Since my first bout with depression at fourteen, my perception of love has grown and changed just as much as I have. My approach to love has almost always correlated with my mental health. When I began experiencing my illness, I was desperate to hold onto any idea that could lessen the burden of my mental health. The heavy reality of my depression was too much to bear and, as a young person, I found hope in any narrative that could alleviate its presence in my life. Again and again, I’ve looked to love as a sort of medicine. As a teenager, this was an easy trap to fall into and, even still, I’m bombarded by rhetoric that tells me that love will save me; if I give it a chance.
In all of my relationships, I’ve quietly hoped that, through the power of love, my partner will ease my depression. If love really is the most powerful force, it can probably conquer my sadness. I’ve been in love a couple times so far, and each time it’s been compelling and wonderful, but it’s never cured me of an illness.
When I was a teenager, I didn’t and couldn’t understand the complexities of mental health. I knew that what I was feeling was worse than sadness, but I couldn’t accept that living with my illness would take years of trial and error before finding a unique regimen of techniques and mechanisms that worked for me. In high school, the depression I was experiencing was so new and foreign. I also had a hard time telling the difference between fantasy and reality. I romanticized different aspects of my life, and my early relationships were no different. I surrounded myself with music, television, and books that were love-centric. I didn’t know how to manage my depression, and its growth correlated with the intensity of my romantic crushes. As my sickness became heavier and heavier, so did my desire to ease its strength with a relationship. I put so much emotional weight on my partners because my perception of love was boundless and bottomless.
Through time and experience, I can see now that the expectations I put onto my partners in past relationships were unfair to them and to me. My assumptions of love and its mystical powers have made me feel unfulfilled and disappointed. It took years to unlearn my perception of love and to address my health in a real and personal way. For me, this meant finding the right therapist and being more open with my friends and family. By dismantling my assumptions about love, I’ve learned to value my platonic relationships more, and I have built a stable and healthy support system. I’ve also learned what it looks like to take care of myself, so that the relationships and friendships in which I do engage can be healthy and meaningful ones.
Still, in my adulthood, I sometimes struggle with staying grounded. Even in my most grown and nurtured love, I need reminders that my depression stands by itself and requires its own special care from within me, and from mental health professionals. I wrote the song “Becoming” about giving my mental health adequate attention and care, even while in a relationship.
The connection between love and my depression has been an evolving one, and it continues to change. Unlike my teenage self, I’m able to recognize the limits of love. As romantic partners come in and out of my life, my attention to my own mental health care has steadfastly matured. Sometimes, it feels like love is sweeping me away, but my work pays off when I can remember to step back and center myself. “Becoming” is about remembering to stay grounded when I’m experiencing the brightest love.
Separate the me from you
Crystal sky you crawl into
All the bugs crossing the road
make me wanna hold you close
to swim alone
Moving with purpose
becoming worth it
What’s the point if no one sees
I want the crowd to cheer for me
All the thoughts I won’t write down
I’d tell you if you were around
to swim alone