TW: Mental Health, References to Self Harm

I went to a therapist one time who told me that I needed to stop dating my (current) boyfriend in order to protect him from me. What did she mean by that? Was I some sort of monster? Was I so dangerous that the only way to love someone was by isolating myself? Did she think of me as a human incapable of having a healthy, romantic relationship, or even capable of real love?

What she told me devastated me. I struggled for months in the beginning of my relationship with Joseph; simply wondering if I was selfish for dating someone important to me. I constantly struggled with the intrusive thoughts about whether I had somehow “tricked” Joseph into believing that I am worthy of dating. Needless to say, Joseph rode a long, tumultuous, emotional roller coaster as I fought with these doubts, thoughts, and feelings love . In this case, the mental health field could not help me. I had to turn to God.

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2016 after I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt my senior year of college. The reason  that particular therapist advised me to break up with my boyfriend was because she didn’t believe I would be able to handle the triggers of a romantic relationship. She believed that my intense fear of abandonment would smother Joseph, drive him away, and self-sabotage would win once again.

I told Joseph about my BPD right at the beginning of our relationship. I warned him about my behaviors, my symptoms, and my triggers in a romantic context that would cause my mental health to deteriorate before the relationship got better. He didn’t run away from me like I was some sort of monster. Instead, Joseph was understanding, and soaked up everything he could to learn about my pain.

When I was experiencing my dissociative episodes, Joseph learned how to help me use my coping skills. During my mood swings, Joseph learned how to help me manage the intensity of my lows, and prioritize my safety during the highs. Whenever I became fixated on self-harm or suicidal thoughts, Joseph learned how to walk me through the crisis in a simple phone call. He even drove to my house and just held me while I cried. Today, Joseph is my accountability partner when it comes to taking my medication, meeting with my therapist and attending my support group. Joseph learned me.

This was never more evident when a trip  to San Diego together, Joseph and I were having a grand ol’ time until my brain decided to have a down swing in the middle of Little Italy. Sitting in an Italian coffee shop, I sobbed while Joseph comforted me. After thirty minutes, the swing passed and I was able to reintegrate back into the date. And you know what? We got dessert afterwards (where this picture was taken). I was really happy about the daytrip date to SD, even with the small valley in the road. As we arrived home, however, another mood swing struck/set in. Again, I began crying, hyperventilating, and even feeling an overwhelming urge to hurt myself.

I didn’t want to ruin the date by crying twice for reasons that I can’t even name. But that’s the reality that Joseph and I live  as we are in this relationship together. Having a mental health disorder while dating is really tough. It takes awareness, hard work, and commitment from both sides in order for it to work. The truth is, because Joseph stuck it out with me for a few months while my brain was getting used to the new triggers of the relationship, I am now more stable and those same triggers are more manageable, my symptoms definitely reduced; Joseph and I are still happily in love! Even though we don’t know if this is forever, we are both thankful that we get to learn and grow and love alongside each other in the present season,. We hope for many more!

I share my experience with you to help you believe that you are worthy of love. Am I a monster? Hell. No. Are the caretakers “better” than the significant other with a mental health issues? Hell. No. It is possible to date and be in love while struggling with a mental health issue, and it can even be encouraging to recovery. Who said borderlines couldn’t date?

Well you can borderline my ass.

Serena Lee is a mental health advocate, follower of Christ, and a singer songwriter who is loyal and kind. You can read more of Serena’s writing at Apostolic Paradigm.

Photo: Cory Bouthillette on Unsplash