Autostraddle Stories // Love and Mental Heath

Photo by  Christina Karst

When I was 16 I explained to my partner how emotions feel to me. Physical, like warm sun on cold skin or kissing someone for the first time and smiling the whole way through. Overwhelming, like drowning in a shallow pool and forgetting how to walk, let alone swim. Beautiful, like seeing the ocean for the first time and knowing you’ll never forget the look of the sunset against the waves. Being bipolar means falling in love with everything and, just as easily, resenting it. Falling out of love.

I am lucky. Unbelievably, inconceivably, lucky. My partner Tré and I have been in love since we were teenagers. Our love has been silly, filled with late nights wandering around a lonely midwestern town. It’s been an adventure, traveling to other countries and sleeping on floors provided by generous strangers. It’s been scary, each of us falling further into depression and, at times, lifting each other out. It’s been heartbreaking, watching two of our cats die, leaving us with nothing but hundreds of photos and aching memories. It’s been a beacon of support, through high school and college and careers. It’s been liberating, both of us finding and accepting our sexualities, gender identities, and relationship preferences. Our love has been transformative.

Our identities are personal and political, no matter how often people try to separate them.

Through the past nine years, Tré and I have found ways to support each other. Living with mental illnesses is hard. Navigating mental illnesses within relationships is also unsurprisingly difficult. While our love for each other doesn’t fade or wane, our love for ourselves does. Seeing someone I love hurt, hurt themselves, or hate themselves is unbearable at times. And living as a queer person with mental illnesses often means living in a world that tells you to hate yourself.

Our identities are personal and political, no matter how often people try to separate them. Our identities as queer, polyamorous, and neurodivergent individuals have become even more political in 2017. The healthcare that keeps us alive is in jeopardy. The protections that keep us safe (though, not in Indiana, where there are no laws protecting LGBTQ people from hate crimes) are in jeopardy. We’ve both felt more pressure to be visible as queer folks but also more pressure to shield parts of our identities. While I am out as a queer woman in all facets of my life, Tré doesn’t have the luxury to be out at their job as nonbinary or as pansexual. Our love, our relationship, has never felt more political.

I am lucky. I have a primary partner who cares about me and helps me care about myself. I know they’d say the same about me. I hope our love continues to grow, change, flourish. But I know that our lives rely on the politics of our country. Our lives rely on being able to live with each other and our other partners without fear of violence or eviction. Our lives rely on being able to stomach biphobia and transphobia within the queer community. Our lives rely on the humanity of other people, personal and political humanity. And sometimes I think it really will be okay because I have felt love to intense, so expansive, that I can’t not believe in it’s power.

Amanda Neumann is a queer, cat loving, vegetarian feminist. She is the Director of Theater Operations at Fort Wayne Cinema Center, a nonprofit arthouse cinema, Operations Director and Volunteer Coordinator for Hobnobben Film Festival, and the Fandom Forward Project Leader for The Harry Potter Alliance. She also does freelance writing, editing, and speaking. She holds bachelors degrees in Women’s Studies and English Communication from Indiana University and wants to use them to make the world a better place. Follow her on Twitter at @amandandwords