If you want to get on my bad side (for a few weeks, at least), appropriating my mental health is the swiftest and surest way to land yourself there. When I use the word "appropriate" I mean the seizing and claiming of something for oneself, in this context, a mental disorder.
Mental Illness Impact on Others
I wish I knew better when my friend was suicidal. I was 12 years old. My brown curls were cut into sharp bangs that crossed my forehead, identical to the bangs of my best friend who sat facing me. She didn't look any different from the last time I saw her, still pale, still skinny. She wore a sweatshirt. And under the sleeves of that sweatshirt, I knew there were scars up and down the length of her arms. Three weeks prior, my friend was suicidal and she made her most recent suicide attempt. It was not her first nor her last. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
Being in a relationship with a partner who is experiencing suicidal ideations can be emotionally taxing and daunting. There is this complicated pattern in my dating life in that the partners I loved most threatened suicide at least once. I am still trying to figure out exactly why I am drawn to individuals who experience such turmoil. Perhaps it is because I had ideations when I was in high school, and I feel like these partners understand me. Maybe I cannot compartmentalize the social worker in me when it comes to dating, and I want to try and "save" everyone I meet. Regardless, here are the things I wish I had known when I dated someone who threatened suicide. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
You can cope with eating disorder triggers even though, as I often describe an eating disorder, there is a stubborn, little monster in the back of your head. It may lay dormant for days, months, even years, but when it arises, it wreaks havoc.
My relationship with sex after trauma hasn't been a good one. You see, when I was 16, I got drunk at a concert. On the train ride home, I drifted off. When I woke up, a stranger's hand was in my underwear. I pushed his hand away and he sped into the next train car. My reaction was a feeling of shame; I blamed myself for the sexual assault. I shouldn't have gotten drunk; I shouldn't have worn a skirt; I should have been more responsible. With the support of my parents, I eventually reported the incident, but the shame remained.
There are several effects selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might have on your relationships. Here are three common ways an SSRI might affect your romantic relationships.
My cycle of restriction has the ability to hurt my relationships. Take today, for instance.
It's good for me to self-disclose about my mental illnesses earlier in relationships rather than later. You see, when I received my diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and began taking antidepressants in middle school, I felt my identity shift. Finally, I had a name and a treatment for the frustrating and complicated symptoms I had experienced since I could first walk and talk. For so long, my identity and mental health were inextricably intertwined, and they still are.
Anxiety made me "that annoying friend" early in life. I vividly remember the first time that my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) inserted itself, without invitation, into my relationships. I was in third grade, playing in the sandbox during recess when I found out that Jess (names changed) had invited Katrina to see the new Shrek movie but hadn't extended the invitation to me. I remember being devastated and insecure. For the remainder of recess, I moped around the chain-link fence by myself, kicking up patches of dirt while negative thoughts swarmed my head. Why hadn't she invited me? What was wrong with me? These tentative thoughts soon turned into statements taken as fact. My friends hate me. Nobody likes me. I am an annoying friend and useless. I didn't talk to anyone else for the rest of that day.
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.