For the majority of my last relationship, my partner was in the throes of a slowly unwinding nervous breakdown.

He moved to New York at the same time I did, and lived for a brief period in a state of almost too much togetherness, bound because we loved each other, but also because we didn’t know what else to do.

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Leaving him in that room, when visiting hours were over, was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

After a night in the psych ward and a diagnosis of GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), OCD, and clinical depression, they let him out of the hospital, and entered him into an outpatient program that consisted of daily, intensive therapy.

We broke up numerous times, but it never lasted more than a week or so.

I later understood that he kept coming back to me because he was scared of what he would to do himself if he was alone.

A boy I met in grad school lasted a year, but we were too hot-tempered to coexist in the same air.

A couple of unhappy years with someone back home who loved me when I did not love him.

A good eight years were wasted on someone I dated briefly and became obsessed with once he ended it. I think there is still a lot more stigma than we admit, and every joke someone cracks about being “so OCD” makes it harder to explain that while you all think you’re totally cool with me being obsessive-compulsive, it’s a lot more than lining up pencils and touching the light switch.

It was the most tangible manifestation of my illness I’ve experienced, and it makes me sick to think about. Men have broken up with me after getting only a glimpse of my worst looming on the horizon, and others have stayed with me through abhorrent behavior because they were afraid of what I might do if they left.

The thing with mental illness is that it’s hard to explain to someone on the outside, someone who doesn’t know what it’s like.