Something that has been weighing on my mind a lot lately is the difficulty of dating in your twenties with a mental illness.
This is not to perpetuate the stereotype that people who struggle with depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions cannot function in a healthy and stable relationship.
That is just not true.
There are plenty of ways to thrive in a stable, loving relationship, despite dealing with your own stress, or health issues of any kind.
This is a topic that has been popping up in the news lately, with SNL star, Pete Davidson, being criticized for his new relationship with singer Ariana Grande. Some fans are saying that because of his diagnosis of BPD, he won’t be able to stay in a serious relationship. He of course, fired back, stating that “Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can’t be happy and in a relationship. It also doesn’t mean that person makes the relationship toxic.”
I am not claiming to be an expert on relationships, I have simply had this topic weighing on my mind a lot recently.
I have had my own person struggles when it comes to maintaining a relationship alongside your mental illness. It’s certainly possible to have a healthy relationship, but it is a lot more difficult when you are struggling to take care of yourself.
In my experience, there are so many contributing factors to the stress of a relationship when you have a mental illness of any kind, to deal with.
Social Media Pressures
As a millennial, social media has been at the forefront of our generation. We use social media to communicate, to reach out to friends and family near and far, and to let the “world” know what we are thinking.
There are micro elements to facebook and instant messaging that there weren’t in the past that can add stress to the mind of someone with acute anxiety, OCD, BPD or any sort of mental illness that creates constant worry or paranoia.
One of those elements is that when you message someone, you can immediately see whether or not they have “read” the message. Then, if they have read the message, but they do not respond, you know they are ignoring you. This puts pressure on your relationships, causes paranoia and all sorts of hell in the mind of a person who is prone to anxiety.
Social media allows us to constantly check up on our peers from afar at the touch of a button. We can cyber stalk each other and it has become the norm.
Instagram and Facebook have added pressure to be beautiful, with their constant encouragement to post filtered photos and get “likes” from friends.
We are constantly seeking gratification. This type of environment can cause anxiety in anyone, let alone someone who is sensitive to it.
However stressful our generation’s way of communicating and technology has made dating, there are ways to overcome it.
Someone with a mental illness in a relationship may need extra validation that they are wanted in the relationship. They may need a little extra acknowledgement that they are still loved, even if it seems irrational or it seems that they are being paranoid. For someone with anxiety, I know that in relationships I get to a point where I am constantly wondering whether I am still wanted or if I am just being “annoying,” and for some, there can even be abandonment issues.
Communication is key
Communication is everything for a person struggling with their mental health. This goes for both partners in the relationship. Each time my relationship has failed, it has been because I haven’t been clear about what I need in terms of space, acknowledgement of my feelings, or I haven’t properly educated my partner about what I’m going through. Don’t assume your partner is an expert on your mental health.
Set Clear Boundaries for the Relationship
I have gone into relationships in the past with completely different expectations than my partner, and it has ended in complete chaos. Always make sure that you clearly define your expectations on both sides, and you know what you’re getting into, whether it’s a friends with benefits situation, a commitment or just casual dating. If you need to take things slowly, that’s totally fine and normal, just let your partner know so they don’t go in with a completely different idea of what’s happening. Having different expectations and unexpectedly being let down can be devastating to a person dealing with a mental health condition.