My illness does not define my relationship

Originally published in the Journal on the 23rd of October 2015*

MY LOVE LIFE is a prime example of the saying “it will happen when you least expect it.”

Three weeks after being discharged from a psychiatric ward following a suicide attempt, I started a new relationship with my boyfriend, Ishy. We had been friends for about a year beforehand.

Understandably, the mental health workers involved with me at the time were horrified. I will admit, it was not an ideal time to get into a relationship considering I was quite vulnerable, but that was over seven years ago now and we are still going strong. He even put a ring on it back in 2013.

Over the years we have had plenty of laughs and new adventures, we have basically grown up together and shared our lives with each other. I can see how our relationship could possibly sound like some sort of fairy tale from what I am saying.

He has been there for me through it all 

In reality, that is not the case. For every up, there has been just as many downs. Ishy has been there for my absolute worst.

He has sat through hospital visiting hours, held my hand while I faced being diagnosed with schizophrenia, stayed up with me until all hours while I have cried, calmed me down when I got too worked up, stopped me from causing harm to myself and looked after me during the times when I have not been able to get out of bed.

I began having problems with my mental health very early in my life. My psychotic symptoms started when I was just a small child. My condition worsened as I got older, year after year more issues arose.

I self-harmed on a daily basis and struggled to deal with the manic highs and crushing lows. Now, as an adult, I still have many extremely unpleasant symptoms to deal with. The auditory hallucinations (hearing voices) that I experience every day have never slowed down or stopped. I will always be sick, but I have good days and bad ones, the same as everybody else.

At this stage of my life I have built a high level of resilience. Things have been far from easy, but for Ishy, it has been just as hard going through it all with me.

People can say hurtful things 

People often say to us how good he has been to stick by me. Most mean well, but sometimes it can be said in a way that can be hurtful. Almost as if our relationship is based on a sort of sick person and their carer idea, which it most certainly is not. I have supported and looked after Ishy when he has experienced difficult times and needed me.

We are a team and it works both ways. We also argue over whose turn it is to take the bins out, my relationship is the same as the next person’s. We have been asked is it safe for us to ever have children in case they end up with schizophrenia. Or how would I be able to cope with a baby if I was ill?

There has always been a huge stigma surrounding my illness. Probing questions about a family we plan to start in the future are not only insensitive, but can be incredibly hurtful. I have been asked that so many times now it does not affect either of us anymore and it is perfectly safe for us to have children.

My mental health problems are rarely at the forefront of our lives. The last few years we’ve had some major challenges and in general tend to have a lot going on. Along with ease, my family has always been incredibly supportive.

My parents are the most loving and amazing people. My poor Mum has had a long battle with cancer, but still remains the strongest person I have ever known. She has picked me up more times than anyone else.

I get strength from my Mum 

I get my strength and determination from her and she will always be my absolute hero. My parents, along with my aunt and two brothers have gone through an awful lot with me and have helped more than they will probably ever know. I may not have a lot of close friends but for the ones I have I am truly grateful.

When someone is suffering with their mental health, they sometimes experience feelings of hopelessness and feel lost about how to get help. Loved ones and those close to them can often deal with these feelings as well.

I know from my mother that watching someone you love suffer is heart-wrenching, you are willing to do anything to take their pain away but feel useless as to how to help them. There is no straight answer, but for me in my situation it really is the little things.

I do not expect anyone to ever take my hand and lead me every step of the way. When I feel like giving up, a kind gesture, a listening ear or just a plain old distraction for a couple of hours can mean the world. Ishy always finds a way to make me laugh even when I feel like crying. He puts up with my mood swings (and I put up with his), everything we face, we do so together.

When my head is filled with negatives, the thought of our future is often a positive that shines through. At the moment we are far from our home in Co. Waterford. We currently live in Sydney, Australia by a little well-known place called Bondi Beach which is quite nice. Living on the other side of the world is not easy, but as with everything else, we look after each other.

Supporting someone you love with a mental health problem can be incredibly challenging. I am sure Ishy could tell you that much himself. It can be hard to know what to do or say but I can tell you that most of the time just the knowledge that someone has my back is enough to get me through the really tough days. Ishy came into my life at a time that may not have seemed perfect, but it is quite clear now that it was for all the right reasons.

