Companionship is something we all crave so deeply. Even the tiniest preemie babies will grow stronger if they are held often. Most of us still feel that deep pull to other people on lonely nights, long after childhood. We are desperate not to be alone.
My first serious relationship, like so many other people, was with someone who was all-wrong for me. Not only did we disagree on critical issues like smoking, strip clubs and feminism, more importantly he fundamentally misunderstood my Mental Illness, Bipolar Disorder.
From this relationship, I learned a fear of being dramatic, of faking my illness, of doing things for attention. This fear was not something in me before I met him. I worried so deeply that he was right when he accused me of these things, that I didn’t seek the help I desperately needed. I drugged my sleep and cut my skin, but that only made his words feel more concrete. I dreaded his judgment about my own weakness because I had locked myself away from those who saw his manipulation for what it was.
In a time in my life when I was trying to figure out how to live with my illness, not constantly fight and hide it, this partner was probably the worst man on a planet to choose. He ended it for me by finding someone else, and I thank the Universe that he did.
Three years later I am a new person. I am proud of who I am, including my illness, and I fiercely defend those who I see falling prey to the same mind games as I did. No matter who you are, Mental Illness or not, you are entitled to your emotions. As long as you express them with respect for your partner, with a pure heart that’s looking only to your other half for understanding, no emotion is wrong.
For those of us struggling with Anxiety or Mood issues, I cannot stress how important it is to find someone to share your life with who truly believes that you are not lesser than him because of your illness. You are not less intelligent, you are not weak.
You have, in fact, the ability to grow an amazing sense of empathy for others through your own struggles. Everyone has felt anxiety, sadness or mania in a lesser form than we do every day. And if you can live with the intensity of your own brain and you can thrive with it, you can offer so much to any partner smart enough to treat you as an equal.
I know now that there are people out there, who have experienced similar difficulties in the past and want to share them with you in the future. There are others who are just willing to work their asses off to understand enough to help you through without tearing you down.
Stigma shouldn’t exist, but you can’t change the world all at once. You can, however choose to be with someone who doesn’t push you to question yourself even more than the rest of society already does. There are amazing men and women out there who will support you through thick, thin, rich, poor, Anxiety and Depression.
Don’t you dare settle for anything less.
Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and has been working as a Mental Health Anti-Stigma advocate for the past two years. She writes a regular column for Healthy Minds Canada and gives speeches and lectures about her experiences with Bipolar Disorder. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog. You can connect with her on Twitter (@SarahsMoods) or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com.