What I’ve Learned Is The Best Lesson On Love And Relationships

This is a very well known quote. We’ve all read it and most of us have hoped love would live up to this with those we dedicate ourselves too. But many of us know that it hasn’t. Many of us have been disappointed and left with broken hearts we will never quite fully be able to heal from. Disappointment leaves our faith in fragments and we are cautious when it comes to loving again. Those who find this true representation of love are rare and I respect each one of you because love isn’t always easy and loving takes courage and dedication and selflessness. Most of what I have learned of what love is comes from knowing what love is not and until now, love has been my most elaborate form of self-harm. But wait… It was never really love then, was it?

I have always been one of the many girls to believe in fairytales of love learned from Princesses in Disney movies. I have been one of those girls to dream of the big day in a beautiful dress and a long life with kids I already had names for. But I have also been one of those girls who learned the hard way that love is fire and at some point, you’re bound to get burnt.

It took one night of an impulsive delusional decision to make me realise what I had really known all along. A guy I fell for was strike 4 in my impeccable record of failed relationships and again I thought he was the last to cross my road towards the happily ever after. Just like all before him, it started off with the honeymoon phase of sweet talk where being with me was “easy and comfortable” and I was approached with sensitivity and gentleness and compliments galore and sparks were flying. Obviously I trusted him much faster than I should’ve, but I was attracted to his kindness towards others and the sensitivity that seemed to radiate from him. So, my infatuated mind made the decision to give herself away completely; mentally, emotionally, physically…

As time went on, his sensitivity, compliments and interest in my heart and head waned but his interest in my body grew stronger. I knew I had to walk away, yet I held on and I let myself go with the flow. I remember one day as I sat on his bed alone and he watched TV how alone I felt right in the middle of the relationship. I had never felt more alone and I no longer recognised myself. I changed. I learned to tell myself that sex is what love demands, that times had changed, that men not expressing their emotions towards you was a normal thing and that superficial talk was good talk – because who wants to be with an over-emotional girl? I had defied every belief I ever had and every rule I had ever made when it came to giving myself away. Why did I let things slip so far into a relationship that consisted of sex… I cared about him very much but I didn’t love him. How could I when he no longer saw my heart and he stopped opening up his to me too. I realise now that I craved a closeness from him and sex with him was all that made me feel that. As time dragged on I could however no longer take the emotional emptiness and knowing he didn’t feel much for me either, so we split up. I cried my heart out and ached and broke all over again. The most frightening thing is that feelings are not fixed. You can be everything one moment, just enough another and nothing at all the next.

Months went by and then not too long ago he started messaging me with smiley faces and seemingly interested conversation on how my emotional health was and videos of huskies which he knew I loved. He knew about my depression and hospital admission, but he never judged me for it while everyone else ran from it. Perhaps that was part of the reason I had trust in him. It wasn’t long before he told me he wanted to have sex with me again and we should go on a date. I wasn’t stupid. He was an utter asshole for blatantly telling me he wanted sex. I was the one who f***ed myself over… See, I missed parts of him and his reappearance resurrected a lot of intense, buried emotion. I ignorantly agreed to the date… And then after a movie which involved “romantic kissing” the sex came. It was about 1AM when he dropped me off at my car so we can both head home and he greeted me with the type of insincere, split second hug that has now become a common greeting in our society amongst strangers and the words, “Thanks for an interesting night.” He didn’t want to get back together. 

I woke up the next morning trying to convince myself that it’s fine. He didn’t want to date me again and it was just sex, no big deal, I’ll move on now. But as I drove to the gym and saw my face in the rearview mirror and the expression of a totally lost girl with eyes being stung by impending tears I knew that it messed me up emotionally and mentally far more than I let myself admit. Sex is never just sex. You give parts of yourself away to a person and I realised I had disrespected myself and gone against all I stood for. Again. More so, I had been used by a man who might not have loved me ever but who I thought cared about me enough to at least regard me as a person with dignity. That was the worst part of it all. It was like that one night had negated every good moment we had ever shared. Everything that might have ever been true and an honorably agreed end to a relationship. All of that was negated the minute I was used as a thing and not a person. I thought if I continued to be a good woman, he would eventually return the favour and be a decent man. Or that if I stayed patient and understanding, eventually he’d realise his mistakes. But being a good woman to a man who doesn’t understand her worth only gave him someone to use. And being patient and understanding only gave him more leeway to continue hurting me. My mistake was, when his words hurt me I apologised because I felt guilty for making him feel bad. 

