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How My Mental Illness Makes Me Struggle With Relationship Attachment

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To me, relationships and connections are the most valuable thing life can give you.  Unfortunately, mine quickly become toxic as I let them take over my life. When I get attached, the other person becomes the main character in my own story. The need to talk to them is like an addiction. It leads to an irrationally strong fear of abandonment, I feel like I can’t go on without them. The desperation makes me selfish and manipulative, completely losing touch with my values. The further I get into the attachment, the more I lose my self-worth and myself.

There is a sense of urgency to everything. It’s like my life is at a standstill until they are around. An unanswered text or unreturned phone call can leave me bedridden, in a wave of panic no matter how many times they reassurance me. It puts pressure on the relationship that is hard to cope with. I ask for more and more, so no matter how dedicated they are, they end up having to leave, as they can’t maintain their life while trying to meet my demands.

My expectations for them are too high, as they are for myself. I’m never grateful and it creates constant disappointment and a feeling of inadequacy in both of us. I become close-minded, don’t accept them for the person they are and try to shape them into something else, even though the person they are is the one I truly care about. I forget each person and each relationship is special for its own reasons.

The relationship becomes focused completely on whether they will leave and neither of us can truly enjoy the connection. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where I become the burden I’m so scared I am. I believe the only reason they are close to me is because I force them to be. Like somehow I am a toxic, brainwashing influence, which is something they cannot convince me out of. It’s still something I grapple with, even on reflection and something I need to convince myself out of. I wish they would be assertive but when they are, I become harsh and destructive, driven by my insecurities instead of my values.

This makes me extremely sensitive to everything they do or say, constantly analyzing and looking for signs I’m right. I discard any evidence that shows they want to be close and latch onto any doubt, using it as proof for my distorted beliefs. I constantly set tests to see if they “truly” care, but often the line between “giving up” and “accepting” is lost. My friends are put in an impossible position where they feel like they are disrespecting my boundaries by pushing me or they are abandoning me when they choose to accept my choices.

Due to the dependency, I don’t trust them. Instead, I try to control them and push to try and break all their barriers, hoping that it will help me understand them and prevent being hurt by betrayal or naivete. But as they become more vulnerable, I become more defensive and the friendship is not balanced. I switch between loving and hating them, seeing things only in black and white. There is an undertone of resentment and guilt on both sides that destroys a really pure and positive connection.

It is like a rubber band. The more I suffocate them, the more they pull away and the more I hate myself for doing it, until eventually it snaps. When they leave, it is debilitating, but there is also a twisted sense of relief. Realizing I can only control myself is something that took a large weight off my shoulders.

I do all this to avoid taking responsibility of my own life, putting my life responsibilities on them and taking theirs instead. I begin to think I know best and try to make decisions for them, not respecting their wants and needs. They matter so much to me that seeing them hurt is almost too painful to bear, making it impossible for them to show weakness around me. I decide they’re better off without me and push them away before begging them to become closer again.

In the end, I treat the relationships that mean the most to me, without respect or care. I add a lot to their lives but am also the cause of a lot of pain. My fears lead me to become someone I hate around the people I love the most. It becomes so important to me to keep the relationships that I end up losing them.  It’s a terrible and paradoxical cycle that thankfully can be broken.

I’ve found the best way to be able to nurture my relationships is taking space and nurturing my relationship with myself.  To take responsibility for my own life, put up boundaries and start changing my core beliefs. Learning to think myself capable of being self-sufficient and independent. Learning the value of who I am, something I couldn’t see before. Starting by consolidating my identity so it cannot be shaken or lost.

Respecting myself means I am able to respect those around me. Accepting their decisions, whether I understand them or not. Only when I start doing this can I be the loving, caring, giving friend I truly am and want to be.

Intimacy, connection and friendship will always be what I cherish the most. It becomes a daily struggle against the guilt and shame for hurting those around me and missing those who have left. Despite this, I’ve learnt to forgive and love myself, treating myself the way I want to treat others.

I’m not going to lose anyone else important to me due to unhealthy habits that make me just as unhappy as those around me. I thank those who have been there for me in the past and despite hurting them, I hope they know how much they helped me on the road to happiness.

As I build my strength, the dependency on others lessens, allowing for privacy, patience and flexibility in my relationships. When I am secure enough to be vulnerable and trust those around me, I can be close while still giving enough space to both them and myself so the relationship can breathe. I know only when I allow those around me to live their own lives can I truly appreciate being close to them and live my own.

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Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.

Originally published: March 28, 2017
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