WYL: Tell us a bit about yourselves!
N: Hi, I'm Noah. I’m 27 years old, I have an unhealthy obsession with pop culture that causes me to speak in memes as well as Broad City and SNL quotes. I work at Walt Disney Imagineering and volunteer at The Trevor Project and Inner City Arts. I just genuinely love to love. I live with depression and suicidal ideation. Over the past 9 years, I’ve had the opportunity to call Dave my partner, my best friend, my backbone, my moon and my stars. He’s my real life Khaleesi.
D: I’m Dave. I'm 29 years old and I’m a visual artist with color vision deficiency. I have a soft spot for Pit Bulls, camping and protests. My curiosity for learning new things is at a scale that rivals my desire to eat Hot Cheetos for every meal. I currently live with anxiety, depression and PTSD.
WYL: How did you two love birds meet?
D: This thing called Myspace.
N: You’re not supposed to tell anyone about that.
D: Tom, if you’re reading this. Thank you!
WYL: What is your fav thing about your partner?
N: Dave, here are a few of my favorite things about you and why I love you so much:
Because when you were diagnosed with cancer, you told ME “everything was going to be all right.” Because you cry during pop songs. Because you are kind. You make me laugh. A lot. Because you wheeze when you laugh too hard.
Because you have saved me from multiple panic attacks by doing one of the following: listening to my voicemails from unknown numbers, listening to my voicemails from known numbers & listening to my voicemails from people that still leave
Because you emit a high pitch scream the moment the lights go out a concert. Because you’ve experienced a lifetime’s worth of trauma during the 9 years that we’ve been together yet still manage to be there unconditionally for everyone else.
Because you knew how uncomfortable I was that one time we went to that one fancy restaurant with the name that we could not pronounce and the menu we thought was written in another language. And when the waiter asked us what type of water we wanted, “still or sparkling,” we looked at each other nervously and responded in unison with a shaky “tap?”
Because when we silently drove home that night with bruised egos and bruised banks accounts, you had us get off the freeway a exit early and treated me to a 20 Piece Chicken McNuggets. Because we laughed our way through each bite and you shared your barbecue sauce with me. Because amidst all of my flaws......you love me.
D: I love how all roads lead back to chicken nuggets with us. For me, Noah’s always been the modern day version of Cupid. I think he has an extremely special way of helping people fall back in love with themselves by letting them be absolutely open to who they really are free of judgement. Even when those darker parts of who we are take over temporarily, he helps makes those beautiful sides of who we are shine.
WYL: What is the hardest thing about being in a relationship with someone who lives with mental illness?
N: When it comes to Dave helping me, I am constantly flooded by a feeling of guilt. I quickly go into a pattern where I feel sorry that Dave has to deal with the burden of my thoughts and that feeling guts me.
D: It’s funny because so much of the time, those same feelings of being an emotional burden echoes within both of our emptiness. When Noah tries to help me, I become hyper aware of the emotional weight my problems have and begin to retreat within myself in shame and disappointment. Too often, my mind tricks me into believing that i’m not worthy of Noah’s compassion and help and inevitably I push him away to protect him from the weight of my problems.
N: That’s exactly how I feel with you. I think there’s always a feeling of helplessness. I hate seeing you in pain and it’s always accompanied with a familiar feeling of powerlessness.
D: As hard as some of these situations can get, we inevitably know that we’d go to the moon and back to see each other smile. Sometimes those difficult situations really strengthen the foundation of the relationship. We shouldn’t have to fear them.
WYL: How do you support each other when one of you is going through a rough time?
D: We’ve been together for 9 years. We met right after high school and it’s literally been a constant process to perfect the formula. We’ve come to realize that perfecting the formula comes down to removing the idea of “perfect” and accepting the messiness along the way.
