Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Guest Post: Dating Someone With Depression and Mental Illness

When I first started messaging with him on OKCupid, I liked how much he made me laugh. I was chatting with a few different men at the time but I always looked forward to his conversation the most. We would talk about a random assortment of things and I appreciated that he never brought up sex.

We communicated for about a week or so before I agreed to go on a date with him. By agree, I mean that he beat me terribly in a game of Words with Friends and wanted a date as his reward.
"Awesome! So no pressure but if we played for a date then not only would that be an incredible story to tell or future kids...but then I could quite literally win your heart"
How could I resist?

Our first date didn’t start out well but by the end of the night, I was pretty taken with him. From that point on, we spent what time we could together and I was always so taken aback by how forward he was in the sense that he wasn’t afraid to talk about a future with me. I was always the one who fell first and the hardest but here was this person who casually brought up our future home and children after knowing me for a couple of weeks. He always said he just knew.

Two months later, we were official.

On maybe two or three occasions, he hinted at a stint in a hospital and a dark time. He never went into much detail except to tell me how he was grateful for overcoming it. I didn’t really give it too much thought. He seemed fine. Why would I?

It wasn’t until we moved in together that I realized that he, in fact, was not fine. A few weeks or so into our new living arrangement, there was a change. He was constantly on edge, he stayed up all night long, stopped taking care of himself. He didn’t want to be touched, didn’t want to leave the house. I wanted to leave him.

Then one day, I got a text message from him. He apologized for his behavior. He told me that his depression and PTSD were back. The man who constantly made me laugh, wrestled me for half an hour for the remote, and loved touching me and kissing me was gone.

I had two choices… I could leave him or I could be understanding. I chose the latter and, needless to say, it hasn’t been an easy experience. It’s been a rollercoaster of good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks, good months and bad months. But here’s what I’ve learned:

Reevaluate Your Expectations

I’m a romantic. I like long kisses and frequent touches. I like well-planned dates and stars in eyes. I had expectations. He had created expectations and it’s been nearly two years of those expectations not being met. That adjustment is hard. But not his fault.

The medication helps. Seeing a doctor helps. But those expectations, they’re slowly receding. You can’t expect constant cuddling from a person who, sometimes, can’t stand to be touched. You can’t expect weekly nights out from someone who, sometimes, can’t bear to leave the apartment. Surprise flowers can’t be expected of someone stuck in his own head, consumed with his own internal dialogue.

Be Mindful

Sarcasm is my second language and playfulness is my third. I, admit, I’m not always careful with my words. As a rule, I assume that most people with social awareness are able to recognize and process facetious statements for what they are. He can’t. My casually tossed out, “you sucks” and “ugh, worst boyfriend everrrrrs” are taken to heart and internalized.

They intensify his anxiety level. His depression translates it as, “I’m failing as a boyfriend.” I’ve had to learn to be more mindful of how I express myself with him because you can’t be glib with someone who’s constantly waiting for a reason to hate himself.

Don’t Take it Personally

As an incredibly sensitive person, it was so difficult for me not to take everything to heart. I assumed he no longer found me desirable, interesting, or attractive. I assumed I had done something wrong each time he grew quiet or unresponsive. It not only made my own issues with insecurity and self-doubt increase but it once more made him feel like he was failing.

He’s Capable of Love

Sometimes, it feels like there’s no way he could possibly love me. If he loved me, he wouldn’t forget the things I asked him to remember, he would pay more attention, he would compliment me more, he would touch me more, he would… do more. But some days, he just can’t.

On those days, I have to remember his love. I have to remember his commitment and loyalty even if I can’t see it. Even if it’s buried below his doubt and hopelessness. Even if it’s hidden behind his ego-centrism and anxiety.

Like I said, a roller-coaster of good and bad. But…I wouldn’t want to be on this ride with anyone but him. If I didn’t love him the way that I love him…if he didn’t love me to way that he loves, I would have jumped off this ride long ago. While it was moving. Going 100 miles-per-hour. It’s exhausting and not for the faint of heart but love makes it doable. 

My name is Sheree Brand and I currently write over at askhersister.com and shereesbrand.com. In my free time, when I’m not blogging, I’m a writer of romantic gibberish, hilarious nonsense, and lists to rival any lists. I’m also a devourer of books. Mostly the trashy, romantic kind. I love music, art, affordable fashion and makeup, and staring aimlessly off into space when I should be doing work. I believe, wholeheartedly in leaving the world a better place than I found it- even if that just means making a few people laugh every once in a while.

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