It’s always been protested that mental illness should never be romanticized, yet these tireless pleas are always overlooked for the sake of “relatability” within today’s dating pool. People are becoming more and more vocal about their mental health, especially to their significant others. Entertainment industries have seized the opportunity to take that openness and normalize it into their films, books, movies or series. However, their interpretation of a couple dealing with mental illness is warped and distorted in comparison to the reality.
Let’s say that your boyfriend has been feeling off. He’s been quieter than usual, and he’s been more introverted than he tends to be. Sure, he’s opened up to you about his past struggles, but he’s become so clammed up that talking is out of the question, and now you drive in deafening silence. You can pick up on the patterns of anxiety from his behaviors: constantly biting his cuticles, meticulously brushing the pads of his fingers together, general restlessness. Guilt bores deeper into you, but confrontation is lethal. It’s not ideal for most couples. You want to know what they’re thinking, and how you can help fix that.
There isn’t going to be a Peeta Mellark, or a Tobias Eaton, or even a Harry Potter to defend you from these things. There’s not going to be a devastatingly handsome, 6ft. 2in. tall, well-chiseled fox laying at your side and talking you through your hallucinations. There won’t be a brooding, dark-haired broad with a cigarette at the corner of her lips, and Ray Bans shielding her gaze lecturing us on how we’re all mechanical. There won’t be a dying Augustus Waters to kiss us in the Anne Frank House as we maneuver our way through oxygen tanks and thoughts of dying before the other. The world of entertainment manipulates disorders to sentimentalize them, allowing us to believe that the perfect relationship needs to be flawed in some way.
A lack of reaching out for help has caused the world to ask for the “trend” of this mistreatment to come to a halt. Yet this is to no avail. It consumes and drains us. It becomes laborious and unglamorous. Even if we care for our significant other, that constant feeling of growing uneasiness becomes so unsettling that we internalize our own motives and begin to blame ourselves. We have been taught through observation that it’s more acceptable to date another with some type of illness that address our own. It’s alarming.
It always seems to result with the “healthy” counterpart of the relationship “saving” the other from their own mind. The media aims to show us that a “hero” should be made out of the more stable individual, and that’s far from realistic. First of all, there shouldn’t be a reason for the “saving” to be done. Secondly, the patient-and-therapist codependency is toxic, and is the surefire way to end any sort of relationship if it is only one-way. That isn’t to say that venting isn’t okay--it’s natural to want to talk about what concerns you. But too much negativity, and it begins to take a toll on the other person in the relationship.
Leave the heroism to cinema or YA novels. Entertainment is on a crusade to alter our perception of partnership, and demands that there must be something unbalanced about the couple. Ignore it. If things are serious and you really suspect something is critically wrong with your partner, talk with them. They need that support. If the severity reaches life-threatening levels, hotline services and professionals defeat the stereotypes of entertainment every time.
Eating Disorders: 1-800-931-2237
Self Harm: 1-800-DONT-CUT
Suicide: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
Depression: (866) 728-7983
Photo: Ingress Photography Director, Priya Singh; edited by: Dustin Duong