At the same time, I began dating two wonderful people who are still my partners. As I learned all of these things about myself and struggled to understand my needs and limits better, I also had to navigate what my new boundaries would mean for my relationship. One of my partners also deals with mental illness, and so we are able to support each other during our low periods and communicate while navigating our needs and abilities.
Having a partner who deals with similar issues and another partner who is sympathetic and understanding allows me to handle my various mental health issues without fearing rejection or impatience. And my disabilities do create limitations that affect my relationships.
The body is not an apology
My sensory sensitivity, coupled with or exacerbated by my asexuality, sometimes makes me prickly when it comes to physical contact, including hugging and cuddling. Having a lower threshold for noise and crowds means I often leave public spaces or social gatherings early or decline going to them altogether.
And my depression and anxiety can mean I end up in my room for days or weeks at a time, unable to spend time with my partners because I feel so low. And asking my partners to remind me that I am good, that they do love me, feels almost impossible.
Another thing that has taken me a long time to learn is how to take time alone to do self-care and not feel guilty about it. When my partners really want to make dinner together and play a board game, but I need to go be alone in my room and watch a show, I can feel really guilty about disappointing them. In school, work, family, and friendships, I feared making people disappointed and worked to avoid that.
But when it does happen, I accept it and, instead of beating myself up for disappointing someone else, I focus on taking care of myself and feeling better. Especially when dealing with mental illness, creating a support network outside one or two people is incredibly important. This can be really difficult for many disabled or mentally ill people, as we are often seen as too difficult or too abnormal to be worth putting time and energy into.
That is incredibly hard and can feed into the depression and feelings of worthlessness many of us deal with.
But looking to one or two people to be all of our support can lead to burnout and the end of important relationships. For myself, as a shy, sensory-sensitive introvert, making friends is very hard. My idea of a good time with friends is having them over to watch a show or play a board game.
The Internet has been an essential tool for me to reach out and seek support without the same kind of physical commitment necessary for face-to-face friendships. Other people have to rely solely or more heavily on friend groups or online communities.
They are pictured from the neck down. The person on the left is wearing a black and white plaid shirt and tight jeans, while the person on the right wears a red, white, and black plaid shirt and loose jeans.
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