Dear Cheated On

This post is for the reader who came to my blog using the search term “can a mental illness cause a man to cheat”. Don’t worry, I don’t know who you are. I don’t even know if you followed my blog once you got here. But I hope that this post will reach you.

I don’t know your story and I don’t know your partner’s but I do know this: mental illness or not, your partner does not have the right to hurt you. Mental illness is not a “free pass” to do as we please to those we love or to those who love us.

Perhaps you are searching for a way to explain away a recent betrayal. I can understand that only too well. Regardless of the situation please know that your partner is not more important than you. Your emotions and needs are just as important as his. And you need to take care of you.

Living with a mentally ill partner can be exhausting and emotionally demanding. It’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to need help. Its okay to need give-and-take. It’s okay to need. If you need to talk about you and how you can cope with your partner’s illness please seek out a counsellor or a support group. Please value yourself as equal to your partner. Never let another person devalue you or reduce you to a secondary character in your own life story.

Dear Cheated On

The Black Dog: Man’s Best Friend? (30 Days Challenge)

4. What are the pros and cons of having a mental illness(es) or your specific illness(es), i.e. dysthymia?

In his book “The Curse of the Strong” Dr. Tim Cantopher suggests that a lot of sufferers stress themselves into depression after walking a path of over-achievement and perfectionism….Type A personalities to be exact. I personally chalk a large percentage of my issues up to a childhood of unrelenting academic expectations and behavioural standards. I have carried this baggage into adulthood in two major ways: firstly, I have an inability to fail which makes me reluctant to try anything that I pre-suppose myself to be bad at; secondly, I live with a vague sense of disappointment that I am decidedly “average”…just like everybody else!

Thinking about the pros and cons of depression, I am struck by the ying and yang of it all. The negatives can indeed have positives, but without that negative the positive may not exist. For me, a good example of this symbiosis is emotional sensitivity. I search for hidden meaning in people. I search their tone for dislike or judgement. I read between the lines of emails or texts. I often sense misfortune coming my way. I am incapable of being surprised…I always “know” when something is about to happen. On the flip side, I am sensitive to emotions and attuned to unspoken needs. I can tell a thousand things from the tone of my sister’s “hello” and I can spot a cry for help in a chatty email or a Facebook picture. I am often called on in times of need and thanked post-crisis for providing a non-judgemental ear and a logical perspective. My sensitivity to my own emotional state tunes me into the same information in others. Is it a curse or a gift? I don’t quite know!

The cons of this illness are all too well known: unhappiness, self-hatred, loss of relationships, failure to reach ones full potential, etc, etc. Is it ridiculous to consider that there may also be pros? Is it just another attempt to be “good at” depression? Perhaps! However, if I accept the premise that depression is indeed the curse of the strong then by bearing that curse, I must also accept that I am strong. And so maybe, just maybe, I’m not such a lost cause after all!

What’s this all about then eh?
I found a pretty cool challenge on a blog from last year – 30 days of mental health posts. I’ve decided to give it a go, despite being a year late to the party! You can also see the other participating posts. This is my fourth entry.  If you prefer, you can read from the start.

The Black Dog: Man’s Best Friend? (30 Days Challenge)

Coping with the Moping (30 Days Challenge)

3. What treatment or coping skills are most effective for you?

“Coping”…what an interesting word! It implies a lot more than it states. It implies a sub-par life, one spent in struggle or adversity, one that’s never quite 100%. When somebody suffers a bereavement people ask them “how are you coping?” in hushed tones. Tones that imply the asker fully believes the person is suffering, barely living, just about getting by.

Am I getting by? Am I suffering? Hell no! I may not always be living life to the fullest and I may have times when all seems hopeless and lost. But I am living. Living, not “coping”. I am not stuck in some suspended state of reality. I am not someone to be pitied. I am not different from the next ten people I pass on the street.

Instead of “how are you coping?” I’d like to be asked “how do you kick depression’s ass?” or “how are you kind to yourself on the days that depression is winning?”. Because yes, I have those days. Days when I’m not living life. Days when life is happening to me, or around me. On those days I have strategies and methods. Or not. I may sink into it and let myself be consumed. Whatever. But the rest of the time…well I simply refuse to divide my life into good and bad like that. Instead, I live a life occasionally marked out with depression days. I have me days and not-so-me days. But who doesn’t?

Perhaps it’s no more than semantics. Perhaps I’m just being stubborn and wasting my energy in a futile rebellion against a word, a definition. But it’s important to me. It’s important that my entire existence is not defined as something less than whole.

I wear this label. I wear it willingly. But I refuse to let it define me.

