All of these different kinds of relationships, but what exactly makes a relationship? I think at its simplest it is being connected to another human, no matter how close that connection is.
So then how can I have relationships where I’m connected to other people when my depression and anxiety have made me so disconnected from myself?
We can even take it one step further and think about what makes a relationship healthy? Love, respect, kindness, trust, honesty, empathy, communication are the first characteristics that come to my mind. So again I ask how can I have healthy relationships assuming a healthy relationship consists of all these things when I cannot love, respect, be kind, trust, be honest, have empathy, or communicate with myself?
I, like many, didn’t grow up with the greatest, or healthiest examples of relationships, and anxiety has been riddling me since I was old enough to make a friend. When depression and cutting entered the scene relationships only became more scary and confusing.
Romantic – I was seeking acceptance, and worth in all the wrong places with people who detracted from my life instead of adding to it.
Familial – We were screaming, crying, and ignoring each other. There was very little if any respect, or empathy. Family was not family, it was anger, hurt, and despair.
Professional – Medically, I had a lot of professional relationships where I had no trust, acted quiet, distant, and honestly sometimes rude.
Friendly – I held on to a lot of friendships I should’ve let go, treated many people unfairly, and carried ridiculous expectations.
So it was a pretty hostile, disappointing, frustrating time trying to navigate the world of mental health and what that meant for me and my life, but also what that meant for my relationships. Relationships are hard, complicated, and confusing on their own, let alone with depression, anxiety and no sense of self-worth added into the mix. I in no way have figured it all out, nor will I ever have it all figured out, I will constantly be learning and growing and making mistakes and changing. However, my relationships in all areas of my life, including my relationship with myself have dramatically improved since I was that sick, quiet 17 year old so I thought telling you what I have learned might be helpful in some kind of a way.
Be with yourself first
I have always had, and continue to have shockingly low self-esteem, “non-existent” as one psychiatrist told me. I’ve touched on this a bit before in other posts, but I have always believed myself to be a nuisance to those around me, and really the world in general, that I am not good enough to exist, or breathe, or live, and that I need to make myself as small and invisible as possible so as not to trouble the world around me with my existence.
So here in lies the question: how can I love another human being when I don’t even love myself?
There was a point where I couldn’t even tell you my favourite colour – when people asked I would say orange because it was my mom’s and I was scared if I had my own favourite my friend’s wouldn’t like me because I liked the wrong colour. A COLOUR!!
So I needed to take time to be by myself, discover myself; learn about myself, and what my favourite colour was. I took time; I’m still taking time. I went back to therapy, read a million self-help books, watched Ted Talks, dove into my faith, spent a lot of time in coffee shops, wrote, bought myself flowers, and just spent time on my own. It all sounds pretty cliché I know, but as I am learning to love myself my relationships are improving dramatically because I don’t need the people in my life to fix or complete my broken parts, I can fix and complete myself. This offers so much more opportunity to truly appreciate the people I have around me instead of consuming my mind with thoughts of fear and worry that somebody’s going to stop talking to me because they found out my favourite colour. (It’s teal in case you were curious)
You probably think I’m being dumb for including this, because of course good healthy relationships have communication, duh Chelsea, but I lose sight of the significance of communication so often. Depression and anxiety magnify my need to shut down, collapse into myself and block everyone out when I’m feeling anything negative. I held onto so much resentment because my mom said something that made me feel shameful, or my doctor didn’t understand what I was trying to say, or my friend did something that made me feel unwanted, and I couldn’t understand why all these people were doing all these things that were hurting me so badly.
I am learning, especially in this season of life that a) people are not mind-readers, and b) more often than not people do not have the intention of hurting you. Instead of screaming at my mom to leave me alone, I have replaced that with (or am trying to replace that with) I’m not really in a talking mood right now can we talk later, when my doctor misinterprets things I’m saying instead of being silent I say I actually meant it more like this. My friends, family, and doctors are not the enemy; people are not the enemy, they just can’t know what is happening inside of my brain without me explaining it, or at least trying. I’m an extremely sensitive soul and take too many things way too personally; I am also really not good at verbal communication so this is a hard thing for me, some days I’m better than others, and I still have a lot to learn and work on but even just starting to be conscious about the way I communicate has helped greatly.
You don’t need to be friends with everyone.
This is hard for me, but such is life. Sometimes people don’t want to be in a relationship with you – that’s ok. Sometimes it’s not healthy to be in a relationship with someone else – that’s ok. It’s not a pass to be nasty, or rude or anything like that don’t get me wrong, but sometimes people bring more toxic to your life than good. As I have come further in recovery, I have had to cut some people out to keep myself safe; there can be a lot of guilt that comes from that, A LOT of guilt but I am better able to nurture and serve the people that ARE in my life, and better able to love myself, and take care of me and my mental health.
It’s okay to be you
My last “tip” if you will, another cliché I’m sorry!! Just hear me out. When I first launched my own blog, and then when I started blogging here I was so scared, scared doesn’t even do it justice, petrified, nauseous, considering moving countries and changing my name, that all sounds more accurate. However since I have been so painfully honest about who I am and what I struggle with I have made so many new friends, and my relationships with the people I knew before are so much stronger. Hurting together feels so much better than hurting alone.
I am not an expert, I’m still figuring it out, I’m still learning, and I am still messing up. I am happy to say though that I am in the happiest, respectful, trusting, wonderful romantic relationship, I have the most wonderful, beautiful, hilarious, friend relationships, my family relationships are stronger, kinder, and better than ever before, and my professional relationships are thriving, all things I never imagined would ever happen to me.
What has your experience been? How do you manage mental health and relationships?
Remember that you are valued, cherished, wanted, and worthy.
Until next time,
About Chelsea Moore
My name is Chelsea! I am in my third year of university studying Anthropology and Sociology. I started self harming when I was 15, had my first suicide attempt when I was 16, and that is when I was diagnosed with Depression. Since then my life has been about recovery, and throughout this journey writing has been my safe place. Throughout my journey I've learned that everyone has a story, and hurting together feels a lot better than hurting behind closed doors.I am passionate about bringing awareness to mental illness, and couldn't be more excited about this opportunity to write for Healthy Minds Canada!