I just remember feeling like I wanted to take everything back from him; my touches, my love, my kisses, my sex, my emotions, my loyalty, my time, my energy, my conversations, my compromises, my efforts, my vulnerability… Myself. I had moulded myself to fit him. And then, I absolutely hated that he was walking around happily on a daily basis with all of me while I was walking around feeling disturbingly empty. And in that moment I had just wanted to take back everything I had ever given to him.

Why do we let people make homes in us when they end up destroying everything we have worked so hard to build? How many times have you been called beautiful by a person who eventually made you feel ugly on the inside? Did he really break my heart over and over again or was I the one who kept breaking my own heart by settling for a relationship that didn’t sit right with me, hoping over and over again that it would magically change on its own? I was, after all, responsible for myself, wasn’t I? I had choices in this world just like everyone else, didn’t I? It was up to me to teach people how to treat me, wasn’t it? I screwed up. Somewhere along the line I misplaced parts of my self-worth and blamed it on him. Somewhere along the line I started lying to myself and blamed it on him. Somewhere along the line I started hating myself for a relationship that was killing me on the inside, and instead of taking accountability for what I was doing to myself, I blamed it all on him. I screwed up. See, what he did and his views of how woman should be treated may not be right and he may legitly and clearly be classified as an asshole, but I knew this, yet I chose to ignore it. He may not realise it but he is accountable for his own actions and perhaps someday he would realise it isn’t okay, that what he is lacking is humility and respect.

I had to take a step back and get all the way real with my life and ask myself why the hell I wanted a man who made it obvious with his actions that he didn’t want me. Why I kept trying with a man who never made the effort for me. In doing that, I realised that he wasn’t the problem anymore… I was. I had become my own problem by sticking around a horrible situation and I needed to fix myself.

So what did I learn from love?

Sex is never just sex and it’s never okay to keep someone around just for it while they think you care about them as a person. You’ll play games with her mind, mess around with her emotions, disrupt her sense of security to the point where she feels like she is never good enough. Never worthy enough.

“The biggest coward of a man is awakening the love of a woman without the intention of loving her.” – Bob Marley

Accept that not everyone will understand you. That every soul is its own equation. While you may be little more than senseless gibberish to some, others will only need a single look to get a grasp of who you are. Never dull, dumb down or adjust yourself to fit somewhere you don’t belong. Rather be alone in dignity than in a relationship that demands your self-respect.

Lastly, stick to what your heart knows and has always known about love; that it doesn’t just fall on your lap. It takes dedication to get to know a person and it takes commitment to honour and love them. It takes humility to see someone’s heart and compromise to respect each other. Don’t ever set yourself on fire just to warm the cold hearts of those who do not burn for you.

30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 29 & 30

So we have reached the end of this challenge and the last post for it. I missed yesterday again as I was just super busy and tired but finally I have now gotten a chance to answer.

What false beliefs have you had about your illness that you have now overcome?

When you’re depressed you obviously have false beliefs that just come with the illness and you’re completely convinced they’re the reality which is why you feel so shit. You don’t mentally choose to believe them, your heart just tells you that they’re true. I have had much distorted thinking like I’m not worth it or good enough for anything. I have felt like I am too weak to survive the world. I have believed that I am too damaged and I should just be written off and subtracted from life. I’ve felt like all I will ever gain is loss – having my mom die, losing my ultimate dream of being a Veterinarian when I got sick, having a great friend die in Afghanistan, being dumped by guys who couldn’t stand by the three words they so easily and carelessly uttered and having depressive relapses that put me behind where I thought I would be in life by now. Loss kind of became all I knew and I was broken in thinking it’s all I ever will know. I’ve also had issues with my physical appearance thinking I am just so terrible looking or I need to lose more weight. Then there were thoughts of severe anxiety, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, to the point that I developed OCD which lead me to fear. I was afraid of more things going wrong so I tried to be an absolute perfectionist; in controlling my weight (which ironically was rediculously uncontrolled in starvation), overworking myself at university to make sure I got distinctions, showing up way too early for appointments in case something happened that made me late, thinking up worst case scenarios and catastrophising and a myriad of other things. Right now I have none of these distortions anymore and I am so beyond glad, because when I think back on them all I feel is suffocation and dread. They ruined my life. I still have a low self-esteem and I still struggle with anxiety but my anxiety isn’t over fear of things going wrong anymore, my anxiety is just an overwhelming feeling making me freeze or feel so restless and make my heart race sometimes and I have no explanation or reason as to why. Also the anxiety linked to my low self-esteem as I explained in the previous post with being unable to perform in front of others and doubting my ability to succeed. As for depression, I don’t have its lies anymore because I’m back in remission and I see things from a realistic perspective and I am able to evaluate my emotions in a realistic perspective. I don’t really want to die, depression’s pain made me want to die. I don’t believe that I am worthless, too damaged and unlovable because I also see all I’ve overcome, all I’ve been able to achieve, how I become when I am back to me again and free from depression and traits from my personality develop that are actually pretty awesome. Yeah, I just said I am awesome. Feels super weird because I don’t think I ever have. I’m an empath which means I feel too much and hurt easily but I also love the hell out of people and care. I may be sensitive but I am also intuitive and I am strong enough to easily raise my voice and speak out against people’s unjustified opinions, basically, as my friend put it; my inner bitch can come out if it needs to, and sometimes it does. Also, I’m not all serious. I can be incredibly silly and sarcastic and funny and dramatic if I want and I actually enjoy it quite much, especially with friends. Also, I am spiritual and I am not moved easily by resistance in my beliefs and if it wasn’t for my spirituality, my heart would’ve been incredibly empty. So basically what I’m saying is, just because depression distorts your mind and your heart is thrown down into the depths of pain, it doesn’t mean that is what you are and if anyone judges your character by it, feel free to walk as far away from them as possible.

