It's been five years but I can still remember the moment my depression seemed to reach a fever pitch so clearly. At the time, my life wasn't going the way I planned. I had just graduated from college and thought I was going to get an amazing job that paid all of my bills. I thought I was going to conquer the world. Instead, I was struggling to support myself by working an unpaid internship during the day and a grubby diner job at night.
It wasn't the glamorous life I had imagined by far.
To top it off, I wasn't getting along with my boyfriend -- the one person who was supposed to know and understand me the most.
The day the moment happened started off relatively normal. I went to work as usual and then caught up with my boyfriend at the time for date night. My boyfriend and I never seemed to be on the same page, but at that time, we were having a really amazing date. The drinks were flowing and the ambiance was amazing. As the sun began to go down, so did my mood. Out of the blue, I became irate. I spent the next few days in a deep depression. I could barely find the energy to get out of bed. Living did not seem worth it and every day I begged for God to end my pain.
My foggy state and unstable emotional behavior were faint reminders of my past. A variety of mental health issues run in my family, including bipolar disorder, depression, ADHD – pretty much anything you can name. My memories of living with and around coping family members had made me very aware of the symptoms and the impact that mental health can have on your life. To think I was going through the same thing was an incredibly scary truth to face and I didn't want to do it alone.
Naturally, I gave my boyfriend a call, hoping he would understand and forgive me for our failed date night days prior. I believed that that was how love was supposed to work. The tears poured from my eyes. All I can recall saying is, “This isn't normal. I think something is wrong with me."
Insert long awkward silence here.
He proceeded to call me crazy. That moment put my thoughts in a complete spiral. I thought lovers were supposed to support you, ask questions, and lead you in the right direction, but he made me feel utterly humiliated for being so open and honest.
Needless to say, he is now my ex-boyfriend.
I learned so much from that experience. It was the beginning of a series of ups and downs in my relationships, particularly pertaining to my mental health issues. The most important lesson that I've learned over the years is that coping with depression is difficult, but it shouldn't keep you from having a fulfilling love life. Coping with depression is difficult, but it shouldn't keep you from having a fulfilling love life.
Below are my tips for dating while you are going through your mental health journey:
Be open and honest about your mental health journey.
At first, it was hard to be open. I was in a constant identity crisis because I was hiding the “bad" part of me. Once you build trust in the relationship, it is important to let your significant other know where you stand in your journey. Leaving them in the dark will cause misunderstandings but opening up will allow for him or her to support you.
Not everyone you date will understand and support your journey.
While dating my ex-boyfriend, he did not understand how I could go from cheerful to depressed so quickly. I tried to explain to him that some days I will cry for no reason and that is okay. It is part of my depression cycle. My constant tears and depressive episodes would lead to criticism and further pain incited by him. If the person is really for you, he or she will walk with you in your journey, not against you.
Maintain your strong support circle before, during, and after relationships.
When you first start a relationship you can become so completely immersed with your significant other that other relationships (namely friendships) fall by the wayside. My advice is to maintain your strong support circle in spite of that tendency. I let a lot of my independence go so when the ex and I broke up, I felt completely isolated and alone. If you were going to therapy before you were dating, don't stop. If you were seeing your friends twice a week, don't stop. If you have one day a week where you have designated alone time to yourself, don't stop. These are things that will keep you mentally balanced and keep you from feeling completely dependent upon your partner for support.
Develop key phrases that let your significant other know how you are feeling.
Key phrases are a great way to help keep your partner from unintentionally pushing buttons. I tell my current boyfriend that, “Today is not the day". With this phrase, he knows that I am either feeling depressed, having anxiety, or dealing with something else. Whatever is the case, he understands that today is not the day to upset me or initiate conversations that might be upsetting, etc.
Don't let your depression define the way people love you.
Stephen Chobsky once said, “We accept the love we think we deserve." Sometimes we think we should take what we can get, when we are going through trying times. Always remember that no matter what you may be going through, you are a beautiful person who deserves genuine, unconditional love. Never settle for less than what you deserve.
[Tweet "We accept the love we think we deserve."]
Always, love yourself first.
The way you feel about yourself reflects in your relationship. If you are insecure about yourself, it will effect your relationship. If you are feeling down, take time to regroup and remind yourself of the queen you are. Remember, if you don't truly love yourself no one will, nor should you expect them to.
After a lot of heartache and lessons learned, I am thrilled to say I am in a loving relationship with a man who may not always understand what it is I'm going through, but is willing to stand by me during my mental health journey and love me through my bad days just as easily as he loves me on my good days.
[Tweet "He loves me through my bad days as easily as he loves me on my good days"]
Love is a beautiful feeling. Don't let your struggle with depression stop you from finding the love you deserve. Love yourself and love will find you.
Related Post: My Truth: Loving A Man With A Mental Illness
Has your mental health ever held you back in love? What are some things you've learned about dating through depression or dealing with depression while in a relationship? Share with us below.
Tiffany is the Founder of Blaque & Blue. An online forum that provides resources and support to women of color on their mental health journey. As a self care and mental health blogger, she tells her story in hopes of empowering women of color to speak openly about mental health in their communities. She loves to travel and is an avid supporter of all things #BlackGirlMagic.