Lasting love has no boundaries or limitations. It seeks no reward for thriving in the imperfect nature of humanity, that which makes all of our personal connections so vastly unique. Real love triumphs over the most dangerous of evils; those that exist inside each and every one of us.

The intricacies of who are intertwine with those we pull deeply into our lives. Our strengths and weaknesses lie naked and vulnerable to the people we love enough to show them to. Falling in love is letting go. It’s understanding that you’re worthy of being loved for the totality of who you are and capable of loving another in that same way.

Mental illness is unique. It manifests itself in a multitude of ways. It plays no favorites, chooses no sides and runs from no one. It lives inside some of the people we all love. Throughout their lives, they’ve attacked it, tried to reason with it and searched tirelessly for freedom from the moments it has plagued. They’ve sought out love and found that some pieces of who they are cannot be understood or accepted. They’ve had moments of invigorating, phenomenal joy and also moments of dark and unexplainable despair. They’ve endured fear invisible to those around them. They’ve learned to cope, control and live. They’ve climbed mountains no one knew existed. And most importantly, they’ve discovered love in you, even with a mind that so relentlessly tries to convince them otherwise.
What does it mean to love someone with depression, anxiety or another mental illness?
  1. It’s experiencing raw humility and friendship, as you face both of your deepest weaknesses and most exhilarating capabilities with one another.
  2. It’s the ability to value human beings for their complexities, strengths and beautiful differences.
  3. It’s a change that happens inside of you. This transcends past your intimate relationships and moves into your overall interactions and understandings of others. It makes you see people with your heart, not your eyes.
  4. It’s giving someone’s feelings validity, even if you don’t understand them.
  5. It’s a complete and utter release of social stigma. It’s realizing just how real mental illness is from a first-hand perspective, and choosing to respect that in every way.
  6. It’s knowing when someone is so lost and irrational that they aren’t the person you care about at that moment. It’s forgiving them for that confusing and scary reality.
  7. It’s understanding how small actions can so deeply impact those you love in a positive or negative way. It’s having those effects magnified and exasperated in a way that illuminates your power to do good and evil.
  8. It’s being able to tell the difference between speaking to an episode and speaking to someone you love.
  9. It’s understanding the trials of an illness. Illnesses involve medicine, lifestyle adjustments and a responsibility to take care of yourself in a way that others don’t understand. Loving someone with mental illness means honoring it the same you would another health issue.
  10. It’s exercising patience, compassion and perspective.
  11. It’s learning difficult lessons, like knowing when to give someone space and when to hold on with all you have.
  12. It’s being conscious of your own well-being too. It’s being able to know your limitations, and when someone you love requires help from someone else too.
  13. It’s realizing that mental illness comes in all forms and degrees. It’s respecting all levels of it.
  14. It’s overcoming frustrating and painful roadblocks. It’s identifying solutions and having difficult conversations that can also teach you about yourself.
  15. It’s knowing that the person you love is remarkable and irreplaceable, despite the pieces of themselves they fight the most. It’s embracing and adoring another human being the way they deserve to be loved. It’s strength, kindness, maturity, fearlessness and passion.

If you are depressed it’s likely that your perception of reality can become distorted.  You may notice that your reactions to everyday situations can become erratic, and your feelings more intense.  For example, if you are feeling low and vulnerable, you may become very critical of your life, career, family, friends, religion, society, partner, or feel that you are being criticised by everything and everyone. You may also find that you become very needy and seek constant positive affirmation and assurance from people.  When you are depressed it may not be easy to command control over your reactions in the moment. 

Getting to know how your depression impacts you and your relationship can help you to separate the real you from the depressed you, so that you don’t end up becoming critical if you acted in a way which you wouldn’t have ordinarily if you were not suffering with depression. 

When the black cloud of depression is hovering over you, it can be hard to see the good things around you. Life itself loses its glee. When you are depressed it’s likely that you may feel insecure and pessimistic. This book is to help remind you of why you are here and how loved you are for being who you are. Reminisce on how fair life has been in time past, and make a list of the things that made you smile. Use positive adjectives to describe your purpose, life, dreams, partner, pursuits and all, and keep this list close to hand.  Make small efforts to reinforce the positive qualities of your existence. Appreciate yourself, play deaf to voices that talk you down, even the tiny negative voice in your head. 

You are loved and you belong here.

If you are depressed it’s likely that you will try to avoid people and fun places. Although being alone may feel like the right thing for you to do when you are depressed, the loneliness can end up making you feel worse. Reaching out could be challenging so find small gestures that you can adopt without becoming overwhelmed by your desire for avoidance.

Depression is treatable and recovery is possible. After recovery the threat of the symptoms returning can be forever looming in the background of your life, so it’s important to remember that you are in a partnership, you and I. You and the world. You and people. You and life...and if you commit to being on the same team you can beat depression together.

Loving someone with depression and anxiety just means loving the only way any of us ever should- with listening hearts, open minds and a willingness to look into the many branches of each other’s souls.

This book is my little gift of love to the anxious, sad and depressed... You are loved and you belong here.

- Stefn Sylvester Anyatonwu