Quick – show of hands on how many people striving for wellness have pushed someone away they did not want to hurt or burden because of what goes on in their head? Oh right, you’re over there. Well, I know the sentiment is quite common because I hear about it constantly. I understand where you are coming from. I’ve done it myself in the past. Today I understand that I was wrong for a number of reasons. There is no reason why we, the mentally ill, cannot have fulfilling and loving relationships. The way we approach our relationships needs to be different than what would be considered typical.
*But I Don’t Want To Hurt The People I Love
No matter what you do the other person is going to hurt from time to time. Hurting, pain, and misunderstandings are all normal parts of a relationship. Navigating the choppy waters and forgiving are what make a relationship successful. Besides, your partner has a brain of their own. They can decide for themselves if they feel like they are in over their heads. Granted, our challenges are different. All you’re doing is changing the flavor of those challenges by pushing them towards someone else.
*But How Do We Make It Work Then
– The Well Partner – Learn to identify the symptoms of when you’re partner is unwell. Remember that their perception will be skewed. They will say and do things based on what their mind is telling them is true. Unfortunately, there are many times we do not realize we are in an unwell period until we’re looking back on the smoking ruins wondering what happened. You must learn to not take everything your unwell partner says to heart. When they re-balance, it is quite likely that their opinion will completely change again. Try to forge an agreement where you will handle the major responsibilities while your partner is unbalanced.
– The Unwell Partner – Do you trust your significant other? If you do, then you have a powerful tool to assist in finding and maintaining your balance. Help them understand what your indicators are. That way you have a person that you can trust to say “Hey, are you getting unwell?” rather than trying to figure it out on your own. You need to understand that during your unwell periods reality is not going to be as your brain is telling you. Do not make snap decisions and then follow through on them immediately. Clarify and search for the absolute truth at the core of every perception. Do this long enough and you will start doing it out of habit.
*Always Search For The Absolute, Core Truth Of Perception
One of my favorite metaphors that is applicable is that of the dark car. You and a friend see a dark car pass. One says “that’s a pretty black car”. The other says “no that’s navy blue”. The absolute core truth is that there is a car. The individual’s perception is dictating whether it is black or navy blue and they respond accordingly. Now we apply that to a life circumstance.
You’re a Bipolar man and you go to pick up your wife from work. As she’s leaving, your wife hugs a male coworker. An unwell mind can take this a number of directions. “She must be cheating, I’m going to cave his face in” or “I knew she would eventually leave me. I can’t deal with this shit anymore. It would be better if I was dead so she can be free.” Both of those lines of thought are based on your perception of the situation.
The core, absolute truth is that she simply hugged someone. Maybe he had a baby. Maybe someone he loved died. All you have to go on is what you witnessed and how your mind is perceiving it. Instead of reacting immediately on the thoughts to either attack him or commit suicide; back up to the core truth and just ask about it. An unwell thought process will rarely match up with what reality actually is.
It’s not about turning someone you love into your caretaker. It’s about confronting the problem together with a cohesive plan and course of action. You will have plenty of opportunities to return that care and understanding later on. When you’re well, you do what you can to lighten the load of your partner so they have time to recuperate. Your relationship will fail if you cannot let your partner in to understand your illness. To succeed, both parties need to learn how to manage a relationship with mental illness present. You can succeed and enjoy a happy relationship.