Love Will Not Cure You
We’ve all seen this in movies or books. Character A has depression or an anxiety disorder, or some form of mental illness. Character A meets Character B. They fall in love. Character A is magically healed and goes on to live a completely mentally healthy life.
I’m sorry to tell you, but that is complete and utter crap.
Love cannot cure a mental illness. If someone breaks a bone, you can't fix it with hugs. If someone has cancer, you can't take it away by saying you love them. And yet, there’s this idea that if you love someone enough, they won't be depressed anymore.
Logically, that does make sense. Love makes people happy, and enough happy can override depression, right?
The issue is this line of thinking sees mental illnesses as equal to emotions.
Depression = sad, anxiety = nervous. That’s just not true.
Let’s see if I can illustrate this with a story.
I was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression my sophomore year of high school, in the fall. The following spring, I started dating someone I was with for over three years. He knew I had social anxiety and depression before we started dating and was incredibly understanding of both.
He was gentle and caring and did everything he could to help me on bad days. He loved me and not only did he tell me that, he showed me. I loved him, too, and I was ecstatic to have him in my life.
It was while we were dating that I self-harmed.
It was while we were dating that I’d miss school because my anxiety was too high.
It was while we were dating that I had suicidal thoughts.
It was while we were dating that I almost killed myself.
He didn’t do anything wrong, so don’t think that’s what I’m saying. In fact, he did everything right. He didn’t judge me, he rarely showed his frustration with me, and he tried his very best to help.
In a lot of ways, he did help. He helped raise my self-esteem. He helped me identify unhealthy thought patterns. He helped me stop self-harming.
He was the one who told my parents I was self-harming. He’s the one who more or less forced me to go to counseling. He’s the one who called my sister when he had a bad feeling the night I almost killed myself. He helped me in more ways than I can list here.
Even with his help, I still had social anxiety and depression. Because as helpful and amazing as he was, he couldn’t make the chemicals in my brain correct themselves. No matter how many times he hugged me, held me, told me he loved me, they were still unbalanced.
Hugs don’t cure mental illness.
Love doesn’t cure mental illness.
It can help significantly and having someone who supports you is tremendously valuable. Love and support make it easier to live with mental illness, but it can't make it go away.
Don’t believe the movies or the books. You need more than a significant other. Recovery from a mental illness requires a lot of personal strength that another person cannot give you. Lean on them, yes, but don’t rely on them to fix you.