Rain or Shine: Our Loved Ones And Mental Illness

I’ve lived with me for a long time.
I wake up to me. I eat with me, talk to me.

I’ve lived with me for a long time.
But you haven’t, and that’s what worries me.

Because I know how I can get, how sometimes I’ll wake up and not want to get out of bed.
And sometimes I’ll get sad almost out of the blue and sometimes I know why and sometimes I don’t.
And sometimes I’ll forget my pills.
And sometimes I won’t want to go out. And sometimes when I do I’ll get nervous, won’t speak, and stare at my shoes.

And I know that sometimes I won’t want to eat and I’ll clutch at my tummy and wish I were smaller.
And sometimes I won’t want to do work.
And I know I compare myself to people around me and worry I’m not good enough and say it and believe it.
And sometimes I’ll just want to curl up in my bed and stay there for as long as I can.

I know how I can get.

And so I worry that one day I’ll be too much for you, that one day, another sad face will be the last straw, that you won’t want to deal with anymore quiet answers and sad eyes. I worry that one day another reassurance will be the last one and eventually you’ll get tired of picking up pieces.

But remember that I love you, deep down to my soul and no matter the day or the circumstance I will always love you: when I’m quiet or sad or curled up in my bed I will always love you. I will always need you.
You are the light that brightens my days. You are the smile that creeps across my face. You are my happy places

And if I could, I would make it so you’d never have to put me together.
But if I have to break down in front of anyone, it’d be you.
And I promise that no matter how I feel today, tomorrow, or the next day, no matter how sad I get, I’ll always need you. And I may not be whole, but my whole heart is yours.


Sometimes the scariest thing about having anxiety, depression, or any mental illness is the idea that your illness will push people away. Eventually, even though they say they’ll always be there for you, people will get tired of making you feel better and picking you up and dealing with your bad days.

When I was first diagnosed with depression at seventeen, my parents were supportive and understanding. But after a few months, when I had mornings where I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed, the understanding from before seemed to have worn thin. It wasn’t words of compassion anymore being raised up the stairs to me, it was “Get yourself together,” or “Maybe if you didn’t spend all day in bed you wouldn’t feel like this,” or, “I’m tired of you using depression as an excuse.”

And I’d get angry at them for not understanding or sympathizing with what I was going through but at the same time I couldn’t blame  them. I’d wake up sad and would barely eat. I wouldn’t talk as much as I used to. I’d come down for a glass of water then go back up to my room for the rest of the day. Eventually, I’m sure, they just felt tired of trying to make me feel better and it not working.

I knew it was difficult, having a daughter with depression, just as it would be difficult having a friend with depression. So I hid my feelings from my closest friends and put a smile on whenever I was with them so I’d seem as normal as possible, as put together as possible, so they didn’t have to put me together themselves. But it was always in the back of my head: I can’t do this forever. I can’t keep hiding myself for forever.

Eventually when I went away to college, I was lucky enough to meet a girl who I trusted with my whole heart that I was comfortable enough to open up to. But even after being close to her for almost a year, I realized that I was still scared of her getting tired of hearing me complain or hearing me tell her that I couldn’t do it anymore, or cheering me up or telling me that I’m enough. “It’s not your job to do that,” I’d tell her. Because it wasn’t. Even though she was my best friend, even though she said she wanted to be there for me, her job wasn’t to keep picking up my pieces. And I worried I would suck all of the happiness out of her when I had my worst days and I didn’t want to do that to her, or anyone that I loved – in friendship or romantically.

Just as I had feared pushing my closest friends away, I started to consider myself impossible to be in a relationship with anyone. Because who would want to be in a relationship with someone they’d have to constantly pick up or put together? Who would want to date someone that needs reassurance that they have purpose and worth? Who would want to be with someone that sometimes just can’t see the light when they’re having a rough time?

No one, I always thought. And I wouldn’t ask anyone to, I’d tell myself.

When I finally did meet someone who wanted to be in a relationship with me I was terrified of him having to deal with me and my depression. As we started to get more serious I thought to myself, “Oh God, I can’t let him get too close or attached. He shouldn’t have to deal with someone like me.” Eventually I told him about my depression and he said he would be there with me every step of the way, to help me, to support me, listen to me, and most importantly, love me.

Since then, I’ve had my rough days. I’ve had my days where I cried to him over the phone about not being able to do anything or about how I felt like a failure. I’ve had my days where I would be nervous to be around other people because I was too anxious and didn’t want to talk to anyone. I’ve had my days where he’s asked me what was wrong and all I could answer was “I don’t know.”

But he’s stayed. Just like he promised.

And my best friend stayed. Just like she promised.

So to those who were in the same place I was, afraid to open themselves up to others for fear of being too much for them, I beg you not to close yourself off from the people around you. Don’t think that no one wants to deal with you and your illness. Because when people truly love you, they’ll do anything they can to see you be the best you possible. They want you to thrive and they want you to be happy. Don’t be discouraged and think that you have to go through your hardest times alone. Talk to your loved ones about you feel. Trust the people that you feel are true to you and let them in because you’ll end up closer to them than ever and will know you have a true companion. Allow yourself to be helped and to be loved.

