So, you love someone with a mental illness. What now?
No, the answer is not run for the hills.
I'm not going to lie and say that being in a relationship with someone with a mental illness will be all rainbows and unicorns. But is any relationship? All relationships have their struggles.
Everyone wants to be loved for who they are, even their flaws. In sickness and in health. I think most people have a fear of being left by the person they love. It's scary to open yourself up to another person and trust that they'll still love you. And for those with a mental illness, this can be even more scary.
First thing is first — I'm not saying to stay with someone you don't like or aren't compatible with just because you feel guilty because that person has a mental illness. What I am saying is mental illness should not be a factor at all. Mental illness does not make up who a person is. It's a disease.
This advice is for someone who actually cares about someone diagnosed with a mental illness.
• Most importantly, if they aren't already, encourage them to see a professional, such as a psychiatrist or counselor, for help. You cannot make them well — and that's okay. Instead, trust someone who is trained to do that.
• Never, and let me repeat — NEVER — call them "crazy" or say "Don't act crazy," even as a joke. You wouldn't call someone with a mental disability "retarded," and, for someone diagnosed with depression, bipolar, etc., the word "crazy" is just as degrading. Your significant other is likely already self-conscious enough about their mental illness and using this word will only make it worse.
• If your signifiant other suffers from a panic attack, a mental breakdown, etc. it's not your fault. I know it's hard to understand it when someone starts crying uncontrollably around you not to think that you must've done something wrong. For many people with a mental illness, this just happens for no reason. All you can really do is hold the other person, comfort them and reassure that you are there for them.
• Be informed. Research the diagnosis your loved one has to more fully understand it. According to PsychCentral.com, some reliable sources are the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Mental Health.
• Take time out for yourself. If you are in a relationship with someone with a mental illness, codependency may be more likely to occur. But, just like in any relationship, you need to tell your significant other that, although you love him or her, you need some time to do the things you enjoy — whether it's a specific activity, being with friends or just being alone. This is necessary for any relationship.
• You can't make another person do anything. If the person you love isn't willing to get the necessary help, there is only so much you can do. You cannot sacrifice the person you are for someone who isn't willing, at all, to help themselves.
I once dated a guy diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder. When he took his medication, he was a great person. But, one day, he decided he was sick of taking it. So, cold turkey, he decided to stop. And he turned into a verbally abusive person who would scream at me and constantly put me down. For months, I tried to make it work and tried to encourage him to seek professional help. But when he refused, there was only so much I could emotionally take. And so we ended the relationship.
Know that, even if you do love someone, you need to value your own life as well. You can be willing to help them unconditionally, but if they won't help themselves, there is really nothing you can do.