Valentineâ€™s Day is here and itâ€™s a day to express love and affection towards family, friends and loved ones. Itâ€™s an emotional day for most, but it can be a frustrating day for others, especially for those living with a mental illness.
I remember the first Valentineâ€™s Day with my boyfriend. Even though it was a new relationship and we were just getting to know each other, we treated Valentineâ€™s Day just like any other day. For me it was a day to show affection, but not it wasn’t for him. You see, my boyfriend lives with a mental illness and when he first moved in, 2 months prior, I discovered that he was not on any medication and as a result he couldnâ€™t tell me how he felt. I didnâ€™t completely understand then, but I do now.
He lives with clinical depression and with that comes sleeping all day, not wanting to do anything or go anywhere, and emotions are put on hold (donâ€™t want to laugh and donâ€™t know how or what to feel). He also lives with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which adds anxiety to the depression. Now you add dealing with the fear of going outside and the fear of talking to someone (you donâ€™t want to text, call or email anyone). When youâ€™re in a relationship you may also see paranoia, at least I did. He would ask me questions like â€śDo you love me?â€ť â€śWhy do you love me?â€ť â€śWhy donâ€™t you find someone else, someone with a stable mind?â€ť
Something else that I noticed, was that he couldnâ€™t be touched when he was upset, anxious or panicky. The best thing I could do in those situations was to just talk to him and provide reassurance. What helped me the most was reading all I could on other peopleâ€™s experiences of mental illness. I found it helped me to better understand him and his needs.
Iâ€™m not afraid to say it was a rough year, but it was worth it. We made it through. For the past 2 years now, he has been going to therapy and taking his medication, and we couldnâ€™t be happier.
If you have a loved one that lives with a mental illness, I have some advice for you:
1. Please be patient. I know it can be frustrating and upsetting, but it will be worth it.
2. Your loved one will need reassurance. Donâ€™t be afraid to tell them you love them even though they may not be able to express the same back to you.
3. Be sure to take time for yourself. What youâ€™re experiencing may drain you mentally.
Overall, just remember that Valentine’s Day might look different for you and your partner, but the important thing is that youâ€™re with your loved one and that you do love them and see them for who they are and not their mental illness. Also remember that they DO love you, even if they donâ€™t always express it.
By: Anita Levesque
Anita is a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones;Â father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD;Â boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personalityÂ disorders. Her goal is to focus on personal experiencesÂ with mental illness.