September 2, 2013

The other week, I got up for work and found this waiting for me:

Star Wars lunchbox

My boyfriend Scott had packed me lunch with a note inside. I’m a capable woman who makes my own sandwiches, so why did the sight of an R2-D2 lunchbox make me smile?

I have bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder; I have experienced mental illness since I was a child. It has wreaked havoc upon my life, I was undiagnosed and not medicated during my teenage years, which meant I dropped out of university and spent most of my twenties between temp jobs, unable to work. My new job is the first one I have had for three years. Going back to work has been a massive change for me, my symptoms have kicked in.

I was afraid that he might not understand

It has been the first time in six months of being with my boyfriend Scott where I have really experienced the more severe symptoms of my illness, I was afraid that he might not understand the mood swings and hallucinations. Too frightened to admit that I wanted to manage my fear by self harming but too ashamed to keep my urges a secret from him, I found a way to tell him.

In floods of tears, I confessed how worried I was about failing at my new job. I talked about how the anxiety and voices in my head were making it hard to concentrate at work. I felt so guilty that our time together after work had been hijacked because I was unwell, I couldn’t be the girlfriend I wanted to be. I cried because I just wished I could be ‘normal.’

He gave me a hug and heard me out

Scott is good at calming me down, he pulled me in his arms and reminded me that this episode is my normal, that everyone is affected by stress at a new job, that he loves me just the same. It is frustrating for him to want me to feel happy in my new role and worry about a relapse. He sees work challenges differently than I do. However he found the right way to support me, giving me a hug and hearing me out when I talked about how hard things were. After a hug and a big snotty sob, I felt relieved, no matter how bad I felt, someone knew and understood.

And the next morning, I came to pick up my lunch to find this. A very sweet, silly gesture that reminds me that wherever I go and however my illness affects me, he is there for me. Scott can’t fix me, nor would I want him to. He is the sort of boyfriend who makes me want to summon my courage and have a go at working because I know no matter what happens, he is cheering me on. He didn’t have to have any clever advice to solve my problems, just the thought to make me packed lunch. So if you love someone with a mental health problem and you don’t know what words to use, remember that you can say a lot with a little gesture or a hug. Or a star wars lunchbox!

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