Relationships aren’t always easy; they require effort, compromise and sacrifices. Throw a mental illness into the mix and it certainly ‘spices’ things up.
I will be the first to admit that Ben has affected my past relationships. Some it has had a profound affect on; others it has shown me whose truly cared for me and therefore taught me a lot of difficult, but important lessons.
Ben started to make an appearance back into my life when I was twenty one. Prior to this time, I had only had one serious relationship, which had been unaffected by my mental health issues. I still to this day don’t know the reason for Ben’s return. It was certainly unwelcome and changed the course of my life from that very moment.
This was an incredibly challenging period of my life. I had never experienced the level of anxiety and panic that was suddenly taking over my life. I had always been fairly carefree, confident and flippant about most things. But then everything began to become an issue. Walking into a supermarket; going to work; new environments. You name it, Ben claimed it. The partner I met during this time had known me briefly before I became unwell again. Therefore, he had seen the version of me that was unaffected by mental illness – someone who was in control.
Relationships worry me. For simple, silly reasons. For all the reasons relating to Ben. I don’t worry about people being unfaithful and I don’t worry about commitment. I worry about vulnerability and I worry about judgement. I worry that I’m going to let someone into my life who is ultimately going to leave me because of Ben. And part of me thinks that if that happens, then it just wasn’t right for me anyway. But another, small part of me thinks: would I blame them?
Ben is the worst mental companion you could imagine. He is the unwanted third wheel in my relationships who quite frankly, doesn’t get the hint. He creates anxiety in me that isn’t always present when I am on my own. It seems relationships just add to Ben’s control over me.
When Ben is around, I know I’m not an easy person to ‘handle’. Especially if you are one of the closest people to me. I can be very adamant that I ‘can’t’ do something because Ben convinces me I’m not mentally equipped to deal with it. I can sometimes find normal ‘couple’ things difficult – staying at people’s houses, going for meals etc. All of which my previous partners will have experienced at some stage. They have been so gracious in my refusal to do certain things, which I can imagine wasn’t always easy but something I am forever grateful for.
Despite Ben having such an impact on my relationships, some people have surprised me with their level of understanding and their ability to adapt to my way of handling things. Especially during the initial return of my anxiety. There were times where I would be dropped home at 3am simply because that was the only way to calm my mind – I needed to be in my ‘safe’ place regardless of no actual threat elsewhere. There were times where I was so petrified and anxious about public transport that I spent a weekend in London not using a single tube, bus or taxi. I’m sure the amount of steps taken in those two days could have easily equated to a marathons distance. There was a time where I spent New Years Eve returning to a hotel room before the countdown had even begun, trying to rationalize my racing mind because a panic attack had cut short our previously enjoyable night out. There were times where a partner would be at my house within ten minutes of knowing I wasn’t coping, regardless of their planned night with friends. None of these things were met with anger; judgement or resentment. It was just simple things that had been put in place to make my time just that little bit easier.
It was just simply effort, compromise and sacrifice.