Mental Health Stigma in Your Relationship
I know plenty of people who have a mental illness, including myself, and quite often there is a recurring theme of stigma in our relationships with our significant other; where we often feel like a burden to our partner, and when treated poorly, we tend to discern that we do not deserve any better. Having a mental illness can negatively affect your self-esteem and self-worth, which is often reflected in the way we view ourselves and we quite often accept a partner’s behavior that negatively affects our well-being.
My Experience with Stigma in My Intimate Relationship
I once stayed in a relationship for three years, and looking back, I now realize that I was, indeed, emotionally and mentally abused. It took some time, but I now realize that there was a significant amount of stigma in this relationship. He constantly called me names, too harsh to mention on this blog, but many that related to my mental illness. He would tell me that I was crazy, and never took into account my input into the relationship without my so called craziness as his defence. He would constantly call me batty, nuts or off my rocker. He would also threaten to call the police when we had an argument, attesting that he would tell the cops that I had bipolar disorder and they would surely throw me into a padded room. It is terrible to recall the way that I was treated.
After this relationship came to an end, I began to heal and realized I deserved better, and as time went on I became more self-confident and attracted someone that was both understanding and supportive. The true test of love arrived when I was experiencing bipolar psychosis -- I was hallucinating and I saw thorny rose stems and snakes on the pattern of my bed sheet.
My current boyfriend asked me if there was someone we should call for help and together we contacted the crisis line. I was given directions during my intense paranoia and psychosis to take some extra medication, and the emergency response team checked in with my twice via phone to determine if I needed to go to the psychiatric emergency room. I eventually calmed down and I was able to compose myself and then I fell asleep in his arms. My current partner does not tell me what to do, instead he is inquisitive, asks me what I need and he just holds me when I cry.
What Do You Do When You Have Stigma in Your Relationship?
Everybody’s situation is unique and differs from every other relationship. Reflecting on my past, I truly knew in my heart that I was not being treated fairly during this time and I applied some useful tactics that helped me break free from the relationship. Here are some tips on how you can truly tell if there is stigma in your relationship:
- Write about your interactions with your partner and journal often, especially when you are being called names and are the brunt of verbal abuse. Too often we forget, forgive and move on without truly remembering the words that were exchanged. You may eventually begin to see a pattern and be inspired to do something about it.
- Surround yourself with positive people and assess the way you feel when you are around them. Your closest friends are there for you to confide in, and will often be able to tell you if you are being stigmatized. The people who love you the most will be honest with you, even if it is difficult for you to accept.
- Pay attention to the cues -- is your partner calling your words like crazy, insane and nuts? Take a stand for yourself and tell your partner that you will not tolerate the verbal abuse. Nobody likes to hear the word abuse, but that is exactly what it is.
- Offer educational materials for your partner and refer them to HealthyPlace to read the personal stories and opinions of people who live with a mental illness. You will quickly be able to tell if your partner wants to learn and change or if they are satisfied being mired in stigma and treating you with disrespect.
It is very difficult to offer advice on this topic, but when stigma creeps into your relationship, it may be challenging to admit the truth. However, only you can truly tell if your relationship is stigmatized and it is up to you to decide if you want to do something about it.
Paquette, A. (2014, October 18). Mental Health Stigma in Your Relationship, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, July 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2014/10/mental-health-stigma-in-your-relationship
Author: Andrea Paquette
im lost out here by myself........
Sorry but I wanted to correct some information, for whatever it's worth, in my previous post (I'm a stickler for detail you see)
- Princess Alice Battenburg had FOUR daughters (not three) who married royalty but she was not invited to any of their weddings because of the stigma associated with their mother's mental illness although she WAS invited to Queen Elizabeth II's CORONATION, not the Queen's wedding (Prince's Alice's son of course is Prince Phillip). Did you also know that some of the gems in Queen Elizabeth II's engagement ring came from Princess Alice's tiara?
