As someone who spends a lot of time with people who are both directly and indirectly affected by mental health issues, I have come to realize that there are so many things that we can do to better welcome positive mental health into our relationships.
First and foremost, mental health issues affect everyone, in a million different ways. As soon as we can come to terms with the fact that we are all within the spectrum of mental health, and that we all move along it each day, the sooner we can identify how it is involved in our relationships.
For years, people have been debating the key to successful relationships. From Billy Crystal’s rhetoric in When Harry Met Sally to online dating algorithms, it’s as though everyone thinks they’ve found the key. At the end of the day, though, it seems to boil down to communicating effectively enough to understand what each person needs and values, and to make that our priority as well. We must understand that doing this is not compromise, it is partnership. This is not weakness, it is teamwork.
When it comes to having mentally healthy relationships, I believe that the more we openly discuss our mental health in a partnership, the more we understand our counterpart’s needs. This allows us to equally share vulnerability and communicate on a meaningful level.
How many times a day do we answer, “Good, thanks,” when asked how we are? Are we actually “Good, thanks”? Or are we simply following a pattern of communication that we’ve gotten so accustomed to in order to hide our vulnerability from those we love? What would happen if we said, “Today I’m feeling a little off, I would love to talk to you about it when we get some time alone”? In my experience, this honesty opens us up to a beautiful new pattern of communication where we can mutually express vulnerability and support each other.
Now I know that it’s not easy to show vulnerability, especially if you aren’t used to it. But, as our coaches have always told us, practice makes perfect. Not only does practice make perfect, but it also rubs off on others. When we are vulnerable with each other, it also shows those around us that honesty is the key to true communication, and that healthy relationships are not hindered by vulnerability, they are entirely founded on it. Because, without vulnerability, we wouldn’t need relationships. We would be fine out there on our own in the world. But we aren’t. We need others, we need love, and we need relationships. There is no better feeling than being accepted by someone when you are at your most vulnerable.
So please, take a leap and try to communicate as honestly as you can with those you love. Show them your vulnerability and change those patterns of empty communication that we are so often stuck in. When you aren’t feeling good, say you aren’t feeling good. When you’re struggling with a mental health issue or having trouble supporting your partner with theirs, don’t keep it in. You will see a world of communication open up before you and find so much beauty in your relationships that you didn’t know was there.
And hopefully you’ll find, as I have many times, that saying you’re feeling bad has never felt so good.
About Kathryn Christie
As an HR Consultant with a deep passion for Mental Health, Kathryn spends her days pushing paper and her nights volunteering with the Canadian Mental Health Association as a co-facilitator of the Family and Caregiver Education program. Her passion extends beyond the realm of her volunteer work which has brought her to Healthy Minds Canada to share stories, support and inspiration with her community.