This Valentines Day, we decided to highlight couples who support each other through all of their moments of strengths and struggles. Lee and Caroline are one of those couples.
WYL: Tell us a bit about yourselves!
(We wrote these for each other because we're disgusting.)
CM: Lee is from Whitecourt, Alberta and studied Political Science and English at UNB. They participated in student athletics, residence life, the student newspaper, and the student union. After graduation, Lee continued to pursue their passion for educating people about mental health and how to reduce the stigma surrounding it.
LT: So formal! Caroline is a big ol' cutie from Vancouver BC, who came out east for school. They're studying Political Science and Gender Studies at UNB and are also involved on the swim team (go Reds!), residence life, and organizations like Qmunity (the LGBTQ group on campus). She's kind of a big deal.
WYL: How did you two love birds meet?
LT: There are two versions of this story. One of them is very wholesome: we met through the student union. The other version is less wholesome, but a bit more truthful.
CM: We met at the Twenty/20 Club.
WYL: What is your fav thing about your partner?
CM: I don't know what my favourite thing is because I have so many favourite things. I love the way they sit in the stands at my swim meets, supporting me. And knitting. They put up with me perfecting my hair. Let's be real, Lee supports me in everything I want to do. I also love the way that they manage to positively influence everyone they encounter and continue to do so no matter what.
LT: They laugh at my jokes, and they make me laugh too. Being with Caro feels... freeing. Like I can be exactly who I am, and I know that they'll love me anyway, and I'll love them. They're really passionate about the things they're involved in. And they keep me grounded in reality, like in a good way. I sometimes get caught up with the woes of the world and Caroline helps remind me that there are still things to be happy about.
WYL: What is the hardest thing about being in a relationship with someone who lives with mental illness?
CM: Not knowing what to do, if there even is anything that you could do.
LT: Anything else?
CM: Honestly I don't find it that hard. I don't feel like there's anything harder about being in a relationship with someone with a mental illness because I don't see it as someone having a mental illness.
LT: You don't see me as having a mental illness?
CM: Well I'm not dating your mental illness, I'm dating you. And just because your mental illness is part of who you are and your daily life doesn't mean that it's all of you. Like the first thing that I think when I wake up is not, oh, you have a mental illness. The first thing I think of when I wake up is like, I see you ...and you're snoring. I mean, I don't see you for your mental illness any more than you see me as like... I dunno, a person who long boards or something. From the start it would never change the way that I feel about you.
WYL: How do you support each other when one of you is going through a rough time?
LT: Oh man, when we first started dating I was going through a really rough time. I had relapsed, stopped taking my medication... I was a wreck. Self-harming, suicidal, the whole nine yards.
CM: Yeah, and I just tried to be there for you. There wasn't anything specifically that I could do, but I knew that I could be there. And I'd like to think that that made a difference.
LT: I think Caroline isn't giving themselves enough credit here. There were two big things that they did. One, they didn't freak out, which was huge. The other was that they talked about it. Of the two of us, Caroline is definitely the better one at open communication, which is really important because I tend to withdraw and avoid talking about things, especially when I'm not doing well. Caroline starts those conversations that I don't want to have, but are necessary.
WYL: How did you tell your significant other that you live with mental illness?
CM: I lowkey stalked your professional page and read all of your blog posts. (That makes me sound creepy. I mean, I also knew you.) But I let you reveal your story to me at your own pace.
WYL: What is your advice for someone who is supporting their partner through a mental health struggle?
CM: Ask them what they need. And if they tell you, then do it. And if they don't tell you, don't take it personally and don't hold it against them because that's not going to change anything. They are the way that they are and the best thing that you can do when they want nothing from you is for you to just be there because maybe someday they will. And know that it's not your fault. Another thing you can do is keep in mind what they need when they need it, like if Lee is having an anxiety attack I'm not going to get in their face and start pestering them with questions. But at first when I didn't know that, I made sure to take it slow and ask after the fact what I could do to help.
LT: A lot of time we get this narrative that you have to, like, "save" your struggling partner, or that love will somehow "cure" mental illness. But you don't and it doesn't. Like Caro said, the best thing you can do is just be there for the other person. And make sure you're taking care of your own mental health while you do that, too.
WYL: How do you spend your Self-Care Sunday?
CM: I usually have practice and meetings. I like to keep busy.
LT: And while Caroline is being busy, I chill in the bath with my bubbles and Netflix.
WYL: Are you an extrovert or introvert?
CM: Initially shy extrovert.
LT: Outgoing introvert. We're quite the pair.
WYL: Dogs or cats?
LT: I have a pitbull named Peyton and she is my everything (sorry Caroline)
CM: I understand.
WYL: Fav song right now!?
WYL: Coffee or tea?
CM: Coffee. Or anything with caffeine. I understand that tea has caffeine, but like... more.
WYL: Fav food?