- Princess Alice was abondoned by her family who sent her to a mental institution for two and A HALF years. Although she remained married to her playboy husband 'til the day she died her husband had further abandoned her by taking on various mistresses. She coped with that by becoming a nun. Also, even though she was deaf she managed to learn a number of different languages by reading lips! (Think of Hellen Keller and all that she managed to accomplish in life despite her disabilities)
I always like to learn about how people have overcome adversity in their life. It gives me hope. When I'm having an especially bad day and my self esteem is in the gutter I refer to a list of people I've compiled who have mental illness or other difficulties and I read about their accomplishments and I meditate on it. Now, I realize that I may not ever be able to accomplish even a fraction of the many lofty things that these people have done but I still do believe I am here for a purpose and there is still much I can give to this world if I just learn to focus more on the positive and stop dwelling on the negative... There are so many other stigmas in world besides having a mental illness like being fat, being black, being Muslim, being poor or homeless (think of the movie The Pursuit Of Happiness, based on a true story) but there are also a lot of these same people who have learned to overcome the self esteem issues associated with them by believing they are still good people worthy of love and respect. Don't let ANYONE ever make you believe you are less than! You are a child of God and he doesn't make junk. Sorry but I'm rambling on now so I'm gonna stop. Nuf said.
I recently saw a very interesting PBS biography on the life of Prince Charles mother, Princess Alice Battenburg. She was deaf and also suffered from mental illness. It made me very sad to learn how she was was abandoned by her family and sent to a
mental institution for a number of years. She wasn't allowed to attend her 3 daughters weddings. Her girls all married German royalty (some even had affiliations with Hitler's army). Princess Alice was stigmatized for having a mental illness. Surprizingly though she was able to attend Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles wedding but not in the usual way. She came as a nun dressed in a long flowing grey outfit. Her spirituality which was considered over the top greatly contributed to her being institutionalized. She did however do some very commendable things such save some Jews (who were discriminated against) from being killed by the Natzi's by hiding them. She also helped the poor (sort of like Mother Theresa). She even started her own order of nuns. She was born in Buckingham palace and also died there as well (She only lived the last two years of her life at the palace) and I believe she was buried in the Holy Land.
Absolutely NO ONE in my family goes to church and they tend to belittle anyone who does. I've noticed that church attendance seems to be dwindling in many places these days. I suspect it has a lot to do with the many highly publicized sexual abuse cases involving children and members of the clergy. I too was sexually abused but by a family member. I rarely attend church but I still believe in God. I sometime watch religious TV shows and they give me hope and inspiration. I saw Nick Vujicic (the guy with no arms and no legs) on The Hour Of Power show and on On the Life Today I saw a young girl who also struggles with a physical illness. There's even a youtube video of this young lady that labels her the ugliest girl in the world. Now granted these people have a physical problem but just think how much they must have suffered mentally as a result and were also stigmatized. Even though we have bipolar disorder we MUST find a way to believe in ourselves and if believing in a loving God can get you there then I say all the more power to you!!!
Thanks for the comment. I hope it helped in some way! :)
Ty so much for sharing your story. It resonated with me on so many levels.
My Wife has told me that she doesn't want me discussing my bipolar illness with anyone publicly because she's afraid of how it would affect her being that she's a public figure (public school teacher). She's also afraid it will deter other families from sending their children over to play with our children.
When it comes to discussions, conversations or arguments she always throws out that some of my behaviors not "normal" or "typical". She tends to "diagnose" me if we have an argument, after she's pushed my buttons, and will say that I'm rapid cycling or that I'm manic. She's also told me that her family wants her to divorce me, she's made statements about neighbors not "doing well with bipolar people," and that she thinks I use my illness as a crutch too much.
I admit, I have my issues, but if I say one nasty thing to her, she claims that I'm verbally abusing her.
Very frustrated and at my wits end.
I feel your pain and always find it difficult to offer any solid 'advice' when it comes to this subject. As I said, everyone's situation is unique, but you are obviously very aware that you are experiencing stigma in your relationship. Have you talked to your wife about this issue honestly and told her that her behavior is damaging to your well-being? When someone truly loves you, they won't belittle you and make you feel uneasy about your illness, but if they do love you, then they just do not know they are stigmatizing you. You seem like a really sensible guy and admit that you have your issues, but from what I have read this treatment is just plain unfair. Consider some of the tips I provided and assess if this relationship is one you want to devote your energy to. Keep in touch and let me know how things work out ok? Hug at ya! Andrea