One of the biggest struggles I’ve found as I’ve tried to cope with my mental health this year has been dating. Apart from the fact antidepressants temporarily obliterated my sex drive (hiya Mum, maybe stop reading now to avoid any gory details), it’s so hard to help someone understand anxiety and depression when I don’t understand them myself.
Not only that, but every time I get dumped (always the dumpee, never the dumper – go figure) my questionable self esteem takes another knock, and I’m left feeling a few steps further back than before.
Does that mean I’ve chosen to forsake dating? Certainly not. With mental illness, the most important thing is to have people around to love and support you, and that includes romantic relationships.
I’ve kissed my fair share of frogs, but I’m optimistic I’ll find my Prince Charming. If you’re in the same situation and don’t know how to articulate to your partner how you feel, or you are dating someone with depression or anxiety and want to know how to support them, I hope this helps.
We don’t expect you to understand. Until you’ve felt crippled with anxiety thinking about something that has already happened (or may never happen), or found yourself unable to get out of bed for days at a time then it can be pretty hard to ‘get it’. And that’s okay.
Instead of trying to understand, educate yourself as much as you can. Learn about the small things that can help. If we were diabetic you’d know that we always need an insulin pen with us. If we have anxiety, it might be a case of remembering that some places are a no-go for us, or sometimes we just need to be left alone.
In the same vein, things we are worried about don’t have to make sense. Anxiety and depression are irrational illnesses, so we will feel things sometimes that even we know are ridiculous. All you can do is remind us calmly that they are not true. Feeling irritated by our silly worries won’t do anything to help us quell them.
Please realise that we aren’t insecure or jealous – it’s our illness. The thing about anxiety is that our minds will always race to the worst possible scenario. If you don’t answer your phone, we might think you’re with someone else, or that something bad has happened to you. This doesn’t mean you have to constantly be at our beck and call, or explain your every move. But be considerate – if you know you’ll be uncontactable, or that a scenario could look bad, then a simple explanation will set our minds at ease.
Something small to you can feel massive for us. Some people with anxiety can’t handle everyday things like using public transport, or walking down a busy street. On bad days, please remember that we are not trying to be awkward or unreasonable.
Remind us why you love us. Depression tells us that we are worthless, while anxiety makes us feel that everyone hates us. Be generous with the compliments, as sometimes we really need them. It should be easy to tell someone you love them, and we’ll try to do the same.
Remember that our illness does not define us. You might read this post and think, wow, why would anyone want to date someone with mental illness (or maybe that’s just my anxiety talking)? But if you are dating someone with anxiety or depression, you’ll know that there’s so much more to your loved one than their illness. When they can’t find themselves in their worst moments, you really can make all the difference – even if you feel helpless.
There will always be good days and bad days, but you can help make the good outnumber the bad.
From all of us with anxiety and depression, thanks for standing by us,