On Giving Up

I spend entirely too much time on Facebook, as many of us may do with various social media outlets.

I also, gratefully, have a lot of friends on Facebook who are conscious of mental health struggles, battle with things themselves or are in the process of learning. So I see a lot of posts regarding mental health with a lot of similar, positive sentiments. There is one in particular, however, that I have been questioning the past few days derived from a quote by author Shannon L. Alder:
"Never give up on someone/a friend/a partner with a mental illness."






I don't think this is such an easy statement to make. I actually think it's quite a dangerous generalisation.
"Giving up" can mean a lot of things of course, but if we're talking about distancing yourself from someone, ending a relationship with someone, maybe even washing your hands of someone entirely I think that it's perfectly fine. I think it is perfectly fine for you to end a relationship with someone who has a mental illness. 

It is perfectly fine for you to leave any interpersonal relationship that you no longer wish to be involved in, as long as you are not endangering someone by doing so.

That's a mantra for today. Say it three times, then continue reading.

I understand and agree with the idea, that a mental illness isn't a reason to write someone off as a partner, and that loving someone who struggles with mental health is in no way an easy thing to do. There can be so many difficulties, compromises, communication mismatches and the like.

However please acknowledge the following:

People can be mentally ill and still be toxic.

People can be mentally ill and take more from you than they are willing to give back.

People can be mentally ill and still be abusive.

People can be mentally ill and still be bad people.

That's another mantra. Say it three times, then continue reading. Make sure it sticks.

Where we get into much trickier circumstances, is "giving up on someone" *because* they have a mental illness. But the truth is, there are instances where I think that's not an awful decision to make, either. Some people weaponize their pain for the purpose of hurting or holding others hostage ("If you leave me I'll kill myself", "It's your fault I'm this way" etc.), and sometimes it's just a case of not being compatible, or not being positive influences on each other. Maybe it's best to move out of your home with your depressive parent. Maybe you suffer from depression as well, and as a pair, you enable each other. Maybe, willingly or not, you are enabling or not allowing the growth of a mentally ill friend. Maybe your relationship is harming the other person. These are all things to consider when making generalising statements.

This doesn't mean you have free reign to hurt these people, however. This doesn't mean slamming the door on someone, calling them "batshit" or "looney", and denouncing everyone with a mental illness as worthless. You can let go of people kindly, step back gently, speak in a way that doesn't necessarily crush them emotionally. What we want here is kindness, kindness towards ourselves and kindness towards others. Abusive behaviour is absolutely not okay.

Do not think you have to force yourselves into maintaining relationships that end up worsening the mental health of yourself or others. Sometimes, that means giving up, letting go, crying, hurting, or maybe even feeling free from a weight you didn't know you were carrying.

 We must treat ourselves with kindness, and sometimes that might mean being selfish.

Guess what? That's another mantra.

Jacqueline Atta-Hayford