We all have heroes in our lives. They can be movie stars, parents, or people who performed a courageous act. Heroes are people we cherish deeply and look up to. Then there are people who try to play hero. They go out of their way to get a pat on the back and praise. When you’re struggling with mental illness, you tend to lean on others for support, but what you don’t need them to do is play hero.

   When I was with my ex-boyfriend, he made it a point to tell his friends and family about my mental illness and how helpless I was. The worse my illness became, the more he bragged about how well he was taking care of me. Everyone praised him on what a good person he was for taking care of such a helpless wreck. He even told my therapist about all he was doing for me and how I was ungrateful.

   He took care of everything for me and wouldn’t let me help out. He wouldn’t let me be his partner; instead he wanted to be my hero. He wanted everyone to believe he was my hero. He controlled me like an animal, causing my illness to worsen. He told people I abused him, when in fact, he abused me. All I wanted was him to work with me through my illness, but instead he told me he was going to take care of me on his own.

   I didn’t want him to be my hero. I wanted him to be my partner. It angered me each time he bragged about what he was doing for me. I hated how his family felt sorry for him and told him how wonderful he was. I cringed each time they told me how grateful I should be. He made me feel small, useless, and helpless.

   When I met my husband, he stood at my side and agreed to go to couple therapy to learn how to handle my illness. He comforted me, supported me, and told no one what he did for me. He never asked for a pat on the back; he just did it because he cared. He also allowed me to do things for him. I taught him how to drive and he taught me how to love again. He showed me he needed me as much as I needed him. He never played hero and refused to be called my hero. Instead, he became my partner.

   Together, as a team, we took on my illness and we still do. He allows me to do stuff for myself and for him. We figure out challenges together. We do almost everything together. We are partners.

   Just because somebody is mentally ill doesn’t mean he or she is incapable of doing anything. He or she does not need a hero. Allow him or her to do things for him or herself and you. Show him or her that you will work with him or her to get better. Don’t ask for praise from others. Just be at the person’s side because you love him or her. Don’t play hero; be a partner, a friend, and a supporter.

   I might need a little extra attention and support than my husband does, but I do take care of him, also. We face the complication of my illness,and we take care of our home and other responsibilities together. I also take care of some things on my own with his support. Because he doesn’t try to be my hero, we share our lives with happiness and I dance within the light.

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