As a teenager, I was diagnosed with both Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.
As an adult, I learned to keep my diagnoses to myself.
The twin oppressors, Shame and Stigma, taught me to be quiet. They taught me to present to the world the parts of myself that were most likely to receive positive regard, praise and love, which ultimately led to disintegration and a shattering of the self.
Essentially, I busted myself up into pieces and pulled out the right ones for the right social situation.
Certainly, there were times I felt unworthy of love. There were times I felt no one would want to take me on. Even today as I write, I still feel as if my husband got the short end of the stick in marrying a woman like me. That is precisely why reading articles like “Dating Crazy: Disordered Behaviour & Why It’s No Joke” leaves me feeling both enraged and empowered.
When I see mental health professionals use careless language like “crazy,” I am reminded that, as a society, we have a helluva way to go to start treating people with mental health issues with class and dignity. The word “crazy” is demeaning and painful. There is no possible way this word could make someone feel compassion, hope or respect.
It is a term used to make fun of a person with mental health issues. It is heartless.
What if an article popped up describing the affliction of someone dating someone with a physical disorder? What if the writer not only pointed out all the reasons people with such disorders are difficult, but also called them a derogatory name? (I will not stoop to the level of giving an example of a derogatory term for a physical infirmity for fear of bringing pain to someone suffering already.) I’m sure most readers would be appalled.
It is hard enough to hear a lay person use discriminatory language, but a mental health professional using such language is nearly unbearable.
It is not okay.
Demeaning someone because of their disorder or disability is not okay.
It is dehumanizing. Every time I hear the word “crazy,” I want to hide. I want to hide who I am. I want to hide my struggle, my scars.
It is the opposite of liberation. It is oppression.
Reading articles like “Dating Crazy” also leaves me feeling empowered. Over the years I have learned the skill of self-compassion. I have learned to stand in my wound. I have learned to navigate the waters of my soul and move past all the labels, discrimination and ridicule.
Each time I lay aside all outside criticism, I learn to take my own self by the hand. I practice unconditional positive regard for myself. I practice radical self-love in the face of a world that says someone like me is hard to love.
For anyone else suffering from mental health issues, I offer the following reasons why it’s great to be in a relationship with people who suffer from mental illness:
1) Many, if not most, people with mental health issues have high levels of compassion. Our pain is great, so our compassion for others in pain is great.
2) We tend to be more tolerant. We have been misunderstood, so we strive to understand.
3) People with mental health issues are often very creative. Michelangelo, Beethoven, Van Gogh and Picasso, to name a very few, are all believed to have suffered various mental disorders.
4) We are often very passionate people. Passion always makes for an interesting relationship!
5) We have learned to forgive. A moody person learns to ask for forgiveness—sometimes several times a day! In asking for forgiveness, we learn to also offer forgiveness.
6) We appreciate simple joys. Anyone who has made any progress at all in healing mental illness has learned to be appreciative of simplicities. After spending close to two years in a disorienting cloud of dissociative thoughts, I learned to enjoy the little things—a smile, the sunrise, a cup of coffee, even the small gesture of a supportive spouse with his hand on my shoulder. Nothing is taken for granted.
Every human, everywhere—healthy or unhealthy—is capable of giving and receiving love.
Every human, everywhere deserves love, respect and compassion.
Every relationship has challenges. The strong ones learn to overcome with devotion, loyalty and grace.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Amy Waranda
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Michael Chen/Flickr