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By Katie Cunha

The Troubles of Dating with a Mental Illness

Dealing with a mental illness alone is hard enough. Having to constantly battle your physiological problems so they do not negatively effect your relationship with someone else may be even more challenging.

I always told myself that I would never date anyone until I sorted out things within myself. But as the years of depression dragged on, I realized there might never be a time when I could be happy enough with myself to want to be happy with another individual. I wasn't ever avidly seeking a significant other, so the worry of scaring someone off because of my mental illnesses was never a huge concern.

I never took interest in other people, but I just assumed it was my depression and negative outlook on life causing me to believe everybody sucked. I never saw past the surface because I was afraid of people looking past mine and seeing how unhappy I was. It was half depression and half anxiety that caused this. My anxiety made it nearly impossible to reach out to others who I wanted to potentially befriend, let alone date.

I was pushing eighteen and I had never been in a relationship, had never been kissed and the idea of sex literally traumatized me. When my little crushes on someone would appear, they would immediately die within the same breath because I never felt like it was realistic to pursue a relationship with anyone.

When I finally met someone, there was internal conflict. There is an indescribable feeling in finally taking interest in something after you have lost interest in everything you have ever enjoyed. I started to actually look forward to going to school and slowly stopped having panic attacks every morning at the thought of it. As we have been dating for a long time now, here are a few things I've personally experienced.

I feel as though my significant other is constantly more successful than me. This is because my depression makes it very hard for me to motivate myself to do simple daily tasks like eating and showering, let alone searching for a job or planning for the future. As your significant other succeeds, you obviously want to match your success to theirs because part of being in a relationship is being equal with each other.

This isn't a bad thing, though. I was a completely average student. I never took AP or honors classes because I knew my mental breakdowns were habitual and I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew. I went to school, then returned home immediately afterwards. I wasn't in a single club, sport, or extracurricular activity. You'd have a better chance of seeing a pig fly than catching me at a dance or a football game.

The person I found interest in was in all AP courses, played in three different sports, was president of a couple of clubs and participated in weekly community service. I desperately wanted to spend time with them, so I found myself doing something I never thought I'd do: after-school activities. I went to every single one of their games to catch a couple glances. I racked up over fifty hours of community service in a little over a month. A little part of me found absolute joy in all of it.

All of this time and dedication occurred before they even showed one iota of interest in me. The real shit show began months later, when they finally confessed they had a crush on me. I retracted slightly, not knowing where to go next. My PTSD had made me very uncomfortable with the idea of affection, so much so I convinced myself I was an aromatic/asexual just so I wouldn't have to explain to people why I feared it so much.

I was afraid that by hesitating and pulling away whenever they'd try to make a move would discourage them from trying and convince them I wasn't interested. And it did. I never liked explaining to people why I was the way I am, and I never felt it necessary to. I made the decision to open up to them because if I hadn't, they would have given up completely.

It was very hard at first to accept their affection. I feel like I'm every other insecure teenager, except on steroids. Even when they would look at me I would feel immediate discomfort, and don't even get me started on physical affection. We'd been taking for several months before I could even wrap my head around the idea of kissing them.

The first couple times I hated it. I hated it because I felt like I was doing a horrible job and because I didn't like the idea of someone seeing me so closely. It took a very long time for me to get completely comfortable, but I can honestly say that being one hundred percent comfortable with the person you love is one of the best feelings in the world.

Suffering from anxiety may be the worst in a relationship. I am constantly paranoid about them finding my mental illnesses too overbearing to deal with. I worry they won't like me tomorrow. I consistently find myself worrying about them when we're not together, even if it's only been a couple hours. I stress that they'll find my inability to speak for myself "child-like." And I fear that they'll take me being unmotivated to mean I do not want to be an independent person like the rest of our functioning society.

Seeking constant reassurance can be tiring, and can be misconceived as being insecure about the state of a relationship. Truth is, I'm not afraid about the relationship, I'm afraid of that person actually showing me the time of day and I need the consolation that this all isn't one big practical joke.

I am not trying to romanticize mental illness. The whole process of me becoming comfortable with my significant other was a tough one, and it is still in the works. None of the self-doubt was remotely "cute" or "quirky." I did not find pleasure in confessing the extent of my depression and suicidal thoughts. They did not fix everything "broken" inside of me and didn't fill this large void. I am suffering everyday and I am avidly trying to fix myself, for myself – and for the relationship.

If you take away anything from this, make it this: do not try to find somebody else to fix your problems, or to distract you from them. Things might feel okay when you're together, but the second you step away from the relationship and you're left alone…you'll realize that none of the problems actually disappeared.

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