We can all list a few common symptoms of anxiety and depression. We can go to the NHS website and read about how mental health problems can cause physical symptoms such as an increased heart-rate and sweating and emotional symptoms like low mood. But there is one symptom which is often forgotten. In a list of symptoms, it is rare to see a line reading, “mental health problems could cause the breakdown of interpersonal relationships.”
To be perfectly honest, this does make sense. You cannot quantify the impact mental heath can have on your relationships. It would be impossible to write, “One in five adults have had mental health problems impact their relationships.” And, perhaps more importantly, it is something so personal and so different to each individual – it would be impossible to condense each person’s experience into a single line in a list of symptoms.
It gave me time to adjust and learn to cope with my anxiety, more than I ever had before
The truth is that having strong, stable relationships with family, friends and partners can be the most wonderful respite from the stresses, insecurities and poor moods caused by problems with your mental health. But when these relationships begin to be negatively affected, it can turn into a new form of torture.
Looking back, I can pinpoint the exact moment this happened to me. You might consider it a mistake to come to university with a partner. You’ll hear all about how your relationship will restrict you from having fun and enjoying your new life.
But my relationship collapsed for different reasons. I had always had problems with anxiety, but the post A-Level, pre-university time was the worst it had ever been. And amongst other things, it led to a breakdown of the first real romantic relationship I had ever had.
I experienced intrusive thoughts which made me doubt the relationship, my sex drive was diminished completely, and I felt I was being a burden on him. Rather than being honest and truthful, I ended the relationship a few weeks after arriving at university.
I won’t sit here and call that decision a mistake. Honestly, it was probably the best thing I could have done for myself at the time. It gave me time to adjust and learn to cope with my anxiety, more than I ever had before.
Any true friend will completely understand, and this can give you the time to adjust, without the worry of losing anyone you love
Now, it means I have learned how to cope with the way in which mental health problems can impact relationships. Rather than running away when things get difficult, I can confront the problem and speak honestly with those closest to me.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on the matter, and I won’t tell anyone with the same problem how to deal with it, but I can share my own personal advice and how I cope with it today. My greatest piece of advice is to talk to the people you care about the most.
I know as well as anyone that this can seem like an impossible task, but it is important to remember that if your relationships are being affected, the other person will most likely be worried about it as well.
You will learn how to keep your relationships happy while experiencing difficult times
I would recommend going to them, doing something you used to enjoy doing together, and talking with each other. Even if you don’t want to disclose everything, reassure yourself – and them – that the relationship is still there. Any true friend will completely understand, and this can give you the time to adjust, without the worry of losing anyone you love.
While I have had relationships damaged by problems with my own mental health, I can also confidently leave you with the truth that, while poor mental health can leave you feeling lonely, hopeless, and afraid, it can also lead you to developing stronger relationships. You might never expected to form such a close bond with someone until you have revealed your most vulnerable self.
You’ll learn to surround yourself with people who will completely and wholeheartedly support you when you’re struggling and, hopefully, you will learn how to keep your relationships happy while experiencing difficult times.