The difficulty of loving someone with anxiety

Whether you like it or not, Valentine’s Day is a time which prompts thoughts about love—and I’ve written a few posts this week about mental health and love, discussing the how love won’t fix your mental health, and the strange narrative of the ‘mentally ill girl’ being somehow alluring.

They’re both important topics, but something I’ve noticed is that these narratives all leave something out – how difficult it can be to love somebody with a mental health issue.

I often worry (go figure: I have anxiety) about how frustrating life can be for people who invest and love deeply in their mentally ill boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses. Loving someone with anxiety can be exhausting, and the people who do this deserve praise and acknowledgment for how relentlessly they love and support people who are not easy to love and support. They deserve (in this week of love and card sales) to be thanked.

I have someone to thank. Roxane Gay has a phrase that always pulls at my heartstrings: ‘my person’. I feel a particular affinity for this, because I often feel boyfriend is not the apt term for the person I split my rent with.

‘My person’ has known me for half our lifetime and can spot a cloud on my horizon almost before I can feel it. He supports me when I weep nonsensically, and leaves me be when I need to be alone. He makes my life better, caring for me even when I am difficult to care for. (I think I do the same for him, although he inevitably needs it less).

He’s also tough, and takes very little of the shit I could probably dole out were I more indulged. I know that I am loved, and this gives me the space to be honest about how I feel. He tells me I am beautiful but also reminds me it wouldn’t matter if I weren’t. He’s my best friend. Here’s to him.

And here’s to you, if you love and support somebody through their darkest days. Here’s to the patient and compassionate lovers. The ones who support and hold. The ones who live with the storms and the rollercoasters. If you have somebody who supports you through your mental health ups and downs, take a moment to thank them this week. We could probably do it without you—but we really wouldn’t want to.


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