The night I met Grayson was one I will never forget. I had been a social recluse after my diagnoses for depression and anxiety summer of my junior year. I spent all my free time in counseling at Goddard, sleeping, or attending class, so the fact I had felt human enough to go to my sorority date party was a big step. I walked into the room, being greeted by caring friends who missed me, only to feel a presence in the room. The presence felt warm and strong, like someone I had known my entire life. Confused by this new feeling, I started scanning the room to look for the mystery presence that captured my attention. What I saw was the back of a head – Grayson’s head, actually. I knew he was who I was looking for. When Grayson turned around and I saw his face for the first time I heard a voice inside me say, “If you don’t talk to him you will regret it for the rest of your life.” I walked over and introduced myself to him at the night’s end. Though we didn’t talk for very long, I knew that we were going to date and a month later I was right.
Our relationship was more than I could have ever hoped for but at the same time, nerve-wracking. I had never met anyone that really intrigued me the way Grayson did.
I knew he cared about me so much that I was hesitant to tell him about my depression and anxiety. I talked to my counselor about how I was feeling towards telling Grayson about it. The advice she gave me was to not let the fear get in the way of my happiness.
I took her advice to heart and decided to tell him after a few months of dating. When I sat down to tell him, all I could keep thinking about was that this would be the end. The thing about mental illness is that it’s like a fingerprint. It’s different for every person and affects them on different levels.
Honestly, I did not know if he would be able to see me for more than my conditions once I told him. Crying, I told him my story. I explained how bad my depression and anxiety could be and how I was still working through my challenges. Grayson showered me with so much affection while understanding that my conditions were not my identity.
After two years of dating, I can tell that two things have happened because of my confession that day: one, we grew stronger as a couple, and two, we have learned how to be there actively for each other. What I mean by actively being there is that we know what questions to ask, what things to say, and how to comfort one another in the best way possible. No one has the answer to how to have a perfect relationship, including the presence of mental illnesses or not. I know my story is unique but not rare. Other people are going through similar challenges in their life and are battling mental health issues, too. Grayson has struggles some days – everyone does – and we deal with that differently. As our relationship has grown over, we know how to help each other. We also know we cannot chase away each other’s problems. We acknowledge that there is only so much we can do for one another. The only person who can fix you is yourself, but you should be open to receive help to do so, whether it is love from a serious relationship, kind words from friends, or the support of family.
I am by no means finished battling anxiety and depression, and Grayson will never be able to cure it for me. What I do know is that having someone to talk to like a counselor, he – and other people who love me – will help me through the healing process. It is a blessing to have him by my side.
Grayson knows I am not my anxiety and depression and I know he is not his bad days. I know love, in all forms; it is the greatest way to help me heal, and the peace that gives to me is so calming.
My advice to those unsure about seriously dating while working through their mental health is to not let yourself get in the way of your own happiness. It takes a lot of self-awareness and balance to avoid becoming dependent on someone else in that vulnerable state, but it is possible. Our relationship continues to thrive because we support one another but also keep up an individual strength within ourselves. Mental health issues are a strong force, but our future together is stronger.