What’s this all about then eh?
I found a pretty cool challenge on a blog from last year – 30 days of mental health posts. I’ve decided to give it a go, despite being a year late to the party! You can also see the other participating posts. This is my third entry. If you prefer, you can read from the start.

Coping with the Moping (30 Days Challenge)

Labels…Not just for Fashion (30 Days Challenge)

2. How do you feel about your diagnosis?

Relieved.

I find it a little odd when people react badly to a mental health diagnosis. With physical health a diagnosis can be a devastating. You sought help for a headache & ended up with a brain tumour. You complained about a little tiredness & came away with MS. Your life changes and you have to make all kinds of adjustments – medications, hospital visits and so on. Life is about to get a whole lot worse before it can ever get better.

Not so much with mental health. For the most part, by the time you get to the diagnosis stage you have already been sucked down into the depths of the illness. Your life has already changed and you have already been through a whole host of adjustments – withdrawal of social contact, substance dependency and a host of other possible coping mechanisms that now seem normal. For these people, what lies ahead is hope, recovery and (dare I say it) better than what’s gone before.

The day I sat in a GP’s office and said out loud the words I had been struggling with internally for years…well, it’s no exaggeration to say a weight lifted from me and I felt a lightness. “I think I might be depressed”. Six little words that took me uncountable years to utter to another human being. Instead of feeling weak, I felt stronger than I had in years. I felt relief. I willingly abdicated responsibility for myself to another person. I uttered six words out loud, but inside my mind was screaming “Take my burden, take it from me and please, please, tell me that I’m right”.

Yes, you read that correctly. No typos there. On that day I wanted the label. I longed to have the GP take out an ancient, grey office stamp and ink a big red “DEPRESSED” on my file. I wanted my emotional fragility validated. I wanted permission to give in to it. No, not to give in…to accept the truth. To own my reality. To admit I needed help. To stop being strong.

One of the sneaky features of depression is your guilty suspicion that you might be making it all up. That there’s nothing really wrong with you is perversely both the dream and secret fear of an undiagnosed depressive. That day I shuffled out of the GP office, clutching my prescription, with eyes raw from crying. I looked a sorry, sorry state. But inside….inside I was dancing. “I KNEW IT!” my inner voice sang, as she proudly smoothed her “depressed” label on her sweater and skipped down the street.

What’s this all about then eh?
I found a pretty cool challenge on a blog from last year – 30 days of mental health posts. I’ve decided to give it a go, despite being a year late to the party! You can also see the other participating posts. This is my second entry. If you prefer, you can read from the start.

Labels…Not just for Fashion (30 Days Challenge)

What is Dysthymia? (30 Days Challenge)

I found a pretty cool challenge on a blog from last year – 30 days of mental health posts. I’ve decided to give it a go, despite being a year late to the party! You can also see the other participating posts.

1. What is Dysthymia?

According to Wikipedia the word dysthymia translates to “bad state of mind”. It is:

…a mood disorder consisting of the same cognitive and physical problems as in depression, with less severe but longer-lasting symptoms. The concept was coined…as a replacement for the term “depressive personality”…[sufferers] may believe that depression is a part of their character, so they may not even discuss their symptoms…

I couldn’t have put it better myself! For years, I thought I was a pessimist. A nay-sayer. A negative Nora. It never occurred to me that not everybody looks at life through grey-tinted glasses, perceiving slights in every human interaction and believing themselves to be the least worthy person alive. While simultaneously berating themselves for perceiving slights and believing themselves unworthy. It’s a never-ending circle.

Every day of my youth I got out of bed and I went to school. I got good grades. I had a few friends and I was one of those weird kids who liked their family. Throughout my college years I got out of bed and went to (some) lectures. I got acceptable grades. I had a few close friends. I liked nothing better than an afternoon gossiping in the canteen over tea & biscuits. When I started working I got out of bed every morning and went to my desk. I received positive performance reviews and the odd raise. I enjoyed social nights out, drinking until the small hours. I saved up and bought my first car. I went on group holidays. I fell in love. Did I live? Yes. Was I happy? No.

When you hear that somebody is not happy, you immediately think of bleak days and lonely nights; a person who never gets out of bed or laughs with friends. You picture a person curled in a ball, crying endlessly and wailing at the unfairness of life. Dysthymia is a different type of unhappy. If life was an exercise machine, dysthymia would be akin to having the resistance set to low. It’s not enough to stop you in your tracks, in fact sometimes you might not even notice it. But it’s enough to require you to try a little harder. To impact your performance. And some days, when you’re tired or you’ve used your energy on another machine, it can make it impossible. On those days you just….can’t.

What is Dysthymia? (30 Days Challenge)