TW: Conversations of emotional abuse, feelings of hopelessness, depression, anxiety.
Depression and anxiety do not look the same for everyone but it is more common than most people think.
I have always been a big advocate for mental health awareness and for a while I struggled within myself while smiling and acting strong for others. Eventually, I started breaking which caused a lot of damage to myself internally and externally.
This is not my story, it is a chapter in my life:
“Everything happens for a reason.” - Unknown
This is one of my favourite quotes that I live by, because it has gotten me through some of
the toughest moments in my life. Whenever I was going through a rough time my mom would repeat this quote to me and it would linger in my mind.
I truly believe that every choice we make and every experience we have is connected to the path we are supposed to be on.
I wanted to share this with all of you because I know what it is like to go through a tough time and not understand why. I know what it is like to feel like you are running down a dark hallway with no clear vision of light at the end.
My struggles have made me who I am and looking back I understand that I would not be the strong and confident individual that I am now had I not experienced certain things. This is why I find it beyond important to focus on your mental health and to support others.
A few years ago when I was starting my sophomore year of college I was extremely excited to begin my role as a resident assistant (RA). I had wanted to be an RA since I was in high school (corny I know) and to top it all off I was also going to be starting two other leadership positions in the clubs that I was in.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out the way we plan and it ended up being one of the
craziest and most mentally draining years of my life. The summer before I started the academic year my boyfriend and I were dealing with what felt like normal issues within a relationship.
We argued but always found a way to communicate and make it work. Going into this year I was going to be extremely busy taking 18 credits and holding multiple leadership roles on
campus. My boyfriend was not someone who was really involved unless I was involved. We pretty much took up all of each other's time.
I encouraged him to take advantage of the fact that I was going to be busy to find something that he can become involved in. I even encouraged him to get a job or internship since it was his junior year of college. When the semester started he did get involved in something that he was passionate about, but it did not last long.
Rewinding a little to before the semester started I had to move in early to begin my
training as an RA. My boyfriend who lived off-campus wanted to move in on the same day as
me so that we can be together prior to school starting. I was grateful that he offered to help me move in and of course, I appreciated his company, but I was beyond nervous to start my position and he put a lot of added pressure on me.
He wanted to meet my boss and for me to ask for permission for him to stay overnight within the first week. My anxiety started to kick in because I didn’t want to be known for my relationship or get in trouble. I had to put my foot down and explain to him that he made the choice to come up early, meaning that he needed to respect my boundaries.
As I was moving in things did not go smoothly at all. He made me feel awful on a day where I
was excited and just added to my nervousness. I started crying in the middle of the living room and explained to my mom the argument he and I just had when he stepped out of the apartment.
He was making this entire experience about himself and ruining the moment. Finally, once I was all moved in and heading to my training I said goodbye to my family and a see you later to my boyfriend.
My mom wasn't happy and explained to him that if he did anything to mess up my position as an RA our relationship would be over. Financially, to stay in the school I needed that position and she wanted him to wholeheartedly understand that.
As time passed my boyfriend ignored my mother's words and did everything in his power to find loopholes.
There were multiple times that I asked him to give me the night to myself so that I can have some me-time, work on my homework, or be able to have my residents around and handle some of my RA responsibilities. This always started an argument and very rarely did I get alone time.
I eventually started to feel like I was suffocating and trapped. I would look for any excuse to get just a few minutes away from him. The more involved I was becoming on campus the more stressful things started to get.
I began to go to therapy to help with my anxiety but every time my session would end, my boyfriend would want a full report on what I discussed. The arguing escalated and no matter where we were or who we were around we would always find ourselves in an argument.
I was tense all the time and easily agitated. Everything that used to bring me joy was a burden and I needed an escape. His presence was not an issue but it was overwhelming because I never got space.
