Loved as a whole

Dear Nora,

I’ve been marinating in two pools of thought ever since I read your letter. 1) thinking about that “m” word…and your question “WHY?” and 2) thinking about relationships in combination with mental health issues.

Thank you for sharing about your depression with me. I’ve known people in the past who try to hide their struggle with that. But that just piles shame on top of depression, and adds another log on that fire of perceived failures.

I also appreciate you addressing the importance of a partner (or really, any close person in your life) learning how to best help you during a bout of depression. Mental health has been a recurring theme in my life without me being able to say I’ve personally struggled with it. Some of the most important people I hold dear struggle with mental health issues. I am certain I’ve been guilty of not handling it well at times, just trying to douse out depression with a big bucket of positivity. I’ve definitely learned over time that it’s more beneficial and comforting to them when I step into their pain with them instead of trying to pull them out of it.

There is so much shame and easy dismissal of those with mental health struggles.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve head a comment like: “I dated her, but she was crazy–seriously, she was bi-polar or something and needed to be on meds.”

I am disturbed by that statement on many levels. Mostly it’s just an ignorant and shaming thing to say–who are you to diagnose and prescribe treatment?

My sister is bi-polar, it’s something she wakes up every morning and tackles–the weather systems of moods sweeping through her days and nights. But there is almost no one I love as much as her. Not only is she incredibly lovable and unique and generous and brilliant, she is a kind and loving partner to the man she is dating. And has been completely open with him about her challenges.

Mental health is a very real thing. In fact, a very common thing (1 in 5 adults in the U.S. struggle with mental health). It can have a huge, crippling impact on a life, or it can hover in the background like a buzzing fly, or come and go in waves. But no matter what it’s presence is like, the person who has to deal with it is still 100% worthy of love and empathy and acceptance. And they may choose to seek medication and therapy, and they may not. Or they might find other ways to handle it (fried chicken and lavender are nice). But your job, as someone who loves them, is not to shame them, or tell them they’re “crazy”, or dictate what their treatment should be. It’s to support them. It does bring a unique set of challenges to romantic partnerships, but who doesn’t come with their own variety of challenges, insecurities, and struggles? I think the best way to “deal” is to just be as open and honest with communication as possible. You aren’t there to save or fix someone, your job is to love them, and love yourself.

*whew* Sorry that was just a bit longwinded. Obviously this is an important topic to me. Elise deals with some mental health issues as well, and has been upfront with me from the beginning about it. I have so much to learn still, but I know these challenges have already stretched me to grow in so many ways. You don’t love someone in spite of their issues, you love them as a wholeall the parts of them make up who they are.

Ok, since this has gotten quite lengthy, I’m going to save my response about marriage for the next letter. In the meantime, some questions for you, my dear. This is highly personal, but can I ask why you left your family in Colombia at age 16? That is such a brave and terrifying thought to me. Do you still keep in touch with them? Have you ever gone back? Are your closest friends with you in California? or still back in NY? Do you have people in your life who feel “permanent”?

P.S. Thoughts of marriage coming soon. Also, massages do sound nice as well.

Love, Ruth

P.P.S. Elise and I celebrated our one year anniversary on Vancouver Island, B.C. by staying at this amazing spherical floating treehouse! It was unforgettable and quite special. Pictures below, because I can’t help myself…

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