Love can happen anywhere. I have fallen in love in foreign countries, but never before in a mental clinic… until now. I realise love occurs where you are most vulnerable and not really ready for it.
It surprises you in serendipitous moments and makes you feel alive again — at least that’s how I feel after nearly six weeks. So here are seven lessons I learned about love in the most unusual place, the mental clinic, because:
“Love can happen anytime anywhere. Only true love happens somewhere once.” — Yugen Norbu
Side note: How I ended up in a mental clinic
After being a sufferer of suicidal thoughts and depression over the past months, I realised I needed help when I tried to take my life. Coming to the mental clinic, I was broken and numb. Never in a million years did I think I would meet someone who felt the same as me and how we could intertwine our souls together during recovery.
The seven lessons I learned about love in the most unusual place are from a perspective of loving someone with a mental illness, so if you too love someone with mental health issues, I hope this can help you in your path of love.
1. Love is acceptance
“The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.” — Brian Tracy
Love is the act of accepting yourself and the other person fully. It can be tough, to begin with, which I am learning here in the mental clinic. You see, the guy I am with struggles to love himself in the first place, so, therefore, finds it hard to love me back as I do him. I have to learn to live with this and remind him that he must first show himself the love he deserves, then the love for me will appear as he can draw near.
This self-love isn’t appearing for him because he doesn’t accept himself for who he is. In fact, it is so hard for him that he battles against himself daily. This sinking feeling of depression has led him to beat himself up and become distant with the love that lingers within him (I know it exists — we are all made of it!).
I can accept how he feels and not take it personally, but keep showing him the love he deserves that I have for him. Of course, he shows me love back, too, but I know I must accept his self-love journey is more important right now. Love can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be when you realise that:
2. Love is non-judging
“Who are you to judge the life I live? I know Im not perfect, and I dont live to be, but before you start pointing fingers… make sure your hands are clean!” — Bob Marley
Leading on from love as an act of acceptance comes to no judgment. Judging, in general, doesn’t help anyone. Judging in a relationship will not help your love grow either.
When meeting this guy in the mental clinic, I knew there was no space for judgment because this is one place where you open up about everything from emotions to tribulations.
Therefore, he told me why he was here, and it was due to a psychotic episode after smoking too much weed. He thought the Illuminati was going to come for him at some point that he had to run away and come here to find safety. It’s crazy, I know. At first, I wanted to laugh (he wasn’t offended, luckily), but then I realised this shit was true, and I had to try to be respectful.
The thing is, I didn’t judge him because we all have our stories to tell. Some people’s stories you aren’t going to understand, and that’s ok because it isn’t yours. However, as a person you love, you must be there and ready to listen to them and be honoured that they can open up to you without being scared of being judged.
3. Love is being who you are
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”― Bernard M. Baruch
I love being who I am, don’t you too? In some relationships, I see that people try to be someone else or are scared to be their true selves which saddens me to see. The whole point in a healthy relationship is to be yourself and the other person to accept you for all your whacky and weirdness too…
One of the lessons I learned about love in the most unusual place is that love is being who you are in all your ups and downs and all around. Unfortunately, my guy has many downtimes because of his debilitating depression, but he isn’t scared to show it. I am there for him no matter what, through the ups and downs.
4. Love is not hiding your weaknesses and showing everything
“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”― Marilyn Monroe
Love is all about being yourself and more. When meeting this guy in the unusual place of a mental clinic, our connection was already pretty strong, to begin with, I would say. This is due to us being so open about our emotions to one another. The more open we were with each other, I think the more open we became with ourselves (at least that’s how I saw it).
We both have weaknesses, but I would say he has more rivalling ones than me currently. As a yoga teacher and well-being coach, I have learnt how to deal with my weak spots in a way that can nurture my soul. However, my guy here can’t.
He really tends to struggle with his weaknesses of bad thoughts and feelings, but he doesn’t struggle to be so open about them with me. I wish he gave himself more credit about how vulnerable he can be about it.
Are there any weaknesses that you are afraid to show? Don’t be scared.
5. Love is listening
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”― Ernest Hemingway
Listening is love. Even when my guy is really down and struggles to spark a conversation, I know that he will still hear me chatting away. He is a great listener and really tries to respond correctly when he can’t find the right words sometimes. His silence at other times is quite nurturing.
Sometimes all you have to do is listen and show the other person you are there with open ears. Sometimes words don’t say it all, but actions do. What do they say? Actions speak louder than words.
6. Love is friendship
“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through bad and good times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” — Ann Landers
I remember an older guy here in the mental clinic with Autism I became close to. He was having problems in his marriage and opened up to me about them. One of the things that struck me and stuck with me that he told me is that love is friendship, and sometimes, relationships struggle to stay afloat because they forget this factor.
You see, his relationship started as a blossoming friendship and then had led to quite a destructive relationship. He said he had to remember that they started as friends and bring back that sense of understanding each other on that level.
Of course, relationships are romantic, but remember that your partner is also your friend and treating them like a friend is crucial in sustaining a healthy relationship.
7. Love is finding happiness despite the circumstances
“No matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.” — Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Ok, so the last and most important lesson I learned about love in the most unusual place is that love is about finding happiness despite the circumstances at hand.
We are both in pretty hard situations in our lives where our mental health issues have taken over in decision-making and partaking in our own lives.
However, we do not let the bad situations at bay let the love be taken away.
Instead, we work with the hard times to find good times. We accept that there are going to be tougher times but that good times are to come. We trust that we can find joy in these hard times to move forward with faith and vigour.
7 lessons I learned about love in the most unusual place are:
- Love is about finding happiness despite the hard circumstances
- Love is friendship
- Love is all about listening
- Love is not hiding your weaknesses but being open about everything
- Love is being who you are in all your weird and wackiness
- Love is non-judgmental
- Love is acceptance
I hope these points help you in learning to love someone better and more fully for who they are because love is a journey of light and darkness mixed.
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This post was previously published on Medium.
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