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.
Relationships and Mental Illness
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?
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.
You need to set boundaries in relationships-all relationships-and when mental illness is added to the mix, personal boundaries become even more necessary. The boundaries in relationships that include a person with mental illness are both for the person dealing with the illness and those dealing with him/her. But what do those look like, and how can we enforce boundaries in relationships that are so complex?
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.