N: And there’s A LOT of messiness. There’s no Ikea how-to manual for how to support one another during the rough periods (but I wish there was because we break as much as Ikea furniture.) We use humor a lot as a coping mechanism. Last year, I had a really bad breakdown on my birthday that left me emotionally paralyzed in bed for days. Dave kept trying to get a hold of me and I didn’t even have the energy to look at my phone let alone respond to anything. Finally, I glanced at my phone and saw a text message that said “Look out your window.” I crawled out of bed with my blanket around me and saw Dave standing outside on the street with our pitbull, Rocco, who had a bunch of balloons tied to him. The site of the two of them out there was of such power that it broke me out of my spell. Even after all of these years of trying everything and not having any idea of what works and what doesn’t work, Dave finds some kind of way to break through. My one wish in this world is that everyone kind find their version of a Dave whether it’s through a partner, a pet or through themselves. Finding that person or thing that constantly tries to break through to you to help you reach the next stage in your journey.
WYL: How did you tell your significant other that you live with mental illness?
N: I think it was a factor in our relationship from the beginning but we didn’t actually have the tools yet to recognize it for what it was. We were kind of just dealing with one tidal wave of emotion after another but it was normal to us because we didn’t know another way.
D: I think we both went through that self-discovery process at the same time and it made it much easier to openly talk about mental struggles without having to do a coming out for our mental illness.
N: I think the coming out process was more so for our family and friends.
WYL: What is your advice for someone who is supporting their partner through a mental health struggle?
D: Patience with progress is my biggest advice. Patience with yourself, patience with your partner, patience to your situation. When you feel like you’re in the trenches, having a patient partner fighting alongside with you makes the battle a whole lot easier.
N: Trust that you have the power to help and resist the temptation to retreat within yourself when things get uncomfortable or scary. A lot of the times, helping someone through one of their mental health struggles doesn’t come in the form of having all of the answers or any of them for that matter but I have found that that support comes from simply being heard and validated. We all have the power to listen and many times that’s the most powerful tool to support someone.
WYL: How do you spend your Self-Care Sunday?
D: I’ve just recently discovered how therapeutic baths can be. Bath bombs, this shout out is for you! Thank you for helping me out through some tough times. I miss you. See you in a few days! Xoxo
N: That sounds like heaven right now! A couple years ago, I learned how to read for pleasure and for me that was the equivalent of learning how to read for the first time. I’ve never stopped reading since. For me, the Sunday edition of the New York Times is the glue that keeps me together, it’s one of the pillars of my self-care. Seriously though, it’s magical!
WYL: Are you an extrovert or introvert?
D: Introvert, as evident by my anxiety of filling out questionnaire.
N: Introvert but every single person that I’ve ever met begs to differ.
WYL: Coffee or tea?
D: I’ve been drinking coffee since the age of 5. My uncle owned a coffee plantation back in Guatemala so we drank it like water.
N: Half & half with a splash of coffee and a packet of Stevia.
WYL: Fav food?
D: I’m only comfortable saying this here as this is a safer space. My favorite food is discount sushi. Grocery store sushi is a super close second. If my sushi costs more than $4, I don’t want it.
N: Chicken nuggets.
WYL: What is this best thing that has happened to you this year?
N: We’re huge Harry Potter nerds and got to see Harry Potter & the Cursed Child in London.
D: They let you brings snacks into the theater in London so we literally bought a bunch of junk food and sobbed the snottiest ugly cry of our lives as we ate ice cream and sipped on hot chocolate.
N: You forgot about our capes.
D: And we were wearing capes the entire time. We thought everyone was going to be dressed up but nope, it was just us and our capes.
N: *Magical capes.
WYL: Fav place in the whole wide world?
N: New Orleans. Dave and I had been dreaming of visiting The Big Easy for years. We planned a trip at the beginning of the year to go for a week in October. A month before the trip, Dave was diagnosed with testicular cancer and immediately began an aggressive chemo treatment. Two weeks after his treatment was when we were scheduled to go on our trip. I made the case of why we should re-schedule. Dave made the case for why we should still go. When we arrived, we came up with a set of rules. “No expectations. No plans. No stressing if something doesn’t work out. Let’s just take it one moment at time.” We literally did nothing on that trip other than eat, watch “Say Yes to the Dress” marathons and walk when Dave’s energy permitted. That trip changed both of our lives. New Orleans is known as “The Big Easy” because of the easy-going way of life there. That’s a way of life that we adopted on that trip and brought back with us to Los Angeles. There’s also a power to the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It’s rebirth has centered around celebrating its storied history and embracing its scars. I think that’s a powerful lesson that we hold dear to us.