy myself, my mind fast-forwards 20 years and all of a sudden Clint and I are alcoholics who plod along in dead-end jobs with no lives. I’ll then lash out at him and blame him for the irrational worries that I am having but I’m 24, if I want to go to the pub on a Wednesday night it doesn’t dictate the rest of my life. This is just one example of how my mind will jump to the most extreme circumstances over the simplest of things. Behaving like this when you’re in a relationship is obviously not ideal.
And Clint is so black and white when it comes to making choices. To him, if you want to do something you do it. If you don’t, then don’t, even if it’s at the cost of other people’s feelings – you live with what you decided to do. We are at totally opposite ends of the scale. The same is true when it comes to working issues out, I want to talk about how I am feeling until I run out of words, I want to scream and cry and act out until I feel better. Clint likes to switch off from the world, go to the pub and drink himself to oblivion. These two approaches don’t mix well together.
This is why I went back to therapy. It helped me work on myself while also understanding why Clint behaves in the way he does. Clint has things that he is dealing with and that can result in him acting out in ways that cause me a lot of hurt and upset. But, the only one that’s in control of how I feel is me. When it comes to dealing with mental health in relationships, that is one of the biggest lessons.
As well as working on ourselves, both Clint and I make an effort to talk about how we are feeling and try to understand where the other person is coming from. Sometimes we are a million miles away from understanding the other’s behaviour but we accept it and try to think of ways to make it better together. Slowly but surely we are learning to not just deal with our own problems but also how to help each other deal with theirs.
Most people at some time in their lives will experience a mental health issue of some sort and it’s amazing that more people than ever are feeling comfortable enough to talk about the problems they are facing. But, there’s still a huge way to go. Recognising that people around you are suffering is the first step so rather than thinking that your boyfriend is taking the piss by going out 4 nights a week or that your girlfriend is being a total bitch lately, try to understand what’s causing this behaviour. By all means, call them up on it, but try to be sensitive. You might feel like you know someone 100% but you never really know exactly what’s going on in their mind.
If you’re suffering from problems in your relationship because of mental health issues or you just want someone to talk to, feel free to email me or DM me on social media! Or check out this list of useful contact details.