Michaels: Don’t let toxic relationships drag you down

"The damage is done and suddenly you are stuck in a relationship that is depleting your mental health, but you don’t want to leave."- Graphics Editor / Julia Quennesson

I have wanted to write about this forever, it is an important topic that is not discussed enough. A painful fact that can occur often and easily within relationships between partners and lovers. To be honest, I don’t know if I am even ready to write about this, I am still healing from my own experiences with a relationship that turned toxic.

Unhealthy relationships can form quickly, it will happen in the blink of an eye and will go unnoticed until you finally notice. By this time, it is too late to turn back. The damage is done and suddenly you are stuck in a relationship that is depleting your mental health, but you don’t want to leave. You love this person, no matter the flaws that have grown between you. 

My ex-boyfriend was my best friend and for the entirety of our relationship, we were each other’s support systems. This was a piece of our downfall and I say we because it was not just my own pain. A relationship is a two-way street and even if one person is primarily acting meaner than the other, you become what you surround yourself with. If you are consistently around a person who is negative, narcissistic, or downright mean, you will develop these qualities as well. And I did. 

Let me explain, I have been through an immense amount of traumatic events throughout my short lifetime. My mom fell ill when I was very young, my father suffered from addiction most of my life, and my siblings and I had a lot of issues with each other growing up– notably stemming from my parents’ issues. I have always made the best of every situation I have been dealt with, but that does not mean my life has been easy. Through this, I became a very peaceful person. I like quiet and calmness, I do not like yelling and I do not like to be mean to others. Life is too short to not spread kindness or to hold hate within your heart. This is the person I was when I met my high school sweetheart. 

Our relationship was inherently messy, six years of an on-and-off relationship. Breaking up and staying friends, eventually living together for a year during college, but not as a couple. He was this cute hockey player with luscious hair who was a grade above me that I had met my sophomore year of high school, everything was great between us. I went to every game he played in. He held me as I sat in the hospital waiting room after my dad crashed his motorcycle and broke 36 bones in his body the summer before my junior year of high school. From death to marriage, every holiday, every birthday, and every family gathering we dealt with it together. 

When he went to college, I visited him as much as possible– taking two-hour drives to Rowan after having an 8-hour day of school and 8-hours of work. On the surface, our relationship was beautiful, consisting of happy moments shared between two young people in love. 

Behind closed doors it was anything but beautiful, it was a disaster. I should have recognized the toxicity of our relationship the first time he broke up with me when he immediately tried to date the girl who introduced us to each other while proceeding to still try and be with me. I should have noticed there was something wrong with me when he cheated on me and I forgave him because he was honest about it. I should have stopped trying to be his friend, showing him kindness after he broke up with me while I hysterically sobbed that I missed my mom being in my life. I should have never allowed him to be the reason I was scared of commitment for so long. His feelings should have never dictated the way I lived my life. 

I can sit here and blame myself for every moment I could have taken myself out of this situation, but I couldn’t walk away. I felt that I owed him a world of kindness for all that he endured with me. I loved him as a person no matter what pain he caused me. On top of all of this, I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a mental illness that strongly affects my attachment towards people. I was attached to him and in my mind he saved me from all the bad in my past. Too blind to notice, the additional mental turmoil I was suffering from due to the way he treated me and the dynamic our relationship was causing me. 

“Leaving a toxic relationship can be very hard because of all the emotional labor and time spent trying to make the relationship work. It can feel like an internal failure, or that by leaving you are giving up on something you’ve invested in,” according to ChoosingTherapy.com.

I spent years begging this boy for the attention, compassion, and care I knew I deserved. And by the time I finally did stop, when I tried to walk away, I was living with him. All of a sudden, he wanted my attention and affection, but I had nothing left to give. 

Over the years I became angry, irritable, and downright depressed. I grew to have anger toward myself and others around me. I was mean and quick to feel hate in my heart, I wasn’t myself. But the one thing about myself that remained is that I was strong. I kept fighting, fighting to save a relationship, a friendship, just so the past six years of my life would have a purpose. 

No one ever saw the way he treated me, because when around people we acted like everything was fine between us. Everything was always fine, happy, and dandy. All anyone ever saw was the immense amount of stress I carried with me, afterall relationships like these make cortisol levels skyrocket– increasing stress and slowly damaging your mental health. Suddenly, there were people around to see because we lived with each other with rooms close together. Our roommates and my closest friends finally understood what I was going through, and they quickly understood why I struggled for so long with our on-and-off-again relationship. 

From screaming matches as I begged him to simply leave me alone and give me space to being grabbed or pushed. Blacked out fits of anger directed towards me as I begged for reason and calmness, my roommates saw and heard it all. But they were his friends and not a part of our relationship. They supplied me with comfort, but that was all they could do. 

Towards the end of last year, I was officially done. I was over being screamed at because I didn’t want to be with him. I had enough of the disrespect we gave each other and I didn’t want the negativity in my life. Our relationship dwindled over the summer and we slowly kind of just stopped talking as I answered less and less. Now, we don’t talk at all and I feel free. 

I give myself moments to reminisce, as mourning memories is imperative after a loss in any way. I take my time to process and heal from the mental abuse I endured as well. I am slowly finding myself again, and it is not easy. There are days I cry or feel anger for ever allowing myself to be treated so poorly for so long. I fight to let go of blame towards myself for my moments of wrongdoings during my relationship. But now, I feel a sense of peace and my friends have recognized it too. While few knew what I was going through last year, I have been told I am glowing with happiness and they can see a difference in me. 

This relationship, bittersweet as it was, led me towards the need to survive in silence as toxic relationships often lead to. Unhealthy relationships are dangerous as it can change to domestic abuse or violence quickly over time, and any negative relationship will affect your mental health – ultimately bringing you down. 

As college students, toxic relationships may be more prevalent when alcohol or other substances, busy schedules, and the fact that we are still navigating how to have healthy relationships come into play. During this time of “cuffing season,” pick your partners with high judgment. Stay alert in your relationships and be proactive, if you are being mistreated; stand up for yourself or get out of that situation before it is too late and there are too many memories to hold onto. Always remember to take care of yourself first and to stay true to who you are and what you believe in. No relationship should take such a toll on the mind where you begin to struggle with day-to-day life.

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