And to those who love others suffering from a mental illness, to boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, and parents, know that the people you love who are suffering from something are still the same people you fell in love with when you first saw them. Your daughter is still the loving little girl you raised. Your best friend is still that vibrant, ridiculous, and caring person you first wanted to be friends with. Your boyfriend is still the sweet, doting, funny man that you fell in love with when you met for the first time.

What drew you to us in the first place is still there. We’re still that person.

Some days, our illness might get the best of us, but our true selves are still there. Know that we know you are doing your best to help us and make us feel better and pick us up when we’re down. Don’t take a depressive episode or moment personally. Chances are we’re being affected by things that have little to do with you and even though we might not want you to see us down or depressed, we know that if anyone will understand, it will be you. Be patient with us. Know that we’re trying to get better. Sometimes we’ll hit snags or slip but we want to be better, for ourselves, and for you.

And don’t get discouraged or think you’re not trying hard enough to make us feel better if we don’t cheer up the moment you attempt to cheer us up. Sometimes our episodes don’t go away that easily. But know that we are thankful that we have someone who cares enough about us to even try. Plenty of people have left us to sit in our hard times alone, but not you. You love us enough to try to make us happy. And even though we might not feel better immediately, please know that you trying matters. Because it means you haven’t given up on us. And when we know there’s someone in our corner, days don’t get as dark as they used to. And we get better, because we have you.

For more info and tips on showing love to someone with depression, check out this article by The Darling Bakers.

Advertisements

The Love Doctor is In: 5 Tips to Being With the Right Person

As someone who’s had a total of two, count them, two boyfriends, I know tons about dating and relationships. But being with someone for this past year has taught me a lot more about finding and knowing if you’re with the right person.

The world of dating and relationships is filled with questions (which I know because I’ve Googled them all):

How do I know he/she likes me?

When will I find the right person?

How do I know if he/she is the one for me?

Will I ever find someone who likes Cheetos as much as I do?

Before I started dating my current boyfriend, I remember having all the questions and none of the answers (because Yahoo! Answers is worthless). But in this past year of girlfriendom I’ve relationship-ed my way to the answers I was looking for. Some of the answers turned out to be a lot simpler and more obvious than I thought they’d be. Others I never thought I’d find the answers to, but here I am, sharing my wisdom (you’re welcome). So for those currently Googling “How do I know my boyfriend/girlfriend is right for me?” while their significant other is in the bathroom and for others reading an article in Cosmopolitan titled ’12 Ways to Tell If He’s Into You”, take peace – the expert is in.

First, let me state that most importantly – you are a strong, independent woman (or man) that don’t need no man.

tumblr_mydsk3vrMt1rjckvzo1_400

Sometimes I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be in relationships, to be with the right partner, to be coupled. Sometimes we see our friends or peers in relationships and we start to think, “What’s wrong with me?” But the answer is nothing. Regardless of what magazines, movies, books, tv shows, and your mother say, being in a relationship really isn’t that important. What’s important is you: understanding you, knowing who you are and what you need, being with you, loving (or at least liking) you. Because at the end of the day, when everyone is gone, you’re left with you. And if you don’t like being with you, how will you convince someone else to? We’re all messes regardless but before you start looking for someone to mesh their mess with yours, learn to love your messiness first, which can take a while, but that’s okay. It’s cool to wait!

Just kidding. Waiting is the worst. I’ve spent plenty of nights alone eating animal crackers and watching Law and Order in my bed. And I’ve kissed dozens of frogs (not that all of you boys were frogs, some of you were lovely). But it wasn’t always fun and sometimes it felt lonely. But I waited. I kissed frogs. And then a prince showed up and all that waiting was worth it. All the waiting and complaining and crying and listening to friends say, “I can’t believe you’re not dating anyone yet, you’re like PERFECT!” was over. And that will come for you, which I can only say because I know it will, because it happened to me when I was convinced it wouldn’t.

And it’s thanks to the guy who came along that I’ve learned these five things to look for while trying to find someone to be with or when trying to figure out if you’re with the right person.

