Valentine's Day can bring up many different emotions for people. Some look forward to February 14th and others dread it. Some make romantic plans for the day and others choose not to celebrate it. Throughout the years, I've experienced each of these feelings.
Whether or not someone has a mental illness, this time of year can amplify feelings of loneliness or hopelessness. Through the beginning of February, virtually every store has displays or aisles of red decorations, boxes of chocolates, sentimental cards, teddy bears, and various stuffed animals that dance to old love songs when you press a button. It can be overwhelming. Even if someone doesn't agree with the commercialism of the holiday or even the holiday in general, these things can become a reminder that he or she doesn't have a significant other or romantic partner in his or her life.
In 2015 and 2016, I was single on Valentine's Day. I was also working on my healing and learning how to cope with my severe anxiety disorder. As many jokes as I made about "Singles Awareness Day" or as many times as I told myself that February 14th was just another day, it would still sting to see Valentine's decorations, jewelry commercials, engagement announcements, or Facebook posts about being in love. Although it was difficult to accept, I knew that it was crucial to make my mental health the priority on those Valentine's Days. In 2015 and 2016, I made it through the holiday in 2 different ways.
2015: This was an extremely difficult time in my life. Not only was it the first Valentine's Day being single in 4 years, but I was also withdrawing from a semester of college that was just too overwhelming for me at the time. The combination of these factors gave me depressed and disappointed feelings. That year, my parents helped me stay strong by giving me a stuffed animal and candy and by sending me quotes about strength throughout the day. They showed me the importance of loving, respecting, and being kind to myself. I decided to treat myself to my favorite lunch, made a batch of brownies to share with my family, and curled up with my kitten to watch a feel-good movie (I believe it was something with Adam Sandler). I took the day to take care of myself and remind myself that I am strong, brave, and deserving of the best kind of love. That year I was my own valentine, and that was the kind of love I needed most.
2016: By February of 2016, my mental health was in a much better place. I had begun blogging and speaking openly about my mental illness, so I felt more confident and hopeful for the future. Although I was not seeing anyone or in a relationship, I was still surrounded by love that Valentine’s Day. This year, I decided to spend the day making little gifts for my friends and family to show them how much I loved and appreciated them. They had been there for me during my hardest times, and I was so thankful. That night, my family gave each other the little valentines we had made over Chinese takeout then had Valentine’s Day cupcakes and watched Food Network. Being with the ones I care about made me remember that my happiness wasn’t defined by my relationship status. I would fall in love again one day, but if I just sat around waiting for that to happen, I would miss out on so many other incredible life experiences. My family and friends were my valentines that year, and I felt extremely loved and cared for.
This Valentine’s Day, I am thankful that I was patient and waited for the right one. In September, I wrote an article about dating with a mental illness. I mentioned that online dating wasn’t for me because of my anxiety. Just over a month later, my mom finally convinced me to join Match.com. That same night, I came across the profile of the most amazing man. Ethan is the person I hoped I would eventually find: kind, loving, and supportive and understanding of my battle with mental illness. I don’t feel as if I need to hide my struggles from him, and I feel comfortable just being myself. Meeting him was worth the wait.
To everyone who is single on Valentine’s Day: Be kind to yourself. Tell the ones you love that you care about and appreciate them. Give a valentine to someone who might otherwise not receive one or to someone who is working instead of spending time with family. Celebrate friendship. Treat yourself to a favorite meal. Eat that drug store chocolate that comes in a heart-shaped box. Remember that you are amazing just as you are. Remember that your worth is not determined by your relationship status. Remember that you are deserving of the best love and don’t need to settle or change for anyone. And if you believe that you are ready to find the perfect person, take the chance and try online dating (I recommend Match.com)!
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!-Allie