I found this image on Facebook and I believe it has a very important message. Those of us who are labeled with a mental health issue are often thought to ALWAYS be experiencing the issue or, as I call it, being”on”. I frequently tell people in my mental health presentations that we are not “on” all the time. I am not always raging, having abandonment issues or hating myself. Others are not always sad, manic, hearing voices or having a panic attack. Probably all of us need to have something happen in order for these experiences to occur. Even when they seem to come out of the blue, there is most likely something we just haven’t noticed that has triggered us.
This image reminded me of a turning point in my life last year when I realized the impact my previous relationship had on my mental health. During my 5 year relationship I was a mess. I was physically and emotionally violent towards my ex and myself, I was frequently in distress, desperate and was suicidal and self-harming. I spent all 5 of those years trying to fix myself and nothing was working. I was ready to give up and accept that I would always feel pain and always make those around me feel pain.
Then I left the relationship.
I entered into a relationship with B and very quickly, I began to change. My gut reactions to fight with great aggression became unnecessary, my urge to fight lessened, my desire to hurt myself and die became rare, my distress and desperation became easier to manage, my physical violence disappeared and my emotional violence brief. I began to successfully make changes in my life through self-help books, workbooks, peer support and DBT. I saw that I didn’t have to live in pain or cause others pain.
What really made the difference were the people. My ex and B are two very different people. My ex belittled, controlled and manipulated me. B encourages, supports and loves me. Given that I am an emotional person, to be with someone who cannot understand, appreciate or respect me means that I will be completely unable to be in control. When I am with someone who does understand, appreciate and respect me I am able to be in control.
When I realized this I gained a whole new appreciation for environmental factors in our mental health. My relationship was making me more BPD than when I’m on my own. When I am happy and in a good place externally, surrounded by good people, I really have no problems. This speaks volumes, I believe, about our mental health in general. It makes sense that when our lives are happy, with happy people in them and we are happy with our life then we are happy overall. I am grateful for this knowledge and while I wish I had known this sooner, better late than never.