What Loving Someone Who Has A Mental Illness Has Taught Me
Love is tough and relationships are tougher. Mix in a mental illness and you have the makings of a cocktail as tough as steel but fragile as glass. It’s easy to unintentionally hurt another when you are close with them. You know them well enough and sometimes what you say is more cutting that you know. Amplify that in one who examines not just the words, but the pauses between words, the amount of nanoseconds between eye contacts, and you land on a constant question of “what is going to set him off?”
Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure I ever will. There are days when I feel like I need to couch my words because he’s upset about something else and won’t really hear what I’m saying. There are other days when simply bringing in the mail creates a meltdown of stress, anxiety, and self-loathing. All because of a bill, or an ad for the dentist, or a magazine with a cute baby on the cover.
What I’ve learned in the eight years we’ve been together is that most times it is way more important to listen than to speak; logic doesn’t mean anything if the only next option is to breathe; letting him walk out the door to get some air without calling every friend we have to ask if he’s there – he’ll come back when he’s had the solace of the screams and silence work its way into his soul.
But none of these were lessons required because of mental illness, or learned in spite of a diagnosis. They just amplified my learning speed of what it means to love someone sacrificially, respect them for who God made them to be, and trust that the journey really is worth the rollercoaster ride along the way.
Happy Valentine’s Day to Jerry, my love, and to all of you who share the day with someone who finds breathing a struggle, meds an answer, and understanding friends a lifebridge!
About The Author:
Becky Jascoviak, producer of This is My Brave Chicagoland, President of the Northwest Indiana Excellence in Theatre Foundation, and Marketing Communications Specialist at Opportunity Enterprises, an agency serving individuals with developmental disabilities.