The Importance of Boundaries When Navigating Mental Health Issues

I’m going to start out with a bold but very true statement. Ready? Here it goes: Every single good relationship has well-established boundaries. Especially when you are each struggling with mental health issues. There it is. Take it or leave it. 

Not convinced by this brief blanket statement with little context or evidentiary support? Fair enough. Let me elaborate with an example here. Let’s say that you and your close friend are both on the struggle-bus, so to speak. It’s been a tough week for each of you, and you may or may not return to your respective rooms every night, hurl the doors closed, tuck yourselves as deeply into your beds as possible, blast your “Sad” playlists on Spotify, and lightly wail to the sound of Sujan Stevens’ “Visions of Gideon” while devouring whatever half-eaten snacks you’ve stashed away somewhere. For the record, I am not admitting to any of that. But let’s say you both are doing so, except, instead of continuing to sob to melodramatic acoustic music, you decide to take out your phone and text your woes to your friend, who you have no idea is listening to the same sad song and wallowing themselves. However, your friend can’t handle emotionally supporting anyone else because of how rough their own night has been, so they don’t respond to your texts. Now, you’re sadder, and they’re sadder, and…yikes. 

Molly Peach-Friends Molly Peach / Her Campus

Obviously, that example is a tad bit dramatic. And to be clear, jokes aside, I am not making a specific reference to any friendships in my own life with that example. For once, no sarcasm here. My point is simply that maintaining trust in relationships is so important, and cases like the made-up one that I ranted about for an excessively large paragraph can be very easily avoided by, you guessed it, establishing boundaries. Open communication about your needs in a friendship goes such a long way, especially where mental health is concerned. 

Setting boundaries applies to a variety of situations across your relationships when the mental health of multiple people are on the line. Dealing with ups and downs in your mental health is no joke, and relationships can be affected when one or more people in them are experiencing mental health struggles. Your friend with anxiety might need a lot of reassurance when navigating newer social situations, might need to let you know ahead of time if they’re having a tough spell with their anxiety and could use support. Your significant other might experience depression and have trouble finding the motivation to plan adorable dates for you guys. If quality time is your love language, and something you very much expect in a relationship, then communicating that will make it very clear to your partner what you need. Yay, boundaries!

man and woman on bikes at sunset Everton Vila

So again, individual examples aside, I want to make a few key points here, if you’re still with me. Struggling with mental health issues can be incredibly debilitating to deal with on a personal level, much less within close relationships. If you’re struggling with ways to help yourself, it can be challenging to understand just how you need others to help you. Close relationships are so important in that they provide love, support, compassion, and an overall feeling of being connected to someone you care about. And all that stuff is amazing! But mental illness can be so very isolating, which provides a direct challenge to all of that love and connection stuff. Therefore, in order to maintain these amazing relationships that brighten your life, working within the relationships to help each other through tough times with that same love, support, and compassion that your relationships were founded upon is practically what the doctor ordered. The best way to do this is to set up clear expectations on what one another needs, which is done through open and honest communication. God, I sound like a therapist. So go communicate! Support your loved ones! And keep an eye out on how you’re feeling in the process. Therapy session, completed.