30 Nov How to Move on After a Break-up—When Your Mental Illness was to Blame
I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression long enough to know that they can cause problems even in the healthiest relationships. In fact, I’m certain they were central to many break-ups I’ve had over the last 20 years. I get scared. I get clingy. I get sad. I get needy. I can be a lot to deal with—I know this. And even the most compassionate partners have had trouble handling it.
The thing is, break-ups are already difficult. But when your mental illness is the cause of a break-up, it makes them that much harder. Not only are you left holding the remnants of the broken relationship—you’re left looking in the mirror at the very thing that caused it to dissolve. You’re left to feel like both the victim and the perpetrator. It hurts—and it can make your mental illness feel that much more unbearable.
So, what can you do about it? The following are five tips to help you move on following a mental illness-related break-up and—hopefully—form more healthful relationships moving forward.
Look within. You are not to blame for your mental illness. There are some behaviors you may not be able to control. But it’s still valuable to look within and see if there are things you can change for the better. Can you work on trust issues? Communication? Space? Co-dependence? Even small steps in the right direction can help with future partners.
Make amends. It can be easy to get defensive about our mental illness. After all, it’s not something we asked for or what in our lives. But you would be surprised how empowering it is to acknowledge it—not only to yourself, but to your ex-partner, as well. Take responsibility for the “crazy”—for the slammed phones, missed events, or messed-up plans. It’s OK to admit that your mental illness impacted both of you. And it will help you understand the power it has to do so in the future.
Take some time. See step one. Introspection doesn’t happen via other people. It happens by making time for yourself. Take some time to be alone—to get to know yourself and what triggers you. Take time to detail the types of qualities you need in a partner to be able to relate healthfully.
Be forgiving. Of yourself, and your partner. In my case, I know it isn’t easy to be my boyfriend. I know that I need to forgive people for their impatience with me, just as I would ask them to forgive me for the dates I missed due to social anxiety, etc. Life is not easy. Part of the burden is lifted when we accept this and forgive.
Release the sense of abandonment. Many of us struggling with mental illness may feel a sense of abandonment when someone chooses to leave us because of it. That’s natural. But one thing you must remember is this: It isn’t their job to love you. It is YOUR JOB to love you. And you will continue to struggle in any relationship where you put that responsibility on someone other than yourself.
The truth is, it takes a special kind of person to compassionately love someone with mental illness—especially for the long haul. If you’ve experienced a break-up due to your mental health, take time to learn from it. Every lesson will move us one step further to a happily ever ever—not because of our mood enhancers, but because we have finally found a healthy way to love.