This guest blog post is by Abby. Abby is a 25 year old woman from the North of England working in the public sector. She has been with her boyfriend for seven years and they live together in Sheffield.
Recently I have had my perceptions changed. Having mental health problems is something that I’ve tried my hardest to get used to and have come to a (sort of) peace with. But I wonder how many people being treated for mental health problems are also in a relationship with someone else undergoing treatment?
If 1 in 4 people will suffer some form of mental health problem in their lifetime, surely it’s not that uncommon for a couple to go through that together? If it is, you don’t tend to hear about it much.
Being with someone who has mental health problems when you’re dealing with your own is, well, interesting, to say the least.
I spent most of my time at university struggling with bulimia, but never told a soul until I got truly desperate. I’ve had prolonged periods of depression for as long as I can remember, but have always done my utmost to hide it until recently. The person I tried to hide it from most was the one I’m closest to, my boyfriend.
The difference between us was that when he began having problems, due to the condition he was fighting, there was no hiding it. I don’t think it’s appropriate to go into his specific illness here, suffice to say it consumed his every waking moment and caused him extreme distress for a long time. Luckily, nearly a year later and with a lot of hard work, he is now getting the help he needs and I have been referred to a carer’s network.
During this time I’ve gained insight into what it’s like living with someone battling mental health problems, who, for whatever reason, has no-one except you for support. Now I understand what, in spite of my attempts, I have put him through in the past. Now I understand how helpless and hopeless it feels to watch someone fall to pieces right in front of you and to be unable to offer them any answers. I understand the urge to tell someone to just stop, when you know full well that they can’t.
It’s a strange space we occupy now, both keeping up to date with one another’s treatment, talking medication and therapy, triggers, side-effects, symptoms. You might not expect it, but we live a very happy life together. If people knew about us, they’d assume we were bad for one another, that we drag each other down, drive each other up the wall.
The truth is, and I have maintained this for many years, that without him, I would be in an institution, or dead. People probably read that and think I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not. I mean it. He’s the reason I’m still here, I have a job, friends and a great life.
I can’t speak for him, but I don’t think it’s my fault this has happened to him, thinking back there were subtle flickers of this all along, I just never thought anything of it until it came out in full technicolour. With surround-sound.
It might seem like a nightmare from the outside, and sometimes it is. When we’re really in the grip of things it can feel like we’re both just lost to the world and one another. But we’re very rarely in that place at the same time.
For the most part, even though we have different problems, it is a comfort. When you’re going through such an isolating, desolate place, to look across and see someone – not a stranger, but someone you know inside out – going through their own wilderness, it is strangely reassuring. Of course, you each want to drag the other out of it, and you help one another as best you can, but you know it is a long, difficult journey. The important thing is that you see each other through, and I know that we will.
The name Abby is a pseudonym, used at the request of the author.