My illness does not define me. Ishy loves me for who I am and schizophrenia has no power over that.

MY LOVE LIFE is a prime example of the saying “it will happen when you least expect it.”

Three weeks after being discharged from a psychiatric ward following a suicide attempt, I started a new relationship with my boyfriend, Ishy. We had been friends for about a year beforehand.

Understandably, the mental health workers involved with me at the time were horrified. I will admit, it was not an ideal time to get into a relationship considering I was quite vulnerable, but that was over seven years ago now and we are still going strong. He even put a ring on it back in 2013.

Over the years we have had plenty of laughs and new adventures, we have basically grown up together and shared our lives with each other. I can see how our relationship could possibly sound like some sort of fairy tale from what I am saying.

He has been there for me through it all 

In reality, that is not the case. For every up, there has been just as many downs. Ishy has been there for my absolute worst.

He has sat through hospital visiting hours, held my hand while I faced being diagnosed with schizophrenia, stayed up with me until all hours while I have cried, calmed me down when I got too worked up, stopped me from causing harm to myself and looked after me during the times when I have not been able to get out of bed.

I began having problems with my mental health very early in my life. My psychotic symptoms started when I was just a small child. My condition worsened as I got older, year after year more issues arose.

I self-harmed on a daily basis and struggled to deal with the manic highs and crushing lows. Now, as an adult, I still have many extremely unpleasant symptoms to deal with. The auditory hallucinations (hearing voices) that I experience every day have never slowed down or stopped. I will always be sick, but I have good days and bad ones, the same as everybody else.

At this stage of my life I have built a high level of resilience. Things have been far from easy, but for Ishy, it has been just as hard going through it all with me.

People can say hurtful things 

People often say to us how good he has been to stick by me. Most mean well, but sometimes it can be said in a way that can be hurtful. Almost as if our relationship is based on a sort of sick person and their carer idea, which it most certainly is not. I have supported and looked after Ishy when he has experienced difficult times and needed me.

We are a team and it works both ways. We also argue over whose turn it is to take the bins out, my relationship is the same as the next person’s. We have been asked is it safe for us to ever have children in case they end up with schizophrenia. Or how would I be able to cope with a baby if I was ill?

There has always been a huge stigma surrounding my illness. Probing questions about a family we plan to start in the future are not only insensitive, but can be incredibly hurtful. I have been asked that so many times now it does not affect either of us anymore and it is perfectly safe for us to have children.

My mental health problems are rarely at the forefront of our lives. The last few years we’ve had some major challenges and in general tend to have a lot going on. Along with ease, my family has always been incredibly supportive.

My parents are the most loving and amazing people. My poor Mum has had a long battle with cancer, but still remains the strongest person I have ever known. She has picked me up more times than anyone else.

I get strength from my Mum 

I get my strength and determination from her and she will always be my absolute hero. My parents, along with my aunt and two brothers have gone through an awful lot with me and have helped more than they will probably ever know. I may not have a lot of close friends but for the ones I have I am truly grateful.

When someone is suffering with their mental health, they sometimes experience feelings of hopelessness and feel lost about how to get help. Loved ones and those close to them can often deal with these feelings as well.

I know from my mother that watching someone you love suffer is heart-wrenching, you are willing to do anything to take their pain away but feel useless as to how to help them. There is no straight answer, but for me in my situation it really is the little things.

I do not expect anyone to ever take my hand and lead me every step of the way. When I feel like giving up, a kind gesture, a listening ear or just a plain old distraction for a couple of hours can mean the world. Ishy always finds a way to make me laugh even when I feel like crying. He puts up with my mood swings (and I put up with his), everything we face, we do so together.

When my head is filled with negatives, the thought of our future is often a positive that shines through.

Supporting someone you love with a mental health problem can be incredibly challenging. I am sure Ishy could tell you that much himself. It can be hard to know what to do or say but I can tell you that most of the time just the knowledge that someone has my back is enough to get me through the really tough days. Ishy came into my life at a time that may not have seemed perfect, but it is quite clear now that it was for all the right reasons.

My illness does not define me. Ishy loves me for who I am and schizophrenia has no power over that.

As I wrote this article last year and it’s a previously published piece, some circumstances have changed. My mother passed away two months after I wrote this. 

Keep Shining On 

Nic 

xx

Life

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