Why a Breakup With My Supportive Partner Actually Improved My Mental Health
For those of you who have read my articles (I appreciate all of you!), you may have read an article I wrote about two years ago titled “To My Significant Other Who Has to Fight My Mental Illness Too.” The comments I’ve seen in that article and online gave me such happiness that my words were able to comfort others and show them that they weren’t alone in their experiences. I also saw many comments that they had sent my article to their significant other because the article said a lot of things they wanted to say but couldn’t articulate. Reading all of those comments encouraged me, and made me feel like my purpose writing for The Mighty had been achieved: to share the story of my journey as others travel their own.
That article is one of my favorites, but it was written in a different season of life than I am now, so I figured it appropriate to follow-up on it in the hopes that this too can resonate with you if you are in a similar season.
That article was written while I was with my partner, whom I ended up spending two and a half years of my life with. We met in college (though we went to different universities), we went on vacations together, met each others’ families and visited our home towns together. The article expresses how I felt at that time and how grateful I was for his support when I struggled.
But before all of that, when we first met, my journey with mental illness was just beginning and would become much more complicated than I ever thought. I met him a few days after I started my freshman year of college, which just so happened to be about a month and a half after I was discharged from the mental health hospital for being actively suicidal and self-harming. That experience shook my family as they had no idea about my struggles, and it changed all of the plans and ambitions I had for my life. That is a long story, and one I have touched on in other articles, so I won’t go into too many details. But the point: I started dating less than two months after being in the hospital for nine days.
At that time, I had been diagnosed with depression and was just beginning to find a therapist and a psychiatrist, things I never needed because I hid my struggles for most of my life. I had to learn to live with this new diagnosis, acclimate to college life (especially classes), and learn what it meant to live hundreds of miles away from my family and friends. In the midst of all of this, I decided: why not start dating too?
I didn’t expect anything serious; I just wanted a taste of dating, something I never could do in high school. Our first date was only meant to be breakfast, but we didn’t say goodbye until after the sun had gone down. From that point on, for the next two and a half years, we shared our lives together. And that included my complicated journey with mental illness and relapses.
Eventually, I was rediagnosed with bipolar disorder II, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety. I relapsed into self-harm and other dangerous behaviors. But he was always there to support me, something I talked about in my previous article.
Fast-forward a bit. After my sophomore year, we decided to move in together. We found a great, affordable apartment that we both loved, and we were so excited to start this new chapter of our lives together. I will never say moving in together was a mistake, but it did lead to our plans for a shared life together coming to an end. As we learned more about how we both live intimately and our personalities really came to the surface, it became clear over time that we were not right for each other. And as much as he supported me through all my ups and downs, I wasn’t going to try to force a relationship that was starting to worsen my mental health.
We broke up, I moved out, and I am now in a new chapter of life on my own. Many people would assume that this would cause even more stress on my mental health. Living alone without anyone to talk to in person due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) quarantine, having to live life “alone” (materialistically, not relationally). But actually, not only did it not worsen my health, it actually improved it.
Anyone who has ever been in a toxic relationship knows: once you’re free of it, it feels like you can breathe again. Our relationship, towards the end, was toxic. I won’t go into all the details, but to summarize, he was no longer the support he had been two years ago when I wrote that article.
For my own sake, I knew I had to end this relationship so that I could get myself back on track. I cherished the time we spent together, but we couldn’t continue. For a small amount of time, this made me sad. But once I felt how freeing it was to start fresh, to be free of someone who was weighing me down, my mood and anxiety all improved, and I have never been happier in my entire life.
I have a space to my own that I can truly be me in (something that is difficult to have with roommates). This is my first time ever living alone, and I love every second of it.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I still do appreciate all of the help he gave me when I was suffering and struggling. He was the one I turned to for support, and he provided what I needed. But that didn’t last, and I realized I couldn’t rely on others all the time when I struggled. I needed to tap into the strength I didn’t know I had to fight my battle, alongside those I could depend on.
My breakup didn’t hurt my mental health, it helped it. It made me feel emotions I hadn’t felt in a long time: genuine peace, joy, happiness and contentment. During all of the strangeness going on in the world at this time, many wouldn’t expect something like this to help cope with the stress of the world. But it has for me.
I am free to be me now. My former relationship helped me learn a lot about myself. Traveling the journey of my mental health as it got messier and more complicated, with a partner who was supportive, was what I needed to learn to walk this path. But now, I have freed myself from something that was slowing me down on my walk through life. I’m not just walking the journey, I’m running it. My breakup has helped me realize that I have the strength to do what I need to for my own health, and that I do have the strength to fight my mental illnesses daily so that I can achieve the life I know I deserve.
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash