Loving someone with anxiety or depression is the definition of lasting love that has no boundaries or limitations. It seeks no reward for thriving in the imperfect nature of humanity, that which makes all of our personal connections so vastly unique. Real love triumphs over the most dangerous of evils; those that exist inside each and every one of us.
The intricacies of who are intertwine with those we pull deeply into our lives. Our strengths and weaknesses lie naked and vulnerable to the people we love enough to show them to. Falling in love is letting go. It’s understanding that you’re worthy of being loved for the totality of who you are and capable of loving another in that same way.
Mental illness is unique. It manifests itself in a multitude of ways. It plays no favorites, chooses no sides and runs from no one. It lives inside some of the people we all love. Throughout their lives, they’ve attacked it, tried to reason with it and searched tirelessly for freedom from the moments it has plagued. They’ve sought out love and found that some pieces of who they are cannot be understood or accepted. They’ve had moments of invigorating, phenomenal joy and also moments of dark and unexplainable despair. They’ve endured fear invisible to those around them. They’ve learned to cope, control and live. They’ve climbed mountains no one knew existed. And most importantly, they’ve discovered love in you, even with a mind that so relentlessly tries to convince them otherwise.
How to help someone with anxiety and depression:
1. Be ready to experience raw humility and friendship. You’ll face both of your deepest weaknesses and most exhilarating capabilities with one another.
2. Value the person for their complexities, strengths and beautiful differences.
3. Transcend past your intimate relationship and move into your overall interaction and understanding of each other. See people with your heart, not your eyes.
4. Give that person’s feelings validity even if you don’t understand them.
5. Give complete and utter release of social stigma. Come to the realization just how real mental illness is and choose to respect that in every way.
6. Realize that sometimes when someone is so lost and irrational that they aren’t the person you care about at that moment. Forgive them for that confusing and scary reality.
7. Understand how small actions can so deeply impact those you love in a positive or negative way. It’s having those effects magnified and exasperated in a way that illuminates your power to do good and evil.
8. Be able to tell the difference between speaking to an episode and speaking to someone you love.
9. Try to understand the trials of an illness. Illnesses involve medicine, lifestyle adjustments and a responsibility to take care of yourself in a way that others don’t understand. Loving someone with mental illness means honoring it the same way you would another health issue.
10. Exercise patience, compassion and perspective.
11. Learn difficult lessons, like knowing when to give someone space and when to hold on with all you have.
12. Be conscious of your own well-being too. It’s being able to know your limitations, and when someone you love requires help from someone else too.
13. Realize that mental illness comes in all forms and degrees. It’s respecting all levels of it.
14. Overcome frustrating and painful roadblocks. Identify solutions and have difficult conversations that can also teach you about yourself.
15. Know that the person you love is remarkable and irreplaceable, despite the pieces of themselves they fight the most. By embracing and adoring another human being the way they deserve to be loved. It’s strength, kindness, maturity, fearlessness and passion.
Loving someone with anxiety and depression just means loving the only way any of us ever should—with listening hearts, open minds and a willingness to look into the many branches of each other’s souls.