Dating with depression
Jodie shares tips for dealing with relationships and mental health
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact email@example.com.
Dating can be difficult at the best of times, committing to another person can be hard and involves a lot of compromise. So how the hell do you maintain a relationship and a mental illness? Luckily I've been through this, and have some tips on surviving.
First and foremost, you have to be totally honest with the person you're dating. Explain to them your illness, your symptoms and your treatment. If you have some tips on how to help you when you're low then definitely tell them those. If not then you'll probably work some out between yourselves. Don't be afraid to tell them how you're feeling. Often when suffering from a mental illness we tend to think that the person we love is going to run away screaming, but most of the time they're incredibly understanding so don't be afraid to be honest. You'll probably feel better having it out in the open instead of trying to hide it.
Don't rely on them too much
You are responsible for your own happiness. When you're with someone you may feel happier, but this isn't a guarantee. Sometimes if you're having a low then their presence might not make everything instantly better, and be aware of that. Don't be disappointed or frustrated at them for things that aren't their fault. Learn to differentiate between when they are causing you problems, or when your mental illness is causing you problems. Becoming too reliant on them will put strain on the relationship. They're not here to carry you, they're here to support you.
Remember that they're not your therapist
The person you're dating has their own set of complex emotions, and it's important they don't get forgotten about or overshadowed by your mental illness. I'm not saying don't talk to them, I'm saying don't forget to listen. Their feelings and emotions are just as valid as yours, and it's important they talk too. Sometimes dating someone with a mental illness can be particularly hard on mental health, so make sure they look after their own too.
Relationships are a two way thing
It can't all be about you or about your partner. You both have to work and you both have to be open with each other. You can't change each other, you can only support. Relationships involve work, no one's will be perfect. One fight doesn't mean they hate you, don't let your illness trick you. All relationships have their ups and downs, it will never be perfect all the time. Remember to put work into yourself and into your partner, and make sure they do the same.
Affection is key
Physical affection is a key part of any relationship, as often activities such as hugging and cuddling can have great benefits on mental health. They reduce loneliness, release endorphins and promote positive feelings. So don't be afraid to hold hands or cuddle on the couch, it's doing good for your mental health and your relationship!
Allow yourself to have fun
Relationships are supposed to be a source of enjoyment in your life so make sure that yours is. Don't let it hold you back or limit you, try new things with your partner, go new places and create new memories. Often we beat ourselves down when we're on our own and can get stuck in a circle of not going out. Make sure you don't get stuck in that in your relationship, take this chance to be brave and go outside your comfort zone. Don't let your illness control your life.
Space is essential
Nobody can stay together 24/7, and sometimes you need a break. This is fine and healthy! Use a game console, read a book, make some tea, just take some time to yourself and let your partner do the same. This will give you both a chance to reset and catch up on individual interests, and you'll be more than happy to see each other again after.
Know your worth
This one is a difficult one, especially since a lot of illnesses can trick us into believing things that aren't true. If you find yourself unhappier when you're with your partner, then you need to reconsider. Don't let the fear of loneliness or weak excuses keep you trapped in an unhappy relationship. Sometimes holding on can hurt more than letting go. You can't heal yourself if you're stuck in a toxic environment. Make sure you keep your health and happiness in mind.
Remember when dating that there's two people in the relationship who each have their own individual needs. Make sure to look after yourself and do what's best for you. Don't let your illness hold you back, but also don't let it trap you somewhere you don't want to be.