Many people are disheartened by the prospect of living with someone who is struggling with a mental disorder. Sadly, people tend to avoid others who suffer from depression or schizophrenia. As unlikely as it might sound, my partner’s mental illness actually helped me discover myself. This might sound selfish at first glance, so allow me to explain.
Understanding the Situation
Navigating a romantic relationship while suffering from mental illness is hard even when the truth is out there in the open. But my significant other hid his disorder from me for the longest time, hoping that it will never again get bad enough for me to notice. Needless to say, it eventually happened. He started having psychotic breaks and I was too scared to confront him about it.
But when my partner started exhibiting the catatonic symptoms of schizophrenia, I knew I had to do something. However, he was already unresponsive at this point, so I had to call an ambulance. They took him in and tried to explain what was happening, but I was at a loss for words. Knowing what I know now, I couldn’t possibly understand the situation back then.
Defeating the Stigma
Recent studies have demonstrated that more than half of the people struggling with mental illness hold the firm belief that others do not see them as reliable partners, and thus would not engage in romantic relationships with them. This leads most of them to hide their condition out of fear of being stigmatized and ostracized.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what my partner did. And because I had no idea what he was going through, I reacted in the worst way possible: I panicked and told him I needed a break. However, immediately after this, I felt like I needed to know more, not only about him and his condition but about myself as well. Why did I react like that? Was I a terrible person?
So, I did a lot of soul searching and a lot of research as well, and when I was ready I came back to him. He was understandably skeptical about it. He had lost his trust in me, and I deserved it. But with a lot of patience and willingness from the both of us, we managed to mend our relationship. We’re still working on it every day, but so are the people who didn’t go through what we did. If anything, this experience has made us stronger and more honest.
Never Give Up
In many ways, my partner and his condition made me a better person. I am now more equipped to understand delicate situations such as his, and I even started a support group for the spouses and partners of people struggling with mental illness. Some people might call such an initiative useless, while others see it as downright selfish. But it is far from that.
Even though your partner is going through an infinitely harder time than you are, you need to acknowledge your struggles and cope with them in a healthy way. By doing this, you will be able to provide your significant other with the support they need to handle their disorder, and your relationship will not be affected as a result.
I had to discover myself, but most importantly educate myself, to be the person I had always promised him I would be. Sadly, you will never know how you react in the face of such a situation until you are directly confronted with one. I reacted poorly, but you don’t have to. Just remember to be there for your loved one when they need you, and never give up.