Forming and maintaining healthy (romantic) relationships has always been a downfall of mine. I don’t think it’s necessarily one thing that has caused this, rather a plethora of things. When things didn’t work out I would usually blame myself more than I would blame my counterpart especially the older I got.
My freshman year of college I was sexually assaulted, I had only been a college student for a week and a half. The first time I told anyone about the assault was August of this year. I told my parents and my sister something that had been sitting on my chest for 8 years. 8 years of drinking, meaningless sex, depression, loneliness, trust issues, verbal and physical abuse, self sabotaging behavior and guilt. I’m not blaming any of my reckless actions on what took place, but I am accepting that this played a huge role in the downfalls of my relationships.
Loving me was hard.
I had to learn love myself again. Self love is the best love. I had to condition myself to think and then start believing that I was more than what society or others thought I was worth. I had to actively engage myself in the Word, practice self- care (see Happily Healthy Moments), and ultimately give myself a break. I often got set in a non-realistic way of how relationships are “supposed to go” that I deviated from what was happening in the present moment.
Self-care. You partake in your own self-care on a daily basis—might range from drinking 8 glasses of water everyday to going to yoga at least twice a week. Personally, I began by writing down goals. Short and long term. All focused on myself and not anyone else. Doing so help me put things into perspective. 1. I can accomplish at least one goal before the end of the week. 2. I have a lot to look forward to. Along with writing out goals I stopped judging and comparing myself to peers. Sometimes, social media is a big slap in the face when it comes to relationships. Relationships ALWAYS look glamorous, effortless and eventful…online. Making it so easy to click-through pictures and say “Awww they’re so cute” or “I’m so jealous”. HA. Why? Because I began to perseverate on some fictitious idea of what meaningful relationships were to look like. Part of my self-care was asking myself what did a meaningful relationship look like? I could answer that once I removed myself from meaningless situations.
Once that question was answered I could actively answer the question “How do I love you?” Several words come to mind like empathy, validation, patience and support. The world we live in today, in my opinion, has completely obliterated the word empathy. Empathy only applies to some situations as long as it’s the absolute worst thing we’ve heard for the day, right? Statements like “It could be worse” get thrown around in the mix of trying to be empathetic. Empathy shouldn’t be based off anyone else’s circumstances. Saying things like “I wish I could help and I’m sorry you are not feeling well” will validate feelings even when we don’t agree it’s the right feeling.
Patience. I have usually been very open about my diagnoses. I don’t go on one date with someone and say “Hey! I have Bipolar II and Depression so beware!” They don’t define me but they are apart of me. Patience can come in many forms. Love those in times of progression and regression. Timelines are null and void. They aren’t going to magically feel better tomorrow because you planned something that should cheer them up. Isolation can and will become a familiar feeling on both sides. Isolation for me is a subconscious reaction when I am having a hard time. It’s easier knowing I’m not a burden on someone’s day while I’m struggling.
It is a huge comfort to know I don’t have to be alone or by myself on some of my darkest days. So be patient in knowing they will find the light at the end of the tunnel but just not on your time.
Support. Ask! Ask! Ask! Ask them what helps them cope and more importantly what doesn’t help them cope. I think once someone discloses with you their struggles you should take the opportunity to ask them before something occurs. The better prepared you are the easier it is to help when the time comes. If they have no idea what helps them or doesn’t help them the best thing you can do is love. People with mental illness can benefit from knowing they aren’t in fact alone in their daily struggles, triggers and during those times they need to cope. With me, the biggest thing someone who loves me can do is be understanding. Understanding means supporting the fact that I was sexually assaulted and sometimes certain things are not doable because of the trauma that has occurred that I am slowly but surely processing and working through. Supporting is not just saying you’re going to be there but actually showing up when you are needed.
I’m always open to feedback! Thank you for all of the support, love, encouraging words, and huge hugs!