Find/stay with someone who:

1. Loves your quirks – My boyfriend thinks it’s cute that I have an obsession with eating ice cubes (did I ever mention I have an obsession with eating ice cubes?). Most people think it’s weird. I think it’s weird. But he accepts it. Because he accepts me. And along the accepting lines, find/stay with someone who…

2. Loves the things you’re insecure about – I always thought I had weird thighs. For a while, my legs reminded me of tree trunks. And not like long, Rihanna leg tree trunks. More like stumps. That is until my boyfriend gave me a little perspective: “They’re perfect set-ups for your butt. And I like that butt. But you couldn’t have that butt without those legs.” Okay, while completely true, that’s a fairly silly example…wait, here’s a better one:

I have vitiligo on my lips that I developed when I was 14. And I hated it. I thought it made me ugly. I did everything I could to hide or get rid of it. But it wouldn’t go away. Sometimes I would look in the mirror and feel miserable because of it. One day, I mentioned that I was ashamed of my lips, that I hated the way they looked. And all my boyfriend said was, “I like them.” “Really?” I asked. “Yes. They’re different. They remind me of a calico cat. And I like calicos.” And he smiled at me. And every so often, when I’d take off my lip color, he’d say, “You don’t have to hide them you know. I like them.” Over and over. “I like them. I like them. I love them.” And now, my lips are no longer a feature I’m ashamed of. I don’t try as hard to cover them up. I go to school with no lip color on. I run errands. Because someone said that they loved something that I struggled to love myself.

And while these are fairly superficial examples, the principle for any insecurity is the same. It’s important to be with someone who will embrace the things you’re insecure about and who won’t just gloss over your insecurities with a compliment or a “Don’t be silly”, but will do their best to help you see yourself in a brighter light and help you learn to love the things you’re insecure of until you can get to the point where you say, “You know what? This thing I was insecure about isn’t that bad. And I do like this about me.”

3. Who is nice to you – Now this one seems obvious but it needs to be said. I have seen too many individuals, myself included, forget that one of the most fundamental qualities in a partner should be that they’re actually nice to you. Somewhere along the line, we started to allow not responding to text messages and acting uninterested and being disrespectful to be acceptable. “That’s just how guys are now,” or “Maybe it’s me,” or “She’s just playing the game” started to become our excuses. And when something nice was done for us, we immediately think the person doing it is weird or clingy (God FORBID someone wants to talk to or even hang out with you) as opposed to thinking, “Hey, maybe this is how I’m supposed to be treated”.

Fun story: During the time when my boyfriend and I first started hanging out, there was an instance where I was texting him about my day, which had been a rough one – long and tiring. After getting home late that night, I walked into my room and saw a bouquet of flowers on one of my pillows. And I started bawling. Literally. On the floor, crying.

Zooey crying

It was then that one of my best friend’s greatest lines was uttered in the doorway to my bedroom: “You know, most girls would be thrilled to have flowers brought to them after a rough day. You’re on the floor crying.” To which I responded by half-crying/half-yelling, “WHY IS HE SO NICE?” I couldn’t even compute it. After being so used to being used or manipulated or ignored or forgotten, someone genuinely showing, not only that they’re interested, but that they cared about me, literally fried my circuits.

Looking back on that day from where I am now, happily in a relationship with the guy who brought me flowers that made me cry, it’s hilarious to think that at one point, a boy being nice to me was such a crazy idea to me. Because, duh, I deserve someone who’s nice. I deserve someone who wants to brighten my day when I’m having a rough time. I deserve someone who wants to be around me and wants to talk to me. I deserve someone who will treat me like they cherish me. And so do you. And the best thing about dating someone who’s nice to you from the get-go: they stay nice to you. You can tell when someone is just being nice to get what they want out of you or to keep you around. But you can also tell when someone genuinely cares and wants to treat you the right way because they want to be with you. And those guys/girls don’t change.

4. Makes you better – Relationships aren’t just about having someone to steal french fries and blankets from (although those are pretty important too). The best partner is one that accepts you for who you are but wants to see you be even better. The best partner  wants to see you achieve your goals and wants to help you achieve them. They want to see you make choices that will better you as a person. They want to see you succeed. And they’ll be there when you feel like you can’t do something or when school is too hard or when work is getting you down and they’ll pick you up because they know you have it in you to keep going. They believe in your ability to be amazing, to be the best you can be. And that’s what they want. They believe in you.

5. Makes 365 days go by in a blur – Or makes a day go by in a blur, or an hour go by in a blur, because you’re too busy living in the moment with them to keep track of the time. When you’re with someone who you love or are head over heels for, you can’t believe how quickly the time passes. One minute you’re taking a walk in the park at noon, the next thing you know the sun is setting. (One day, he’s giving you a ride home, the next, you’ve been in a relationship for a year.) And at the same time, a day without them, without hearing from them or seeing them, feels like a week because all you want is to be with them.

tumblr_my5thuERjA1qmkgsxo1_1280

As I stated previously, I know all of these things are true because I’m practically a relationship expert. But I also know they’re true because, after a long time being in the dark, feeling my way through the dungeons of dating and douchebags, I found a light at the end of the tunnel. And he’s been my light for the past year. And I never thought I’d find him. Which is why I decided to write this post, as a reminder to those with people to cherish and as a hope for those who are  feeling their way through the dating dungeon and hook-up catacombs. I never thought I’d find someone like the one I did. I thought I was destined to be discouraged and dangled on strings forever. But here I am, happier with someone than I’ve ever been.

It’s achievable.

It’s worth it.

And if you hang on long enough and find it, it’s absolutely wonderful.

1238921_10200707702678547_743290241_n