I think we can all tell where this article is going, but nonetheless, pour yourself a glass of wine – a generous one, no one's watching – and saddle up for this riotous, deeply gratuitous 600 words or so of validation from yours truly…
This week: we're talking partners and relationships who have reached their expiry date.
Cut them loose.
You shouldn't waste your patience and time on people that wouldn't do the same for you.
So what I've concluded thus far is that we have to sacrifice for love, but we can't sacrifice too much – unless it's worth it. But then, what is worth the loss of our own identity and mental health. Like the bridge in any post-2014 era Taylor Swift song, you have to grit your teeth and fall in line with the new beat as it slowly consumes you.
The kicker with mental health is the unpredictability. Some days, in some ways everything is manageable. Life probably tastes like cherry wine (according to Hozier – can you tell I'm binging his entire works as I write this?!), but we know that as much as there are those days, there are other days. Sometimes it's hard to tell which outnumbers the other. I sat down the other week and concluded that my own only just about broke even.
Much less my partner.
The other issue is that you may have a couple that both have the same diagnosis but because of the sheer variance of humankind, we demand different things of comfort and recovery. Two people suffering from anxiety are likely to wildly vary in how they recover from anxiety attacks. Some want space and time to think and float above it all. Others want to be smothered in affection and human contact to drown in a little of something that isn't their own mind for a bit. We may be able to relate to each other. Maybe even understand. But we can't comfort each other or satisfy what we know the other person may need.
Is it as simple as that, though?
Relationships aren't there to be won, to be perfected, decoded, or even to be the thing that defines you. Neither is mental health. You wouldn't break up with a person who got in an accident and broke their arm and couldn't help around the kitchen for a couple of weeks. That is not to conflate the very real and overlapping complexities of mental and physical health, but we need to listen to each other. And ourselves.
But in this age of increasing concerns for our own self-care and looking after ourselves, we must be careful that we're not excluding ourselves from things that might be. Or that could be. Or that scare us. Our comfort zone needs to be renegotiated every now and then. It doesn't need to be obliterated or unrecognisable. But you need to test the limits. Things are hard. Life is hard, so are relationships. Mental health definitely is.
A solution of sorts to this cycle?
Do what scares you.
I know that it's what's written on all the guidance counsellor's inspirational posters in your high school. I do know this. However, I have nonetheless elected to title my article today on that very statement. Do what scares you. Why, you ask? Because we still haven't done it yet, for the most part.
Most of us, myself included, still have much to learn. When I was feeling really down a year or two ago, I explicitly remember watching a trashy nameless rom-com on Netflix and they said something that really changed the way I go about my daily life. You have to be willing to fall flat on your face and fail. For all of you perfectionists and 'never enough' out there, I hear you. I feel for you. I am one of you, through and through. That said, this statement was damning, even in that knowledge. I thought I was getting better at being vulnerable and putting myself out there and ensuring that I was living my life to the fullest – even without the bounds of my comfort zone.
Despite all my self-delusions and perceptions of having been more open-minded, I still realised that I lived my life under the main prerogative that I didn't fail. Exactly the opposite of that. It's all well and good saying that we don't mind not being great at everything. That it doesn't matter if not everyone always likes us. Or finds us funny.
However, it still leaves us with the feeling in our throat that we don't care to describe.
It's not a fun feeling, the feeling of failure.
Don't let the threat of something new or uncomfortable keep you trapped in a situation where you aren't getting what you need.