Love. A wonderful, enticing companion that can be the best friend and the worse enemy of your depression. What I mean by this is, it’s easy to be naive and believe that the love of someone else can give you the sudden strength to love yourself. In some cases, it might.
Maybe the ‘love hormone’ Oxytocin, may come into play. This ‘cuddle chemical’ is the one that warmly bonds parent to child, lover to lover, friend to friend. It was discovered in 1909 by British pharmacologist Henry Dale, but it wasn’t until 1970 that it started to become clear that oxytocin was more than just a hormone – it was also a neurotransmitter that holds a strong presence in the brain’s emotional center, the limbic system. It works to dampen the activity of the fear center, the amygdala, thereby easing stress and anxiety. But what about severe mental disorders? Despite the science behind this theory, I’m not convinced.
You can love someone totally inside and out for every second of every day, but this does not act as a protective shield against their demons. It is not a fictional disorder romanticized by a Disney movie that can be alleviated and defeated by the sheer presence of love, as much as we wish it could be. Love may help, but it certainly won’t cure. A mental illness needs acknowledgement, understanding and treatment.
Let’s take a romantic relationship as an example. It can make or break you. It can introduce a little bit of light into the dark cloud hanging above you, but at the same time it can add to your anxiety. Depression is a selfish thing. My own depression doesn’t care that I love a boy that makes me laugh, tells me I’m beautiful countless times and sweetly kisses my scars.
I’m extremely grateful for all the times he holds me while I cry for ages for no reason. I’m thankful that he puts up with me when my guard is up during random bouts of irritability, and when I cancel plans just because my mood has suddenly swung around to the dark side.
His constant attempts of comfort, even with I’m resisting. He’s there for me when I have nightmares. He encourages me to eat when I have no appetite. He loves me for who I am, regardless of the chemicals that are unbalanced in my poor brain.
Love is frightening, because each day brings a fear that one more tear-filled night, one more argument, and one more psychotic episode might push him over the edge. I wouldn’t blame him if he did. After all, why would someone want to invest their heart to someone like me? That’s the depression talking. I am constantly going back and forth between caring too much and not caring at all. He is always quick to remind me that he loves me for who I am, but my doubt is just as fast. This is why the phrase, ‘You cannot love someone else until you learn to love yourself’ pisses me off. Why does society doubt our capacity to love? It’s in our human nature, and to be honest I believe that someone with a mental illness can love more. It’s tricky to avoid emotionally relying on someone. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made was to rely on someone else for my own happiness. However, I may struggle to show it, but words cannot explain how much I appreciate the love of another, because it contradicts this stigma and my own self-loathing.
Never let anyone tell you that you are not worthy of love. Never let anyone tell you that you should not be in a relationship if you have a mental illness. Never let anyone tell you that you are selfish for being in love. Can love cure a mental illness? No, I don’t believe it can. Maybe you disagree. But I know I’d much rather fight through my depression with the company of love, rather than no love at all.