On Vulnerability and Relationships

Anyone with mental health challenges knows that maintaining healthy relationships can be one of the hardest feats. While struggling, relationships may suffer due to isolation and lack of understanding. When someone with mental health challenges is thriving and able to be a good friend and family member, the damages from isolation create tension and hardship within the relationship. In some cases, it ends the relationship. It leaves everyone in the equation confused and sometimes hurt. I personally have dealt with failed relationships due to my mental health. At times, it’s been hard to contribute and actively participate in relationships because I felt so bad. Over the past few years, I’ve learned how to manage relationships and now know just how vital they are to my well-being. 

Family and Vulnerability

Often times we take family for granted by thinking that they will always be there. Naturally, we think because of blood relation, family members will love us no matter what. At the height of my mental health issues, I treated my family badly and pushed them away out of frustration. In recent years, I’ve learned that my family is not obligated to love me or be there for and that I should never take them for granted. Some of the same family members that I was at odds with during my manic episode, I am closer to now more than ever. I learned that I must give them the same time, attention and vulnerability that they give me. They are my support system as I am a support for them. Bettering my relationships within my family also allowed me to see that everyone has issues. Although issues vary and differ from person to person, we all fight battles. Learning how to be supportive to my family helped me to fight my own battles more effectively. Being vulnerable is no longer an issue for me. I have opened up to my family in a way that fosters healthier relationships than before. I am now able to be completely myself and with that I have seen how much our relationships have changed. There’s no pretense, no hiding behind what I think they want me to be. This vulnerability has set the example for other relationships and friendships.

Friendship and Vulnerability

Friendship is something that I have always struggled with. I never knew how much of myself to give to someone who I had no blood ties to. I had a few close friends that I knew with all my heart were solid. I also got along well with mostly everyone in high school and had many associates. Friends came and went all through high school and early college, but it was during my manic episode and recovery that I learned the true meaning of friendship. It was my friend from high school who was there for me. Our families had known each other since we were little girls. We grew close in high school. College had separated us, but we still talked regularly and saw each other when we were both back home. While manic, I would call her randomly and she would always answer. She even came back to our hometown to see me during this time. We went to Chili’s and I had very wild makeup and hair. It was so unbecoming and so unlike me, but she sat there with me calmly and unembarrassed to be with because she knew I was not okay. After I began to level out, I saw e-mails between her and my mom where she had been checking on me. The next year when I was finally diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, she was the first friend that I opened up to about it. When I divulged such sensitive information she listened attentively, assured me that everything would be okay and most importantly she never changed. If she had not been there for me in the way that she was when I was manic, I would have never allowed myself to vulnerable with her in telling her something so personal. I allowed her to be there for me and since then we’ve only grown closer. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding, we’ve traveled together, and she’s someone I often call on to share my joys and defeats. I consider her family and much like my family relationships I can be vulnerable.