What it’s like to love someone with a mental illness
Nicole Iacovoni

Nicole Iacovoni

Nicole Iacovoni is a financial therapist, licensed psychotherapist, and writer for women entrepreneurs who are tired of struggling financially and feel overwhelmed by the emotional up’s and down’s of growing a business.

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“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” - 1 Corinthians

I don’t disagree that this is a beautiful sentiment and a reality worth striving for.

To love fully and unconditionally is a great gift to ourselves and others. In a perfect world, we’d all be beacons of love and light radiating that good shit all over each other.

But life, love, and relationships are hard as fuck…especially when you love someone with mental illness.

As someone who struggles with mental illness and is also married to someone with a mental health disorder, all I can say is that it’s not easy.

God bless my husband for putting up with me. I can be a difficult person to live with.

My personality is essentially comprised of two parts.

Part one is what I like to call my “true self”.

It’s the part of me that lives life in full force.

I’m a dreamer and a feeler. I passionately speak my mind. I know what I want and I go for it.

I’m driven and ambitious. Adventurous and curious. A doer and a thinker. A creator and an introvert.

It’s hard to keep up with me. One day, I want to settle down on a sustainable farm with a gazillion animals and grow deep roots at my homestead.

The next day, I want to renovate an old Airstream, sell all my possessions, and travel around the country like a free-spirited nomad.

My personality is essentially comprised of two parts.

Part one is what I like to call my “true self”.

It’s the part of me that lives life in full force.

I’m a dreamer and a feeler. I passionately speak my mind. I know what I want and I go for it.

I’m driven and ambitious. Adventurous and curious. A doer and a thinker. A creator and an introvert.

It’s hard to keep up with me. One day, I want to settle down on a sustainable farm with a gazillion animals and grow deep roots at my homestead.

The next day, I want to renovate an old Airstream, sell all my possessions, and travel around the country like a free-spirited nomad.

I’m ALL IN. Bold. Interesting. Fun-loving. Down to Earth.

Part two is the part of me that experiences mental illness.

In my case, it’s depression with a touch of anxiety (because depression and anxiety are like best friends who like to hang out together a lot).

This is the part of me that can be withdrawn and moody.

There are times when all I want is to be alone for days to reflect on my life and figure out what my purpose is. I can get lost in thought and experience the pain of hardship deeply- both my own and others.

Sometimes I miss my mom so much that I spend a whole day crying. Grief never ends. It simply fades into the background and then resurfaces at random intervals, ruining the plans you had for that day.

I can spend hours just sitting outside listening to birds or watching the trees sway back and forth. Don’t bother me during these moments of solitude or I’ll bite your fucking head off.

If there was an app that my husband could download to tell him which mood I was in at any given time, I’m certain he would pay whatever money it costs to have it.

But my moods, wants, and needs are unpredictable, even for me.

There are times when I can be the sweetest, most loving wife a husband could ask for. I can be funny and banter with him like you wouldn’t believe. I can be thoughtful and generous with my husband, willingly offering him the last bit of whatever delicious treat we’re sharing.

And then there are times when I can be dramatic, critical, and distant. Nothing my husband does is good enough. I can be cold, controlling, and harsh with my tongue. If he thinks he’s getting even one bite of this carrot cake, he’s dead wrong. It’s my favorite and it’s all mine…and don’t touch me.

Sometimes I feel sorry for my husband and everything my mental illness puts him through. (It’s no walk in the park for me either. )

But there’s also so much beauty and magic in loving someone with a mental illness.

There’s no arguing; I’m the real deal.

I’m completely myself with my husband. I’m always honest with him. There are no masks. No phoniness. Nothing but complete authenticity and genuineness. I hide nothing. What he sees is what he gets.

Depression won’t allow me to be any other way. It’s too exhausting to pretend.

My husband knows that I trust him endlessly. I trust him so much that I make myself fully vulnerable with him every day of my life.

Having full faith and trust in someone is a precious gift rarely given.

And because I am unapologetically myself, he has permission to also be his real, raw, messy self without censorship. My mental illness makes space for his brand of mental illness to exist without judgment or fear of rejection.

Not to mention, walking through life beside someone who feels all the feels and expresses themselves intensely adds zest, curiosity, intrigue, and passion to his life. Being with someone who changes her mind often keeps him on his toes. Life will never be dull or boring.

Living with someone like me, who’s highly empathic and sensitive to stimuli, makes my husband more aware of how his behavior affects the people around him. He’s learned that shrieking loudly for no reason or tickling me will be met with a death stare and a slew of obscenities. Maybe a slap, too. (Impulsivity is a feature of his mental illness that I’m still practicing dealing with.)

He’s learned from experience that if he acts that way around me, he’s not getting any nookie…for a long while. My reaction to his behavior motivates him to be self-aware and more gentle, which are great qualities to have.

For me, depression is partly genetic, passed down from my family, and partly experiential, a byproduct of the hardships I’ve faced in my life. Being abandoned by my father, raised by my grandparents, and striving for independence at an early age to avoid being a burden on others gives me a unique perspective on life.

My husband and I see the world through very different lenses. The types of mental illness we each experience add color and dimension to our worldviews. It’s fascinating to share our interpretations of life with each other. We challenge each other to see what can’t be seen by one another.

There are times when my husband’s mental illness drives me bonkers, and I wish I had a magic wand that would make it go away. Then I remind myself that some of the features of his diagnosis are the very things that attracted me to him in the first place.

Spontaneity. Energy. Playfulness.

These qualities make him and our relationship dynamic and alive.

I’m sure my mental illness drives my husband bananas at times, too. If it does, he hides it well. He never shames me for being the way I am. He just accepts me and loves me…ALL of me.

That’s the best way to love someone with a mental illness.

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