Dating with mental illness

You are worthy to be loved

About two and a half years ago I entered the dating world. I signed up for a dating website and met someone almost instantly. I fell in love within three days; before I’d even met him. I’d never thought I could ever feel this way about someone.

After a couple of months of long essay length emails we finally met. It was a wonderful date. We lost track of time and ended up spending eight hours together. I decided to open up about my depression. He was just silent. I’d expected some sort of reaction, but I got nothing.

It ended after the second date. I was devastated and heart broken, particularly because of the way he dealt with it; he just dropped off the radar. I kept hoping I would run into him and he would take me back. I told myself all the reasons he wasn’t right for me, but it still took nine months before I was ready to move on.

After this I dated two other men I met online. It never got passed the second date.

My depression told me no one would ever want me. I thought I was too depressed to be loved. And because I thought I was too depressed, I got more depressed.

Every time I saw someone get engaged on Facebook, or get married, or have their first kid, or buy a house together, etc, etc… something in me would break.

…and then I moved into the same shared apartment as my now boyfriend.

Even when he showed interest in me I would self sabotage. There was so much doubt. I told myself he could never love me. I’m too depressed… Why would anyone want me?.. I’m too fat… If I didn’t have depression he would want me… If only I wasn’t so fat…

We started dating after a few months having known each other. I kept taking his shyness as disinterest. I told myself he couldn’t possibly like me because I was too fat or because I was too depressed. Even when he was a complete gentleman: when he walked me home; took me out weekly; paid for my meals; helped me in every stage of my (second) move, I still told myself he couldn’t possibly see me as more of a friend.

He’s seen every side of me. He’s seen me in a flirty mood. He’s seen my silly moods. He’s seen me tired. He’s seen me frustrated. He’s seen me sick. He’s seen me lying on the sofa with a hot water bottle. He’s seen me crying my heart out when I can’t be reasoned with. He’s seen me self harm. He’s seen my room in a mess. He’s put up with my very annoying tic disorder. He’s seen me on my absolute darkest days.

And yet, he’s chosen to be with me. One week to the day I’ve been able to say ‘I have a boyfriend’.

He tells me that of course I’m worthy to be loved. He tells me that it’s nonsense to think I’m too fat to be loved. He tells me I’m important to him.

You are worthy to be loved too. Don’t give up on your dreams just yet.

Happiness is NOT a choice

We need to stop saying ‘happiness is a choice’

‘Happiness is a choice.’ I’ve heard this said A LOT. But it really bothers me because it’s not entirely accurate. I know, that many of you are going to disagree, but please hear me out.

Huffington Post has an article explaining why there is scientific proof to support that happiness is a choice. However, if you read the article carefully, you’ll notice that, as Stephen Maddon commented, it ‘isn’t scientific proof…it’s just ways that CAN HELP lead to being happy, but there’s no concrete statements that say you WILL be happy if you do these things’. And he’s right. This article lists ways we can change our attitude, our thoughts and our behaviours to perhaps boost our mood. There isn’t anything we can do though to directly change our emotions. Smiling or trying to be happy might make us feel happier, but no one has the ability to decide their emotions. That would require superhuman talents and I don’t know about you, but I’m no X-Man.

Dani’s blog ‘positively PRESENT’ also has a great article about this subject matter and she puts it so well:

Quotes like “choose happiness” or “think happy thoughts” aim to convey the idea that, no matter what happens, you have control over what you think, but what they actually convey is that you have control over what you feel. But there’s a big difference between what you think and how you feel, and the idea that thoughts and feelings are interchangeable is potentially very damaging because, much as you might want to, you can’t control how you feel.

This is exactly what I am trying to get at here. The statement ‘happiness is a choice’ is true in a sense, but it’s just worded really badly. It’s trying to tell us that we can control our thoughts and in turn our emotions, but what it’s really saying is we can control our emotions.

We need to stop saying ‘happiness is a choice’. While it might be well intended, saying such a statement can be really damaging. DepressionAlliance has a great article which states how detrimental it is for people with depression to try and choose happiness, as it pushes down and suppresses the bad emotions and this can really hinder recovery. When a depressed person hears those words ‘happiness is a choice’, it can be really hurtful and it can make them feel like no one really takes their illness seriously. In high school I remember a classmate once asking ‘why can’t a depressed person just snap out of it?’. Simply put, a depressed person can’t just snap out of it because they can’t control their emotions.

When I was in hospital I was taught about the ‘cognitive triangle’. In fact, I heard about the cognitive triangle a lot. It came up again and again and again. The idea is that our feelings, thoughts and behaviour are all connected and they all influence each other. My emotions influence my thoughts and actions, my actions influence my thoughts and emotions and my thoughts influence my actions and my emotions. Basically, the idea is if I want to change my emotions I either need to change my thoughts or my behaviour.

Changing my thoughts might mean remembering a time when I felt really good about myself instead of continuously focusing on one time I did something really embarrassing. Changing my behaviour might mean instead of lying in bed all day watching videos on Youtube I might go for a walk in the park. But to change my emotions I need to first change my thoughts or behaviour.

So sure, happiness is a choice… sort of… sometimes… in an indirect way. But it’s not really happiness you are choosing, what you are choosing is to change your thoughts and behaviours in a way to influence your emotions. And guess what? For some of us, that’s really hard, even impossible without the right treatment. So please, I beg of you, stop telling me that happiness is a choice. Because simply put, it’s not.