After so long a single person I seem to have been crept up on, confuzzeled and acquired myself a boyfriend! I won’t say too much about him or he will start smiling, I’ll start smiling and we can’t have that as I have depression!
I hope we last, (the boyfriend, not the mental illness) as I worry about how my depression will affect my relationship. You start off with both parties wanting to impress each other and put across their best side but how can you do that when you don’t always have a smile on your face? I’ve been trying internet dating for several years with highs and lows, but I always had to decide at what point in the relationship I told them about my mental health problems, a daunting task but necessary for an honest relationship.
So I was quite surprised when I found out that the person who was subsequently to ask me to be his girlfriend already knew about Fiona Art and that I had mental (and physical) health problems and still wanted me! As the stigma of mental illness is so strong in my family (I’ve been called ‘freak’, ‘hysterical’, ‘crazy’ and ‘stupid’) I’m understandably wary of how I’ll be perceived by those I love.
At the start of the relationship I tell him I have mental health problems and hold my breath… ‘I wasn’t looking for simple’ he says, and I rush in there with ‘But I’m pretty screwed up!’ and he shrugs, hugs me and says ‘I like you, you are…’ and he continues with some pretty cool complimentary descriptive words to show what he thinks of me whilst I feel a mix of happiness, confusion, wariness, joy and worry that he’s blind, deaf and dumb.
A friend I volunteer at a homeless charity with told me recently that internet dating was not the way to go, that I should meet someone through volunteering so the person would know the real me rather than worrying that they might not like me once they found out about my health problems. Yes ‘D’, you were right, I met ‘G’ through volunteering at a mental health charity!
OK, so now you know I’ve met someone and it’s been only a short while but maybe because I’m (as he says) older and know myself more, the relationship has come along at quite a pace. However I think it’s my health problems that have been one of the reasons (after us liking each other of course!) we have become so close so quickly. We have been honest and open with each other (me more so, he is a man after all !) about almost all things. When I’ve been anxious I’ve told him, he’s hugged me and we’ve worked through it.
So, with my mental health issues I know that I have to put extra work into my relationship with ‘G’ and I know it puts extra weight on his shoulders. I’m often worrying if I am being a good or bad girlfriend and he’s being a good or bad boyfriend and what if it’s the extra weight on our shoulders of my mental illness or chronic pain problems and him trying his best to deal with them? Is it speeding up our relationship in a good or bad way? I definitely make more of an effort to communicate with ‘G’ about why I cry, go quiet, comfort eat, doubt myself and ‘sabotage’ things, but am I making him talk about deep and meaningful things more than he would if he was in a relationship with someone with good mental health? No doubt I am.
If you find the right partner they grow through dealing with you and your issues. In return you feel more supported and more hopeful in the darkest moments when you might otherwise have wanted to give up when you were single. For some it’s better to be alone than with the wrong person. But for me, I’m with the right person and I don’t feel like giving up, I feel like I’m not alone anymore and there is hope.