It’s difficult, having any kind of ‘normal’ life (normal in a context that everyone uses as a descriptor) once you have been diagnosed with a mental illness because you actively have to pay attention to everyone and everything that could possibly trigger you.
Having someone in your life who lives with one or more mental illnesses is not something easy to deal with, our normality changes quite drastically especially after diagnosis because you become hyper-aware of everything around you and everyone around you, you begin to question the impact of the spaces you move in, the people you’re friends with and the kind of person you choose to give yourself to. For a majority of people who aren’t living the type of life that those of us who have been diagnosed are, having someone in your life who has a mental illness means that you also have to be aware of yourself and be wary of their triggers, for most of us that means that dating becomes so much more difficult than it would be had we not been living with these diagnosis.
People don’t seem to understand the impact that interpersonal relationships have on people with MI’s, they think that we are crazy, dramatic and come with a lot of unnecessary baggage. Since my diagnosis I have had to do quite a lot of introspection, because the people around me needed to be re-assesed as well. I’ve had plenty fall outs over the years, so many so that I believed I wasn’t meant to have long lasting friendships or relationships, and whether I displayed it for the general public online or not – it hurt me, it knocked my confidence quite drastically and altered my perception of people so much so that I had begun building walls and didn’t want to help anybody anymore. My kindness became consumed in vileness and in me closing myself off, but nothing – absolutely nothing has hurt me in the way that I was when two people who I believed were friends violated every sort of my privacy. From attempting to make my conditions seem as though they were a lie, to actively trying to ruin my professional reputation online and in the workplace. I’ve since been vindicated because in the professional environment medical certificates are needed and thus my innocence was proven, but even in the way they did this – they had been gaslighting me for months, to the point where I was receiving so called sympathetic emails about what would interest me because it focused on mental illnesses to emailing a freelance client telling them I wasn’t working but forgetting to mention that I was in the hospital, and so for the last couple of months – after having been dealing with gaslighting for so long by two people and some others, I decided to apply the lessons that I had learnt during my stuff at Vista. I am by no means an angel, but the one thing I do know is that my heart is one of a kind. I am a very open person and nothing kills me more than harming or being harmed. It breaks me. I have since decided to take a stand and protect my name, legally. In that I have learnt so much about myself and how I deal with my mental illnesses and the company I keep. God did a life clean out for me in 2016, and vindicated me this month, but for the people in my life this ‘Baggage’ hasn’t been easy. It’s been tough because I’ve had really good days, and really bad days. Vista is a safe space and being violated during my stay and even afterwards has been challenging but it proved something to me – therapy works. I am much stronger, more driven and focused than I was before and that is what freedom tastes like. My energy levels are just different. I feel more free than I did before and I’m honestly in a better space mentally and emotionally.
But life is easier to deal with when the people in your life have had years of experience in getting to know and understand you. So what happens as a result of having mental illnesses with regards to relationships?
Well, in the last three months I’ve met a number of men who have actively tried to get to know and understand how I’m wired – for most I’ve withheld so much about myself from them because I didn’t want them to use my illnesses against me as people who claimed to love me before have done. It has been my defense mechanism and has deprived me of allowing anybody near me intimately until I met him. I still struggle with understanding how someone so new to my life can have me feeling so safe that I don’t need to hide anything from him. From the calls to the texts and everything in between, it’s been the most interesting thing to experience watching my walls fall around him. He has in such a short space of time managed to tap into sides of me that are the most intimate and only the few people closest to me know, and then some. He’s guided me through days when I just felt like life wasn’y worth it and made sure to support me in one of the biggest wars I’ve ever had to face – even calling and texting me the morning of the process. Just in being himself, my walls have lowered and my guard has pretty much disappeared, and it’s only recently hit me that I have not been the easiest person to deal with especially in the last three or so months. I have been moody, emotionally unstable (heightened happiness and scary lows) and he managed to adjust so quickly – he hates dealing with moody people – and kept me calm on days where jumping off a bridge seemed like a good idea, he checks on me daily – just to make sure that I am doing okay and it only hit me today – he affirms me by doing small things. And this has been vital for me as a person because I’m not so scared anymore.
Being with someone who lives with mental illnesses means having to be a bit more patient with them, it means knowing their triggers, knowing when to say what and when to rather be quiet, it mean having to listen even when it seems like you have the same incessant emotionally draining conversation, it means arguments or disagreement’s need to be handled in a specific manner (in my case don’t shout at me) in a calm and rational manner where we talk through things, it means knowing that them isolating can be something to worry about but that it’s also a way in them choosing to protect you, it is also important because you become a safe space and there aren’t many people who can handle that. There’s a man who leaves me so giddy, that sees every part of me and still can’t seem to shake me as I am struggling to shake him. But in essence, when you choose to let someone with mental illnesses into your life, be patient with them – once they feel safe with and around you they will disclose their conditions to you. It’s just for you to be patient enough to help them maintain their relationship with you.
You are in control of you and nobody else, what other people do is not for you to handle, it’s for God to take care of. Focus on you. You are all you’ve got.
I’ve got a life filled with safe spaces, God knows it’s the happiest I’ve been in a while, and I am so blessed for the people who have stuck with me through it all.
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