One day after an argument I called one of my friends to meet up and told my boyfriend that I needed space. After putting my phone on airplane mode for 15 minutes when I turned it back on my boyfriend was freaking out. I had to yell at him and tell him to please just give me some time alone to breath.
When I returned we had a serious conversation where he asked me if I was 100 % in the relationship and if I wasn’t that it would not work. I looked at him and said I have one foot in
and one foot out and I am not 100% in the relationship.
He took a minute to process and shrugged it off explaining that we will work it out. I knew right there that it didn’t matter what I said or did, the relationship was going to continue.
I know you’re thinking, why didn’t you leave if you were unhappy? There is no right or easy answer to that question. I was always someone who made excuses for people and took on most of the blame. In complete honesty I was scared, I started dating my boyfriend as soon as I got to college and at the time it felt as if he was all I knew.
Knowing that deep down it was what I wanted - I ended my relationship. Something about it ending it the way I did felt wrong. It felt as if it wasn’t genuine or the right thing to do.
At the time I was not ready and not long later we were back together. (Toxicity can be addicting like a drug.) Only this time all of the toxicity from my relationship had started to pour into every aspect of my life…
Unfortunately, I lost my RA position because of my relationship. We had to do an
interview where we presented a project that followed a specific rubric. The night prior and day of, my boyfriend and I were in an argument that felt endless.
I was penalized for having my boyfriend over more times than the guest policy allowed and based on my review on my interview my boss decided that I would not be rehired and instead I would be put on a waitlist for my position.
I had settled at a state of numbness in my relationship where I didn’t feel like I was
living, I felt as if I was just there. At this point, I just settled with the idea that this was it.
Over breakfast one morning I was telling my boyfriend that I thought it would be best for us to take a break because I was not happy. After much back and forth, I decided to finally put my foot down and put myself first.
After some time physically apart I made the decision to completely end the relationship. My self-care and mental health needed to be my top priority so I minimized his ability to contact me and distanced myself as much as possible.
It was hard because I did have a lot of love for him but I was no longer in love with him and he did not understand that. I spent the entire summer focusing on trying to become my best self and I am in a much happier and in a better place in my life.
I learned a lot from my relationship about myself and about relationships in general.
My mental health was something that I did not take proper care of and now I do everything in my power to put it first.
After this experience, I had to really focus on my value and self-worth. The support from friends and family that I received throughout and after the relationship is something that I will forever be grateful for.
Removing yourself from a toxic relationship is not easy. The first step to leaving is seeking help. Although I had support from my friends and family, going to therapy helped me voice everything I was feeling with no judgment.
Once I was able to understand my feelings to a certain extent I engaged in open and honest communication with my partner. After much communication, I came to a decision which was to take a break and eventually end the relationship.
Healing after the breakup involved staying busy and surrounding myself with positivity. The most important part of leaving a toxic relationship is to stick with your decision.
3 Tips for focusing on your mental health:
Remove whatever is making you unhappy from your life. We tend to always make excuses when we shouldn’t.
Put yourself first! You need to take responsibility for your mental health and happiness.
Don’t be too hard on yourself… We all make mistakes and we are constantly learning and growing. Don’t beat yourself up over a small chapter of your life where you were not where you wanted to be.
Being in a toxic relationship allowed me to learn and grow from that experience. There are different forms of toxic relationships but all of them are dangerous. After this experience
of dealing with anxiety and depression first hand, I wanted to do something where I can help others who are struggling with their mental health.
I started Give Some Hope, a mental health awareness movement that specializes in campaigns, informing, and creating a safe and positive environment.
I want to help others who are going through their own battles and be a support system for them the way my friends and family were for me. I completely understand what it is like to feel trapped and alone, this is not a feeling that I want for anyone so I am working every
day on helping others while continuing to improve on myself as a person.
Remember that a toxic relationship can be with anyone not just a significant other. You can have a toxic family member, friend, or even employer. You owe it to yourself to evaluate all of your relationships and take actions that are in your best interest.