What are your current wishes for right now and for the future and what are you going to do about it?

My wishes for right now are nothing earth shattering. Right now, I have just started finding my feet again. Right now I have just started living again and started loving parts of it again. Right now I am still working hard in every area of my life; physical health, mental health, my studies and taking time for myself. So right now, I am just learning to find my strength again and so, I am not in a place of wishing and dreaming, I am more in a state of just being. Right now, if I had to wish for anything, it would be for gaining confidence and being happy. It’s pretty basic and it’s all I want really; to develop myself continuously and grow in character and live for things that make me smile. 

Wishes for the future I do have. There are still things I want in life and dream of. I want to be a Doctor and open up my own practice and maybe immigrate. I want to believe that there is someone out there who can love me and whom I can spend the rest of my life with. Right now, I don’t know if I believe that that’ll happen for me and my heart is somewhat hurting a little still. Having been in 3 relationships over the past 2 years (yeah, I know, too much) there was one of those three that impacted me the most and that was most real to me and there are days my heart has a pang of missing that person. So I am still in a stage of healing from all this and even thinking of being in a relationship again ignites my fight or flight system in the fear of getting hurt and in all truth, I have enough on my plate and don’t need any more hits right now. But I’d be a liar if I said I never want to try again. Just not right now. I also hope for depression to never hit me as hard as it did and that I will only grow in wholeness and have it well-controlled. I’ve said before I want to be a Psychiatrist, but I am afraid it might trigger me as I do get easily triggered by stories of other people’s severe depression and suicide attempts. I couldn’t handle “13 Reasons Why” or “Girl Interrupted” or a book called “Perfect Chaos” which is about a woman who went through depression and her journey and she recounts the events up to how she recovered and now she is a great mental health advocate. Even though it is so inspiring, our stories were similar on a few levels and it left me feeling very down for a while. But nonetheless, I still want to specialise in Psychiatry because firstly, I am truly interested in it and the brain fascinates me. Secondly, I want to fight for this cause in which ever way I can and so many people don’t get proper help. I don’t think I could ever do a job which my heart isn’t truly into and so, this is what my heart has chosen. I believe there are ways one can learn to adapt and separate your own emotions from those of others and that is something I’ll have to work on.

Chronic Illness Challenge: Day 25 & 26

Do you think living with your illness inhibits/harms romantic relationships?

    Unfortunately, as much as it shouldn’t, it does. This is because of people not knowing how to deal with you having had, and possibly having again, severe depression. The things is, you start dating and they only see the healthy you and the true you, but then the point comes where you have to be open and tell them about your struggles because it has been such a big part of your life. One can explain the medical aspect of it very well to them and they understand that and they say that they would never judge you or run from you, but deep down it ends up affecting them more than they care to admit, and I am saying this from experience. Obviously, I have seen, and know of, couples who dealt with it so amazingly no matter how sick the partner may be for a while and so I know some people actually mean what they say and they are brave enough. Brave enough to stand with you in your storms and face them and love you for you. I honestly wish that for myself someday, but so far I have only known the opposite. Two guys I have dated have displayed exactly what I would call cowardism. I remember that I had a mild relapse during the first one and he literally told me he is afraid and doesn’t know how to deal with this and he doesn’t think a future with me would be best for both of us then in case I had more relapses. The other one was my last relationship and it was all, “I love you” until I got admitted and then a week later he dropped me in such a shit way saying he doesn’t think “emotionally he is up for the relationship.” He loved sending hate mails to people who would send him emails of advertisements and so I decided to send him one with many “f*** you for…” sentences repeated in my major anger. The good thing was I never missed him at all because my heart knew he wasn’t worth an ounce of love and missing. 

