Words on Wellness: A column sharing the expertise of FHR's diverse staff, comprised of over 600 employees across 7 states
Many people think of February and Valentine's Day as the most romantic time of the year. What information would you share with someone about living with a mental illness while being in a romantic relationship?
"For someone living with mental illness and in a relationship, Valentine's Day is a good time to reflect on boundaries, expectations and making sure that both you and your relationship are as healthy as can be. I would encourage anyone to reach out to their support system if they have any doubts or concerns, and be honest and up front with their romantic partner in order to keep open communication, which is key to a successful relationship." - Julie P., Massachusetts
"True love involves admitting when you are wrong, and forgiving your partner when they are wrong. Love is not a fairy tale. It takes a certain amount of effort by both parties to make things work. It can be difficult when a relationship doesn't last, but you can learn something from every relationship, and get better at giving and receiving love." - Penelope C., Massachusetts
"My advice would be to not over-do it just because it is Valentine's Day. Don't get yourself too hyped up and overwhelmed by trying to do something over the top for your romantic partner. If you don't have a romantic partner, do something special for yourself- go get your nails done, take a walk, or buy that new shirt you've been wanting....you deserve it!" - Bethany J., Delaware
"I think that having a relationship with someone who has mental illness is at its foundation the same as having a relationship with someone who doesn't have a mental illness. The difference lies in the ability to be understanding and communicate your unique needs and desires specific to your illness. The more you are able to advocate for yourself, the more your partner is able to support you in the ways that are helpful to you." - Allison T., Maine
"I am a CPS (Certified Peer Specialist), which allows me to share that I live with numerous mental health challenges on a daily basis. This is advice from me to a peer: 1. Consider yourself a diamond and multifaceted and MH happens to be one of them. 2. Romance for me means taking a risk to show and share your true self with another human being, including any challenges, no matter the detail. It means finding the positive characteristics by sharing that and moving forward transparently to be comfortable intimately. 3. Be confidently vulnerable while being empowered by your morals , values, and beliefs in who you are and open minded enough to not judge another's views but see if they coincide with what both of you want for the future. If you're in a romantic relationship, don't expect your partner to be a mind reader. Express yourself in an inclusive way, advocate for what is needed to grow and love in the relationship without losing yourself or being a people pleaser or trying to make someone see through your perception. Allow them to have their own thoughts and feelings without creating resentment." - Walter D., Rhode Island
"In terms of those living with a mental illness, I think there are several parallels with those who live with a substance use disorder, or issues of addiction. As wonderful as a meaningful connection can be, the idea of being in love can be a deterrent for recovery. The feeling of being in love alters brain chemistry which affects decision making behavior. I think we are all guilty of making some regrettable decisions in relationships, and when one copes with mental illness or addiction, every life decision we make can support or jeopardize recovery efforts. So, proceed with caution when in relationships, because the being love drunk can have some significant consequences." - Brandon R., North Carolina
"In any relationship, whether it is with someone that has a mental illness or not, communication is key. Your thoughts, feelings and any questions you may have for your loved one should always be voiced even when you're unsure of how to. Bottling up emotions and diverting your issues will only create animosity in the relationship. Speak clearly, share what is on your mind, and love fully, always." - Holly P., Massachusetts
The information listed above are the thoughts of individuals and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of FHR. Some responses have been edited for length or clarity.