If good mental health was made up of a bunch of books on a shelf, titles would include things like "healthy eating," "exercise," "medication," and "therapy." Stable relationships would be the bookends keeping everything together.
As someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I have struggled with relationships for as long as I can remember. This struggle manifests itself in pushing people away, seeing others as only good or bad, lots of jealousy and a number of other behaviours.
Throughout my life I have lost people because of my mental illness. People have often felt unable to be around my mood swings and impulsiveness. I often thought, and sometimes still do, that I was a burden to those around me. I knew good relationships were vital for good mental health. However, I was unable to maintain any and it really affected my mental health. I felt alone and unloved. All the good diet, exercise and medication didn't matter when I had nothing holding those books up if one of them fell.
But the truth is, I just hadn't met the right people just yet. Now, I still have BPD but I also have a few incredibly supportive and understanding friends. They have stuck with me at my lowest, seen me fall to pieces. They are still here. I felt so certain that these kind of people did not exist, that I should isolate myself to avoid getting hurt.
I am very grateful that these people came into my life and proved me wrong. These relationships have made me a better person. Solid relationships provide me stability amongst all my emotionally instability. They allow me to be open about my mental illness without fear of being judged.
For someone who struggles to maintain good relationships, managing to do this gives me hope. It means I have a support system when things get tough. It shows me that I am loved and wanted and worth something - things which I often doubt.
Strong relationships make me feel stronger. Without these relationships, these people sticking with me through everything, I probably would not still be here. You can never underestimate the value of a good friendship and the positive impact it can have on your mental health. I hope that it also shows others that it is possible to have healthy relationships whether or not you have a mental illness. Yes, it's more difficult but most things are. It is entirely possible, never give up looking for those bookends to keep you stable and supported.
The Mental Health Foundation is calling on us all to make 'Relationships Resolutions'. People who make a resolution will receive a text on New Year's Eve, December 31st, checking in to see how they have done and encouraging them to carry their resolutions forward into the New Year. For more information on Mental Health Awareness Week 2016 visit the Mental Health Foundation