When your partner doesn't understand your mental illness, it adds an extra level of difficulty to a relationship. I am highly sensitive and feel my emotions deeply and extremely. When depression or anxiety strike, I lose my ability to think rationally. My partner of eight years is a laid-back math teacher who approaches each challenge in life like an equation he can solve. I am an unsolvable equation to him. We enrich each other's lives with our differences, but sometimes it feels like we don't live in the same world. Part of our relationship journey has been accepting that we may always live in different worlds, but with intentional effort, we can build a beautiful bridge between them.
Relationships and Mental Illness
Feeling shame in a relationship can begin a cycle of shame that's debilitating to mental health. An ex-boyfriend once told me I was a liability. My mental health was a risk against his future, and he didn't want his professional friends to know that he dated me. He made it clear that he was ashamed of me.
My name is Juliana Sabatello, and I'm happy to be joining HealthyPlace as a contributor to the "Relationships and Mental Illness" blog. I am 28, a South Florida native, and I studied psychology and human and social development at the University of Miami, and I have a master's in mental health counseling from the University of Central Florida. Like many in the mental health field, I became interested because of my experience with my own mental health early in life. I have had anxiety since early childhood, panic disorder since late adolescence, and my first major depressive episode at age 11. Mental illness has affected every relationship I have ever had.
I joined HealthyPlace as I began to reckon with the mental symptoms of my chronic illness. For years, I struggled with depression that came as a side effect to my steroids, the disordered eating that I developed as a result of my gastrointestinal trouble, and the trauma that came from a lifetime of health problems. But I was never able to treat these symptoms with the same regard as my physical ones. The HealthyPlace community helped me validate my struggle with mental health. But the time of COVID has been especially scary for those of us with chronic illness and I'm struggling to stay on top of my business, my graduate studies, and my health. So, though I will miss my HealthyPlace community, I have decided to leave the Relationships and Mental Illness blog in order to lighten my load a little and protect my physical and mental health.
Two years ago, I went through a breakup with my therapist. I ghosted my therapist when I began to suspect we weren't a good fit. I started small, canceling an appointment here and there. Then I went on vacation. When I came back, I "forgot" to get in touch. But when she reached out, I felt guilty. I scheduled a session. But a few weeks later, I repeated the cycle. Finally, she stopped reaching out. We were done.
Many patients with chronic illnesses find themselves with some amount of medical trauma. When you're a child, it's hard to make sense of surgeries, blood tests, and hours spent in hospitals with the sick and dying. But there's also the medical trauma that, for many of us, could have been avoided if our doctors had been better listeners.
My therapist tells me that my experiences with sexual trauma have changed my taste in men. I've been complaining that my boyfriend doesn't give me what I need; he doesn't crave intimate conversation as I do, likes to mostly be on his own, and doesn't think much about sex. In short, he hardly considers most of the aspects that I believe comprise a relationship.
After being on antidepressants for over 10 years, I have noticed ways in which my antidepressants have impacted my sex drive. It is not uncommon for people to experience a shift in their libido when starting to take medication for their mental health. For some, this shift in sex drive may be apparent and seemingly detrimental to their relationships, while to others, this shift may be smaller (perhaps even negligible). When I first began taking antidepressants at 14, I noticed a drastic decrease in my experienced sexuality that became apparent even to my partners.
Family dinner with disordered eating is always uncomfortable. Here's my deal: I was born with an autoimmune disorder called Behcet's Disease. My symptoms include gastrointestinal ulceration and pain when I eat. This has created a complicated relationship between me and food.