Relationships and Mental Health
By: Maddy Rambeau
I’ve written before about how mental health affects friendships, but recently I’ve realized that there is a major difference in how mental health affects friendships versus how mental health affects romantic relationships. I’ve had my fair share of troubles with both my mental health and my love life, but I’ve come to realize that they both might be simultaneously affecting each other. So, here’s what I have to say about mental health and relationships.
I’ve reflected back on my past few teenage years and have realized that they have been full of messy relationships and an unstable mental health. I’ve noticed that at times where my mental health state was at an all time low, I was also making bad choices in my love life during that same time period. I’ve come to realize that it isn’t because I’m a bad person or even a bad girlfriend, but it’s due to my set of destructive behavioral patterns stemming from mental illnesses. I’ve become aware that many others have gone through the same thing I have, which perfectly shows the necessity for this topic to be talked about.
Vicious cycles don’t make for happy and healthy relationships, yet I see them happening all the time. While it is true that a crappy boyfriend will undoubtedly have a negative effect on your mental health, I believe that it is your mental health that will lead to unfortunate occurrences in your love life. Personally, mental illnesses often cause me to make bad decisions, exhibit impulsive behavior, lack good communication skills, have dramatic mood swings, and also want to be alone, which leads to unreliability and isolation. Sounds like perfect girlfriend material right? Haha, well not really. I’ve really only been able to maintain one serious relationship, while all the others were short lived flings. I’m sure you don’t want to hear all the details of my love life, but I feel as if it is important to tell my story so that others don’t feel alone. You’re not alone in your struggle with mental health and loving others, thousands of other people are having the same problem - they just don’t publish an article on it.
While it is not good to make excuses based off your mental health, it does explain behavioral patterns, and in this case, relationship patterns. Cheating, frequent flings, unhealthy sex life, “on and off” relationships, and more can all be related in someway to mental health. You may notice in your own life how some patterns are related. Mental illnesses can make a person very fickle and that makes relationships a disaster at times. I’ve had dozens of other mentally ill people tell me the same thing; they have problems with their mental health that directly affect their relationship or ability to formulate a new relationship. Trust me, I’m not trying to say that if you’re mentally ill, you’re basically doomed for a life full of unsatisfactory relationships. I’m just saying that there is a strong connection between mental health and relationships, whether romantic or platonic. Once you are able to see the connection, you are then able to do something about it, like seeing a therapist/psychologist to start treatment. The teenage years are troubled enough in relationships without mental health issues, so when coupled with mental health problems, it can be even more complicated.
The good news is that it won’t always be like this. Once your mental health is stable, other things in your life will start to follow. It’s amazing how much you are able to transform your life once you make that first step to get help. You might have to endure several sucky relationships and break some hearts along the way, but one day you’ll be okay. The most important part is to start early. There is a difference in having a severely unstable love life at age 16 than it is at age 30. While relationships will always be a challenge, it doesn’t have to be because of your mental illness. You’ll be able to make someone else happy only once you are happy with yourself. There is nothing pretty about hurting someone else because you are hurting on the inside. If you have a mental illness, you are more than likely to see it affect your relationships. Don’t fear though, you can overcome it. You are extremely capable of having a life of fulfilling relationships. It is 100% possible to have both a mental illness and a happy, healthy relationship at the same time. Marriage is definitely in the picture, you can do it.
Personally, I’ve been able to work towards stopping my cycle of bad behaviors and make things better in my (previously on and off, but now healthy and happy) relationship with someone who loves me dearly. I’m only a teenager, but imagine how bad it would have been to have it continue on into my adult years. I’m starting college this year and I’m so glad I am able to start it with the ability to maintain healthy relationships and friendships under my belt. You don’t want to ruin something with someone you love who you could have had a future with all because of your mental health. This is why it is important to notice the connection between mental health and relationships early on. You can put an end to toxic behaviors while you’re young, which will make it easier when you’re older. Also, make sure that the person you are involved with will have a positive impact on your mental health. You don’t want to be in a relationship (or friendship) with someone who will make matters worse for you. Find out sooner rather than later if a person is going to have a good or bad effect on your mental health. The people you are around the most and the people that you love will have the biggest effect on your mental health, so choose wisely. Look out for yourself, but also look out for others. If you know that you are not in a good place mentally, don’t jump into a relationship. It will only hurt you (and possibly someone else) in the end. I guess this piece sounds like an advice column, but I felt like it needed to be said.