The symptoms of my sexual assault cropped up in unexpected ways, years after the traumatic event. As I slowly came to terms with what happened to me, these symptoms began to interfere with my romantic relationships in a variety of ways, both subtle and overt. I tried to navigate these symptoms and the further I strived to avoid them, the further they popped up unexpectedly and uninvited. Over the years, I have discovered that there are several things that my partner and I can do to help ease my mind and work towards understanding the aftermath of my assault.
Mental Illness Impact on Self
Assertive communication works well when it comes to my communication styles. I have a history of vacillating between aggressiveness and passivity in relationships. Both of these styles come with their downsides and it's been an arduous journey to find an effective middle ground. Assertive communication is my middle ground.
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.
It's important to turn negative self-talk into positive self-talk, especially when you tell yourself things like: "You are a failure!" "You are useless!" "I hate you!" These are things that I hear regularly from myself. "Nobody will ever love you!" "You will never amount to anything!" The voice I use when I speak to myself when I am depressed is not exactly positive. But it can be, and there are ways that I can help ease the process of switching negative self-talk to positive.
Sadly, there are times when love isn't enough in a relationship. There is a song that sometimes plays in my head. It is by Patty Smyth and Don Henley, and it is called Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough. It is hauntingly beautiful, speaking of love and loss, and of when to give up in a relationship. It speaks to when love isn't enough in a relationship.
Should you disclose your mental illness on a job application? When dealing with our mental illnesses, it can be difficult to open up even to our friends and families. Those relationships are typically strong enough to withstand the disclosure of issues that we are having and things we need to help fight them. So what do we do with our professional relationships when we have a mental health disability? When should you disclose your mental illness to an employer?
A healthy relationship with yourself affects your happiness. Only a few short years ago, I was by most definitions incredibly successful. I was making a good living and had achieved my goal of running my own non-profit organization. But I wasn't happy. Since then, I learned that only the relationship with yourself truly matters.
You know when you feel accomplished honoring commitments to yourself? Yesterday was one of those days for me: I wrote for a few hours in my local coffee shop; I did some grocery shopping and cooking; and I called by therapist and my psychiatrist for appointments. I was most pleased by making plans with my treatment team because I'd fallen off for a while and the calls made me feel like I was getting back on track. I'd also stopped going outside to write, so getting out of the house for a period of time was an accomplishment in itself. You may wonder, to what do I owe this burst of self-care energy and why did I honor these commitments to myself. Well, I did it for a man. (What?)
Sex serves many positive functions in a relationship, but you may choose abstinence during bipolar recovery anyway. Sex can bring people to a new level of intimacy, it can provide a physical stress release, or it can simply be about expressing a mutual sexual desire (What Is Healthy Sex?). In spite of these functions, sex can be damaging at times, particularly at various stages of bipolar disorder. Choosing abstinence during bipolar recovery can be a way to remove a trigger from your emotional life.
A family-related mental health relapse becomes more possible in the days approaching Halloween and the winter holiday season. You see, for those of us with mental illness, these holidays may be filled with dread rather than joy and anticipation. Likely, some of our issues with coping emanate from family situations, and we may experience triggers that can cause a mental health relapse when around our family. Many emotions can cause mental health relapse, particularly when experienced during a holiday period full of expectations and various personalities (Anatomy Of A Mental Health Relapse).