Does Mental Illness Make You Hard to Love?
I recently commented on another blogger’s post and mentioned that depression makes me hard to love. From their response, it seemed like they misinterpreted where I was going with that, so I thought it was worth doing a post about.
I’ve written before about how I used to conceptualize separate well and ill selves. My illness didn’t show up until I was 27, and so I had a very clear idea of who I was outside of the illness. Even now that the illness is inextricably linked to me, I’m still able to separate out what parts of me, my thinking, and my behaviour are the underlying me vs. the effects of the illness.
I don’t think that as a person I’m all that hard to love. I’m thinking love in a general sense, not just romantic love. I also believe that I am worthy of love, but then again, that’s something I believe about almost all human beings, with a few rare exceptions.
What makes me hard to love is directly related to my depression. It makes me very quick to assume that people don’t care and they’re going to hurt me. The biggest issue, though, is that it makes me withdraw. That withdrawal gets worse the worse I feel. I don’t just reduce contact; I stop responding to calls, texts, etc. I ghost.
Caring about people doesn’t stop me from doing it. And while it’s a behaviour that in a sense I have voluntary control over, it’s also something that my illness has consistently triggered right from when I first got sick. I’m working on shortening the duration of these push-away periods, but with only limited success.
I’ve made it very hard for my family to love me. They still do anyway, but the repeated periods of zero contact have been challenging. These periods can last months or even more than a year.
The most significant person in my life right now is my single in-real-life friend who bears the brunt of my full-on crazy, and I do not make it easy for him. I’ve told him I hate him on more than one occasion. And yet he’s still around He deserves a medal or something for putting up with my crazy, because most sensible people would run screaming in the opposite direction.
I would like to be less difficult. And if my illness was more stable I would be much easier to deal with (both for myself and for other people). The reality, though, is that my illness is not very well controlled, and at this rate, I may never be easy to love.
However, I think all of us living with mental illness are worthy of love. It’s just a matter of finding those medal-deserving people who are prepared to step up to the plate when the going gets tough. After all, we’ve got just as much good stuff to offer as anybody else does.
Originally published at https://mentalhealthathome.org on January 21, 2020.