Ask Erin: How Do You Deal With A Breakup When You Both Have Mental Illness?

How can I know either, let alone both of us, will be okay? (Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez)

She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.


Q.

Hi Erin,

I’ve just come out of an eight-month relationship with a man I adored, who said he was too depressed and "broken" to return my love. 

I'm kicking myself because I saw it coming for months but didn't want to abandon him, although part of me wanted to explore lighter, healthier relationship options. I'm also worried about him cutting me off in crisis mode — he’s a suicide survivor who is in the process of moving to a homeless shelter.

I was also mentally unwell, but I did everything to make us work and support him. The breakup's triggered my latent suicidal thoughts too. After housing problems, a car accident, and friend breakups in recent years, life seems too cruel to even try to cope with

How can I know either, let alone both of us, will be okay?


You Might Also Like: If You See Me Slipping Into Depression, Please Reach Out

 

A.

Breakups can be a challenging time for anyone. For someone with mental health issues, it can be even more so. This is why it’s imperative to recognize this and take any necessary steps to ensure you have the proper support, both personally and professionally. 

Let’s start with you. First, if you are having suicidal thoughts, PLEASE reach out for immediate help — be that to your doctor or therapist, a trusted loved one, or a crisis help center such as Lifeline

I know this is easier said than done when you are in the thick of those suffocating feelings. 

One thing I recommend (and I know from experience as I’ve struggled with depression and suicidal ideation my whole life) is making a checklist for yourself when you’re feeling stable. 

Make a checklist of actions to take, people to reach out to, and general self-care reminders (drink water, eat, get outside). These seemingly simple actions can elude us when we are in the midst of deep depression. The tasks may still seem impossible, but having those reminders that you’ve laid out for yourself ahead of time can be lifesaving. 

Likewise, I think it’s important to have a few people who know your situation and can be trusted to reach out to you when you’re slipping. Sometimes, it can be inconceivable to reach out when we need help. Having a few people who know to check in on us is invaluable. 

I cannot stress enough that your responsibility right now is taking care of your own mental health. 

I completely understand why you are worried about your ex. He needs help. But you can’t be the one to save him. One thing you can do is reach out (email is often easiest) to one of his friends or family members to let them know what you know about his mental state. And then you have to let it be. As much as you may want to save him, you’re not the one right now that can do that. 

My sincerest hope is that your ex gets the help he needs. I know that feeling of being too broken to give or receive love. It is an utterly painful place to be. 

Likewise, I hope that you do what you can to take care of your mental health. This is the time to lean on the who can be of support, to make the time for self-care, to prioritize your wellbeing. 

**If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please, please, please reach out. There are people who care about you. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available online and by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 1-800-273-8255. 


The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m listening to, what I’m reading, Atacamite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at  askerin@ravishly.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo

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