Remission and recovery from any mental illness, addiction, or both, bring with them, for most of us entirely new gifts. Some of us are fortunate enough to find a whole new way of living, one which we have never experienced or imagined possible. Not all days are easy, but as we get stronger, we find sometimes that many doors open. They may come in the form of new bonds made with family, new career prospects, or hopefully at least new way of looking at life with renewed gratitude that we learn how to express in positive ways.
Thankfully, I am fortunate enough to have met my soulmate, the love of my life. I recently met his family too, and he confessed not long after that his mother remarked that she'd never met two people more compatible. We have a bond that is indescribable, and we seem to be perfect for each other in every way, except geographically. We currently live several states away from each other, but we are coping with the distance as well as we can, and share the common goal of planning a future together. That keeps us both hopeful most of the time.
Long distance relationships are tough for any couple, but we have also had to bring some ugly pieces of our pasts to the forefront during the early stages of our relationship. I have had challenges all of my life. Although I have had success in recovery for some time now, my past (due to bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD, and a lengthy substance abuse disorder), has created a challenging heap of messiness. This has created problems personally, professionally, and financially. I am steadily cleaning up the debris of my past these days, one mistake at a time. He has also successfully defeated a substance abuse disorder, overcoming an addiction to alcohol that lasted nearly five years. He also struggles with a depressive disorder himself.
To some people this sounds like a nightmare, but it really has gone so well since day one, and I attribute the success of our relationship so far to the following five vital factors. I would be willing to go so far as to say that these things I believe apply to ANY healthy, romantic relationship. They can't hurt anyway...
As soon as two people are comfortable enough and feel they trust the other (and certainly once they feel any romantic love start to bloom), there ought to be full disclosure of their personal mental illness struggles both past and present. It may seem frightening or painful, but if love exists, the other person should accept one hundred percent of who you are. They should offer their support, and agree to love and protect you, even if it's from yourself, down the road.
Mental illnesses are rarely pretty, nor are the challenges they create, when they manifest themselves. Not being frank and giving a sugar-coated account of your past isn't fair to your partner, and will probably bite you back in the future anyway, so put all your cards on the table.
This goes for both parties involved in a loving relationship. However, differences, neurologically speaking, can create barriers, so tell each other what to expect. Own your vulnerable qualities, but remember to allow as much time as is necessary for your partner's acceptance of those differences.
Put yourself in your partner's position. Try to understand how he or she feels. Sympathy is different than this. Empathy is described as feeling on a relatable level what the other may be going through.
If you love your partner, after you have accepted your neurological differences, you have to begin learning how to not lose your cool when they do something or explain things differently than you would expect. Don't try to change each other. Learn a positive way to live with all that they are, the great and the negative, but not to the detriment of your true self.
Perfect relationships don't exist between human beings. That is just a fact, because no perfect human exists. However, the best things in life don't come easy for anybody, but I am grateful for what I have. I believe that it is worth all the work in the world. Most days seem effortless, but when things do get bumpy, I just remember how my life was without him or imagine how it could be. I don't like to think of that, so I think any good advice is worth consideration if it strengthens love and makes me a happier human.
Read more of Allison's posts here.