so yesterday i realized something about a common piece of relationship advice given to mentally ill people, and, really, everyone. and i thought i would share some of my thoughts about it. i’ve been thinking about this for a while, ever since it was reiterated in my interpersonal communication class this (now past) semester. i’m pretty sure we’ve all heard it (some more than others): “don’t get into a relationship until you are happy”
that message is EVERYWHERE. and in some ways it’s a really great concept. being happy before you get in a relationship can prevent a lot of problems, i’m sure. but, truthfully, it’s not very realistic, particularly for people with mental illness.
i myself am mentally ill. i have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (with mixed episodes), generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. i am on numerous medications for all of these illnesses, and that has helped tremendously. these days, because of my bipolar medication, i don’t often experience mania and it’s not very intense when i do. my depressive episodes are less intense but i still have them, as well as a constant anxiety level and obsessive thinking. everyday these things affect me. there is at least one period of time everyday in which i feel very depressed and anxious over a number of things, particularly my past failures, my appearance, my shortcomings, past traumatic events, etc. sometimes i have whole months where i am severely depressed and non-functional. this is with medication. with a different combination of meds and therapy, things may become better. but i will be struggling with these issues at some level for my entire life. mental illness is a lifelong struggle.
so, with this popular notion that one should be “happy” (a word that also seems to imply that a person should also have a relative lack of problems) before getting into a relationship, am i to assume i can never enter into a relationship? this to me is exactly what that implies. this isn’t coincidental, in my opinion. there is a lot of stigma placed on mental illness in this world, as i am sure you know. there are many ways society tells mentally ill people we are worthless, and this is just another one of those ways.
telling a mentally ill person (or anyone, really) that they must be happy before they can be in a relationship is essentially telling them they’re not good enough for a relationship, because of their “problems,” that being mental illness. this is a very effective way to exacerbate the feelings of worthlessness and isolation that mentally ill people so often experience, which in turn exacerbates the illness. how is anyone going to get involved in any kind of relationship if they feel isolated and worthless and undeserving of one?
it would be really great if everyone could be happy before they entered into a relationship. it would probably make things a lot easier. but for most people, specifically those with mental illness, it’s simply unrealistic, and i believe that it can be quite harmful. you certainly shouldn’t go looking for a relationship because you think it will solve your problems, but telling people they have to be happy to be in one is bullshit, in my opinion.
some legislators in my district thought it would be a great idea to create a “John Galt Youth Award,” based on the character from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. you heard that right. someone created a YOUTH AWARD based on a character that stands for objectivism.
“Republican Arizona Legislative District 12 created the John Galt Youth Award to identify and recognize employed youth who are modeling a positive attitude and great work ethic…”
"positive attitude" must mean "I Got Mine," and "great work ethic" means "do whatever it takes for me to make money no matter how much it harms anyone else," apparently.