    I have admired many couples having that resilience and even during my admission I would see husbands visiting their wives and displaying the utmost gentleness. But I won’t sugar coat it and pretend it is that easy. Obviously relationships with one partner suffering from depression and anxiety can be hard on both and not just the ill one. Seeing someone you love in a state you don’t fully understand and can do very little about is hard. Having the person you love struggle to give you back all that joy and energy they previously did is hard. Having the person you love withdraw and start struggling to do anything makes you feel alone. I won’t pretend that both partners aren’t hurting, each in a different way, and I won’t pretend it doesn’t put strain on your relationship. But what I do know is, you’re still very much worth sticking around for because you’re still the same person and this isn’t your forever. Even in the midst of your depression you never stop loving the people closest to you and it isn’t like you suddenly become an invalid. What is important I think is having patience. Don’t get so caught up in the ill person’s manifestations of their illness that you make it everything. What you need to realise is you need to ask them how you can help them and that they need to tell you what they need from you. If they need to cry you don’t always need to try and console them and hold their hand. If they get anxious you just need to be gentle and not get worked up. Take your space and let them have theirs. Also, talk to them. Ask them how they feel and just listen without judgement or sit with them in silence. 

    The point is, everyone has their difficulties in some form or another whether you’re healthy or ill and being in a relationship with someone who has suffered from depression isn’t any less than being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t. The amount of great times you spend together doesn’t become any less and the life you build together isn’t any less beautiful or is made of paper and tape. Being in a relationship with someone like that can actually be one of the strongest. It all comes down to a choice. If you love them enough for who they truly are then it isn’t a difficult choice to make and if you don’t, then leave, because then your relationship was never strong enough anyway and your belief in that person isn’t strong enough. 

    How would/do you feel about having children while dealing with a chronic illness?

    I’ve thought about this a lot. I would love to have children someday. I’ve always wanted to. But I’ve also thought about whether there would be the possibility of me passing on the risk of depression to my children. I would never want that and so I do have these doubts and fears. But also, if I think about the context in which my depression arose, I have to take into consideration that since a very young age I have been exposed to a lot of stress and trauma and I already had the risk of depression and repeated stressful environmental circumstances which played a big role in triggering the manifestations. So I guess one needs to be realistic and consider that there are always multiple factors and risks in anything and everything. Getting pregnant just opens up all those possibilities. Many genetic abnormalities can happen, you can have children with a predisposition to all sorts of illness and harm, yet, you take that risk because you choose to believe in the good it can bring. 

    There is also the issue of being depressed and having to take care of children if you do feel like that and how to not let your depression negatively influence them. I believe one can navigate through that and as they get older let them understand what mental illness is but I would never if I had children let them be exposed to my depressive symptoms and I would fully love and support them and be fully involved in their lives inspite of myself. I know very well that this is possible and not a big issue, as I know the way I am able to draw certain parts of myself out when I need to in certain situations. Say for example I am going through depression but I need to see patients and children at the hospital. I still know how to care for them and make them feel comfortable and be friendly. Also, this may sound like a stupid example to some, but I have two beautiful huskies and I love them so immensely much that my heart cannot comprehend it. During the times I have been depressed and at my worst, it never once changed the way I spoke to them, played with them, sat with them and hugged them. On the contrary, I think it brought me a sense of peace and joy and I believe with one’s kids it would be the same. Even though you struggle through a lot of pain, they are parts of your life that make you hold on and give you that reminder of love and you’d still pour all of yourself into their lives to make sure they’re happy and feel loved too. As they get older they might understand better and it would be easier to start talking to them about it and how it comes about and is managed.

    I’ve also read about and seen many mothers who live with Bipolar or Depression who have children and all I can say is, I truly admire them. Their children have always remained first place and they developed ways of being open with them and explaining to them on a level they would understand. They are incredible mothers.