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Relationships and Mental Illness

Anxiety made me "that annoying friend" early in life. I vividly remember the first time that my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) inserted itself, without invitation, into my relationships. I was in third grade, playing in the sandbox during recess when I found out that Jess (names changed) had invited Katrina to see the new Shrek movie but hadn't extended the invitation to me. I remember being devastated and insecure. For the remainder of recess, I moped around the chain-link fence by myself, kicking up patches of dirt while negative thoughts swarmed my head. Why hadn't she invited me? What was wrong with me? These tentative thoughts soon turned into statements taken as fact. My friends hate me. Nobody likes me. I am an annoying friend and useless. I didn't talk to anyone else for the rest of that day. 
My name is Hannah O’Grady, and I am ecstatic to say that I am the new author for Relationships and Mental Illness here at HealthyPlace. Mental health has played an important role in my life, both personally and professionally. I am eager to combine my passion for writing, relationships, and mental health for my readers, and I look forward to engaging with those who read this site.
Am I happy, manic, or maybe euphoric? Knowing my mood (and what may be causing it) is important to managing bipolar disorder. One of my triggers is interpersonal relationships which are, for many people out there, one of the largest factors in our moods. When things are going well, it can lead to happiness; conversely, when things are going poorly, depression is a real possibility. Today I want to focus on the other side: happiness. Specifically, how does one with mental illness identify what is true happiness, versus a manic or hypomanic phase, or what I call the euphoria of coming out of depression? Am I happy, manic or euphoric? Here's how I decide.
You probably should expect less from people because people are going to disappoint you. Let me repeat that. People are going to disappoint you. This is a widely understood truth in the world and applies to everyone. For those of us with mental illness, the dynamic changes a little bit. Here is why we should expect less from people and why we shouldn't.
The suicide of a loved one, or suicide in general, is a tough thing to talk about. Even sitting here typing, it is a triggering topic for me. Not only have I been close to suicide myself and wished for death more times than I can count, I have also had to deal with the suicides of a couple of people I have been close to. I can only imagine that for many of you out there, it is the same.
I have been in a weird place recently. I am normally a very social person, and I love meeting new people. But I have found, as part of trying to healthily cope with my mental illness, that meeting new people comes with a lot of anxiety. Why? Because getting to know someone new means opening up, which means talking about my illness, which means the very real chance of rejection. This is not only a romantic rejection, but also platonic and professional.
The danger of comparison is very real. Last weekend, I spent some time with a friend for her birthday. Many of her other friends were there, nice people all, and yet I found myself unhappy. Why? I looked around the room and saw happy people. They were smiling, joking with their significant others, discussing their lives, and I felt different. Why didn't I have a significant other? Why don't I make as much money, or have as seemingly nice of a life? Most importantly, why am I stuck with this mental disease when they seem like they have everything together?
I experience social life problems as a man in my 30s. It is hard to create a meaningful social life as an adult under the best of circumstances. It was different as a child or in college, when one was already surrounded by numerous peers, all searching for similar things. At this point in life, meeting new people is hard. For me, as a 30-something single man, it is especially difficult to meet people at the same point in their journeys as I am. Here are some of my social life problems and what I'm doing about them.
Today is the Fourth of July, American Independence Day. After celebrating the holiday with a nap (self-care is always the priority, even on a day filled with barbecues and friends), I turned on the news. I could not have made a worse mistake. The news is always negative and, worse than that, is always triggering for me. After quickly changing the channel to a baseball game I asked myself what I can do to make myself less upset at all of the negativity going on in the world around me.
In a relationship, it is hard when there's one partner with mental illness, and this can take a heavy toll on the relationship. But what if both partners struggle with mental illness? Does this make it easier or harder, and is it something that should be pursued? Should you pursue a partner with mental illness if you have a mental illness too?
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