Love is difficult to get right at the best of times, let alone when you’re in the midst of a mental health crisis. I’ve done all sorts of funny things when not quite in my right mind. I’ve made dubious and hurtful choices. I’ve broken up a good love and pursued a bad one.
But somehow, even when we know we should be by ourselves, love is hard to stay away from. It’s a story we’re told from the very beginning: love will make us better. Love will fix what is broken. It may even be our reward for struggling on through the enchanted forest and fighting a beast.
It won’t fix us, of course: romantic love is no better route for curing mental illness than alcohol or drugs, for all it mimics their mood-boosting effects.
It’s a tempting thought, though. Mental illness is exhausting. And being alone can be so very tiring, even when your health is well and good. Someone else’s arms can feel like the port in the storm.
And I don’t want to diminish the importance of love: you certainly can’t understate the support many people’s partners give them. I’ve written a post to thank these people. But it’s also important to remember that love won’t fix your mental health.
Because love, even a good love, can’t save you from your own mind. And whilst we’re at it: you can’t love somebody else into good mental health. You can do everything right and try to fight for it every way you can, but sometimes, the most important thing for your mental health—and your partners’—is to walk away.
And that’s a good love. A bad love can be downright dangerous for those with mental health issues, leaving people in a vulnerable state open to manipulation and abuse. Obviously, I’m not saying all mentally ill people should be single: if you have a supportive and loving partner, recovery can be much easier. But if your love is actively making your mental health worse, and you’re free to do so: leave. Life’s too short. There’s too much at stake.
Because whilst it’s scary to deal with your mental health alone, it could be the best skill you ever acquire. Something inside of you cannot be fixed by somebody else. Learn to sail your own ship and you can surmount any storm. Build the strength to go places by yourself, to sit in silence, to journey alone.
In the words of Jeanette Winterson: “In this life, you have to be your own hero. By that I mean you have to win whatever it is that matters to you by your own strength and in your own way.”
READ MORE FROM NICER THOUGHTS’ VALENTINES DAY SERIES