Friday, 27 January 2017

Relationships & Mental Health

Today's post is a little bit more personal than I intended, so bear with me. This year I plan on discussing my mental health experiences a bit more on the blog. Personal posts are often my favourites to read, and whilst they are some of the hardest for me to write - it's not easy to open up on the internet in front of a sea of folk where everyone can view your vulnerability - I find them some of the most satisfying to publish, as I've not only overcome a fear each time - of being trashed and criticised, of being embarrassed about opening up, of my post being received negatively etc - but it often leads to me developing a closer relationship to fellow bloggers and readers, as you guys can often relate, and so many of you give me wonderful, encouraging feedback that makes it worthwhile risking any nasty or troll comments that I'm so afraid of. I also think it's a good way for me to vent and get things off my chest in a way that can raise awareness or help others. I don't often talk about my darker days with friends and family, and blogging is at least a healthy outlet.

In today's post, I wanted to talk a little about mental health and relationships, and how my own frame of my mind has affected the potential partners, the flings, the exes etc, and stress just how important it is to take care of you first and foremost before anything else. This is something I had a hard time grasping as I didn't care very much about myself for so long, but it's by far one of the most important things I've ever learned.

I've spent the majority of my life single, and that's been perfectly fine. I always had crushes, and those crushes always turned into major points of gossip and drama, but I don't feel I've ever felt the pressure of being single and needing to be liked by somebody, or needing to date somebody because 'everyone else is'. Most of the gossip in my high school revolved around somebody cheating on somebody else - and who even needs that? I was friends with some guys in high school but never really the one to date them, but honestly, when I was 15/16, the actual idea of kissing someone didn't really appeal to me all that much, never mind having a sexual relationship. I was quite happy to crush from afar and sometimes talk to whoever it was. 

Even once I left high school and kissing boys became more interesting to me, my 'relationships' or whatever you want to call them were still a mess, a complete and total disaster, the most notable being: the loser 'best friend' of mine who thought I was good enough until more exciting opportunities arose; the supposed boyfriend who cheated after four or five months; the guy who couldn't make up his mind; the one still cut-up over his break-up who painted me as the bad guy when I called him out on stringing me along; and back to the one who couldn't make up his mind. There were a lot of other guys in between those, but most of them were extremely brief encounters. Most of these romantic blunders of mine haven't been relationships, in fact, only one of those I mentioned above was an official relationship. The others were flings, seeing how it went, whatever. I don't like to label them if I can help it. I spent most of my time not wanting a relationship, and that's fine. I was a mess, I was emotionally unstable, and I was not ready to handle the commitment of a relationship. I spent most of that time being flighty, and I'd change my mind at a moment's notice. I'd meet someone else and it was them I'd rather be sharing a bed with. 

The whole thing burnt me out. For someone that wasn't ready to commit to another human being, it took a toll on my mental and emotional well-being anyway and I began to dislike myself for what I was doing, for going over to a guy's flat after meeting him once with a bottle of rum and not remembering drinking that much of the bottle. These were the joys of having that self-destructive attitude, the response that came hand-in-hand with my depression, accompanied by self-harm and a need to drink to get drunk, to forget, to feel weightless, to disappear for a little while. I'm not slut-shaming, I don't hate myself for sleeping with people regardless of how well I knew them and I certainly don't think it's wrong for anyone else to live their life how they want, but I hated myself for a long time for being unable to cope with everything, for not wanting to acknowledge my problems but to pretend they didn't exist, or to forget they did exist but pouring myself a glass of Sailor Jerry and coke, and cuddling up to someone who I didn't even like that much - in any sense.

Meeting Jack was totally out of the blue. I've covered my reflection of our relationship in this post back in August last year, and starting a relationship with him is by far the best decision I've ever made. It happened really quickly - one day we met up to hang out, then a week later we'd started dating, and I don't regret one minute of it. He drives me mad, and sometimes I just wanna punch him really hard on the shoulder for being a dickhead, but I know that I can be just as bad. And what's a relationship if you haven't gotta work at it sometimes?

