Love, Caring and Mental Illness

CN: ableism

I hate Dr. Phil for a lot of reasons. I dedicated an entire blog to his stigmatisation of mental illness a while back. You can find that here. Now he’s at it again.

Recently, Dr Phil said that “100 out of 100 relationships that involve caregiving fail. You can be his caregiver. Or his lover. You can’t be both.” This has inspired an amazing hashtag called #100outof100 in which couples that involve a care giving element share photos and stories about their relationship. You should definitely check it out.

I considered doing a post for #100outof100. I even started writing it. But then I realised that what I wanted to say extended far beyond the confines of an Instagram caption. So here we are.

J and I have been together 10 years in May. We are both 24. That is almost half our lives. Has it always been easy? No. Have my mental illnesses presented unique challenges? Definitley. Has that ever caused them to stop loving me? Absolutely not.

J and I met in high school through a mutual friend; my childhood best friend and their classmate. We hit it off immediately. It wasn’t love at first sight exactly. But I remember going to bed that night thinking ‘I think I just met the most important person I am ever going to meet’.

We became best friends. We both were head over heels for each other. But neither had the courage to admit it at the risk of ruining our friendship. We both pursued other romantic options, partially as a way to test how the other would react. But also, to put in in J’s words ‘I thought you were too good for me so I kind of gave up’.

So it went on. After school, we would catch the train as a loop so we could spend more time together. We floated in different crowds at school, so we would get up early in the mornings and get hot chocolate together at Gloria Jeans. It was all very sweet and innocent.

One day J started talking to me about this dream girl. They were smart. Funny. And beautiful. J wanted my advice on how to ask her out. I was devastated. Completely jealous. But they were my best friend so I just wanted them to be happy. I gave them all these tips about what to do. All the while dying inside.

About a week later, I noticed J was acting funny. They were being very suspicious and not themselves. I started to wonder what had happened with the girl. Maybe something went wrong. Then out of no where they blurt out ‘Jessie, you’re the girl’. And asked me out exactly as I had advised. As they say, the rest is history.

You’ll notice in that telling of the story, I mention nothing about mental illness or care giving. But in fact, at the time I met J I was very unwell with my eating disorder. I was being horribly bullied and my home life was chaotic. They were the only person I spoke to about all of this at the time. But this is only one small element of our love story.

Although my illnesses play a role in our relationship, our relationship is so much bigger than the caring role J plays in my life. Yes, J takes me to appointments, makes sure I take my meds, and knows exactly how to look after me. But that is only a small part of the reasons I love them.

I love J for their sharp intellect, love of art, and kindness to those who are misunderstood. The way they challenge me and expose me to music and film and ideas that I would never have otherwise known about. I love them because they keep me accountable, are sweet beyond compare and they make me laugh like no one else can. The way they care for me is only one element in our relationship.

J is more than a carer. And I am more than my mental illnesses. And together, we make each other better. 

In the same vein, I would like Dr Phil to know something. I AM NOT A BURDEN. I am a great partner. I am supportive. Encouraging. Empathetic. I am nurturing. I always endeavour to be aware of my partners needs. I make J laugh. I check in on them. My mental illnesses don’t stop me from being any of those things. I have many things to offer a relationship.

I asked J to describe me as a partner in three words. They responded with “Sunshine. Warm. Caring.”. They darn near made me cry with that. None of these words say that loving me is difficult.

Love is complex. And all relationships involve periods of caring and lifting the other person up. This is natural. Maybe not all relationships can sustain these challenges. But I know that mine and J’s can and will continue to do so into the future. Think on that, Dr. Phil.

One thought on “Love, Caring and Mental Illness

  1. Great post. There isn’t a relationship in the world that doesn’t have challenges. But the strength of a relationship is not measured by the nature of those challenges. It is measured by how you meet them and deal with them together. I have had people tell me I am lucky my husband stayed with me through my mental illness. I tell them: That’s not luck. I just chose well.’

    Liked by 1 person

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