5 things to know about my mental illness — before you say you love me.

I push, I run, I retreat, I test you — because I don’t know how else to admit that I’m scared of losing you.

It’s that moment — the one where we realise that we’re beginning to care a little too much, getting a little too close, feeling drawn in in that unexpected way.

Maybe we were casual friends, but now we’re suddenly becoming best friends, deep friends, real friends, needing each other in a way we never did before.

Or maybe we’re becoming more than friends, feeling the first butterflies and the ecstatic rush that comes with the growing affection between us.

You don’t just “like” me anymore — “like” isn’t the right word, it isn’t a fitting word. It’s a word for work acquaintances and Facebook statuses and the people you repeatedly run into at social engagements.

You feel some kind of love, platonic or otherwise, and now this thing between us is unexpectedly raw and real.

But before you love me, there are some things I need you to know.

My deepest and darkest secrets — my scars from long, long ago — that I think you should know before you say those three words, before you get in too deep.

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1. I am afraid that I am too broken to be loved.

I need to know that you love me with all of my brokenness. I need to know that you can see me in my most self-destructive, fucked-up place, and you won’t flinch. I need to know that you understand the darkness, and that the darkness is a part of you too.

I am haunted by the fear that if I am truly seen — in my most tender, tormented, and twisted place — I will no longer be lovable. I am afraid that if I am completely honest with the people I care about, they will leave.

My fear of abandonment is mine to own, mine to unravel, mine to work through. But if you’re going to be a part of my life, you have to recognise this part of my struggle.

You have to love the entirety of me — even the parts of me that are terrifying.

They are still mine. They are still me.

2. Sometimes I run away just to see who follows.

At least once, I will push you. I will push you so hard, you’ll stagger backward, breathless, stunned by the force behind me.

And you will wonder if this means that I don’t want you around.

But the truth is, I push because I’m terrified of how much you care. I push because I don’t believe you when you say that you know what you’re “getting yourself into.” I push because I need to know that you’ll stay.


I push, I run, I retreat, I test you — because I don’t know how else to admit that I’m scared of losing you.

But you don’t have to chase me. You don’t have to play games. I need to work on my shit.

I just need you to see through the fear. Just tell me, “I know that you’re scared. But I’m here for you. Can you trust me?”

'But the truth is, I push because I’m terrified of how much you care.' (Image via iStock)

3. I’m still too terrified to ask for help because I don’t want to scare you away.

I don’t want to ask for help. I don’t want to tell you I’m suffering. I don’t want to admit that I’m hurting.

I’m afraid that if I share my pain with you, it will drive you away. I’m afraid that you can’t handle the darkness. I’m afraid of trapping you there with me.

I promise you — with my whole soul, I promise — that I’m learning how to let people in. But please don’t stop asking if I’m OK. Please don’t stop showing up. Please don’t assume that I don’t need you.

I do need you.

4. I am mentally ill. Not the cute kind, not the inspirational kind — the traumatic kind.

I feel the constant pressure to present my mental illness to the world in a nice, tidy package with a ribbon on top, to make it friendly, to make it palatable, to make it less scary.

But if you’re going to love me, you need to know that my struggles are not pretty. The bruises and wounds and scars that I bear are not beautiful.

They will not inspire you.

I cannot promise you that I will always be this charismatic, ambitious, passionate person that you were drawn to in the first place. And when you find me on the fire escape, weeping and pulling out my own hair — bruises of every color spanning my body — I need to know that you won’t look away.


I can promise you that if you love me then, I can do the same for you.

5. Nothing scares me more than being loved by you.

Your love scares me.

Being loved by you resurrects all of the fears that I work so diligently to contain. The fear of loss, the fear of abandonment, the fear of all my darkest parts finally being seen, the fear of being known.

Nothing scares me more than being known by you — of every terrible and tremendous part of me being seen, exposed.

My armor keeps me wound so tightly I can barely breathe. When you dismantle it, I’m seized with the terror that you might break me.

Keep loving me. And I will learn, little by little, what it means to look fear in the eye and fall into its gaze.

Keep loving me. And I will learn, day by day, the freedom that comes with letting go.

Because I would rather be alive and be afraid than live my entire life never knowing your warmth.

Say that you love me — knowing everything that I fear and all the broken parts of me, say that you still care.

This story by Sam Dylan Finch originally appeared on, a feminist news+culture website.
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