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#GuysGetReal Dating Someone With Mental Illness

I’m Calvin, Katie’s boyfriend. I’m a San Francisco native working in tech (unique, right?) and I love traveling, dogs, and I’m pretty good at food and beer too. I’m an extrovert, meaning I get my energy from being around people. I’m very outgoing, curious, and I love to make those around me laugh.

Katie and I have been together for about a year, but in the best way possible, it feels much longer than that. I first realized she struggled with anxiety and depression when after we’d been dating for a few months, she pointed to the hospital in which she stayed during what she describes as “mental exhaustion”. I didn’t push this conversation, but when she wrote for The Exposure Project in October, the blog post really brought to light what she’d been through. This was a clarifying moment for me. To be totally frank, for too long I’ve viewed depression and anxiety disorders as distant islands that I’d never been close to visiting. What she experiences daily is real and it was relationship-changing when I acknowledged that these disorders are a part of who she is. That’s not to say that I understand this wholeheartedly; I will never understand what she fully deals with and truthfully, to this day I still don’t realize that what she’s experiencing is an off-day where her depression’s hitting her hard or that any given moment could be anxiety-producing.

Being in any relationship is both difficult and rewarding. Being with someone who struggles with anxiety and depression is both difficult and rewarding. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process because naturally, I can be distant and private without realizing it. The hardest part about understanding Katie is acknowledging the moments that are difficult with sometimes no explanation. At times, these emotions can feel like a rollercoaster and make me feel like I’m walking on eggshells, but being careful around these emotions just makes these moments more intense for her. It’s crucial for me to be authentic with her and to continue to treat her as I would any day: with patience, understanding, and communication. We spend so much time together now that I can almost see where these situations might come up, such as being in a crowded place or having a day jam-packed with plans back to back and I can understand them best by explaining my feelings, comforting her, and being open with my own feelings. This creates a much more positive dialogue for navigating the situation.

The good far outweighs the challenging. Katie is extremely driven and independent, so she hides these disorders well and sometimes without even trying to. Being in a relationship with her is amazing and we grew extremely close very quickly because she is very big on communication and she’s open with a lot of her past. Her emotions are raw and that translates into how deeply she cares for those around her. Katie definitely cares for my success and happiness more than anyone ever has. The best part about dating someone with anxiety and depression is that it teaches you how to care for people on a deeper level. The level of care you have to take when she’s having an off-day is different than someone who doesn’t struggle with these things so overall, I’ve learned how to be present for her and in turn, I’ve learned how to be more present in my everyday life.

To anyone dating someone with mental complexities that you don’t struggle with yourself: Be patient for they are not trying to hurt you or stress you out. Be open for this will work wonders in two-way communication with each other. Be supportive as this will work wonders as your relationship progresses. I am so excited to see what Gaby and Katie are working on with The Exposure Project. This is such an exciting idea and I’ve been lucky enough to get a glimpse into what they’re working on. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m thankful that I get to learn it with Katie.

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