I think there can be some stigmas about young people and relationships. There's that group of people that think we should all be married by 19, and there's the group that think we should play the field til we're 30. Lucky for me, I don't have any real issues of the people around me being annoyed that I'm 22 and planning my life out with Jack. I think everyone is relieved I'm past the point of burning myself out over flings and boozing as often as I can. Personally, I think 22 is a pretty good age to find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. Things with Jack have gone pretty quickly; we started dating within a week, and only a few months in we were talking about the future, of eventually getting married, having our own place. Just, overall, having a future together.

It's a cliché, and I did speak about it in my reflection post, but I understand why it was all a bit crap before Jack and why it didn't work out with the one person I really wanted to have a relationship with  - also known as the guy that couldn't make up his mind. That person caused me a lot of grief and pain. The whole situation was a total head fuck and I lost count of the the amount of times he broke my heart in the space of the two years we knew each other. He wasn't there for me, he didn't fight in my corner, and he didn't fight for me. I'd justify why he did things, why he said certain things, and try to reason out his behaviour to myself because I was in love with him, and the idea of him not being around crushed me, broke my heart, shattered my soul cos everything was better when I was with him, and I could forget all the shitty stuff both between us and in my life outside of him.

Then Jack came along, and everything started to make sense. Everything got a little brighter, and I was given the clarity to see why things had worked out the way they had with that other person. There's no real doubt about it - Jack is in my future, and I don't see it being any other way. I was at a huge, crucial point in my life when we got together - I'd not long finished up my counselling for PTSD, I was planning my significant phoenix tattoo, and I was looking at going back to work for the first time in the best part of a year.

21 was a massive growing year for me, and I changed in so many ways. I had many, many ups and downs; seeing someone for the first time in almost a year and having a mini meltdown on the bus; my mother went into hospital for an operation; the guy who couldn't make up his mind was still lurking in the background and we were still in touch; I was at counselling; I was out of work. I changed to the point that my physical appearance changed - I got rid of the bulk of my wardrobe and started wearing things I never thought I'd wear, and my love for makeup, although it never fully went away, sort of returned in full-force.

And at that point I was finally ready to leave everything else of my life behind, to start over, to move forward, and I was ready to commit to someone who was also ready to commit to me. I was looking forward to my future, and less worried about it than I'd been in a while. Things are a lot different with Jack than that other person. I can't run away from my problems, I can't return to my old ways, I can't sink back into self-harm. If I'm talking about making a lifestyle change, Jack's 100% behind it, and it might take him a few days but if I'm having a tough time, he'll take the time out of his busy work schedule to come and see me, usually with his best cuddles, and sometimes chocolate! (lol)

This is sort of my motto for everything but you do you. If you're happy meeting new people and hooking up, then that's awesome (as long as you are legit happy and it's in a healthy way, don't do it the way I did it). If you're looking for someone special, that's great. If you're in a steady or new relationship, that's fab. There's nothing wrong with any of these, and there's no right or wrong way to live your life. There's no right time to really get into a relationship, nor is there any real rush. Look for someone who treats you well, and don't indulge the fuck boys if that's not what you're looking for. Only you know when you're ready to commit to a partner - to share your problems and to open up is terrifying, and to carry some of their burdens too can sometimes be stressful. It's a big task, I've learned that in the last 18 months, and relationships certainly aren't all unicorns and rainbows!

I can't stress, though, just how important it is to take your time with these things. If it feels right though, by all means, jump right ahead into that relationship cos sometimes you just know it's the right call. Everyone is allowed to go at their own pace and it's vital that you make sure you're mentally and emotionally ready to make that commitment.

If you feel like sharing, let me know some of your stories in the comments. How has your mental and emotional health affected your relationships?


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