In episode 279, I received a question from an individual who’s been through a difficult year, struggling with depression and anxiety while taking a relationship break from their partner. In this post, I dive into this in more detail and offer my thoughts on how to move forward in a positive way.
Hi Duff. My name is Alex I’m 2 years and almost 8 months sober. After finding my way in recovery I was reconnected with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in almost 8 years we started dating in 2019. I moved in later that year. The pandemic brought her to working from home and fearful of leaving the house. After 2020, and at the begging of 2021 we lost her 2 dogs (1 to cancer the other too a broken heart of the loss of her sister). In June I lost my absentee father and 3 weeks later my grandfather to cancer. Now I’ve managed to stay sober and haven’t got to process all of the loss. On her end she still is so hurt over the loss of the dogs, she hates her job, how she looks and she has developed what seems to be anxiety. We are currently on a break and we both seem to be hurt on how things are right now, we miss each other and both seem to be getting in our own heads. Is there any advice you could give me on my end. I’m currently working on myself by going to my meetings and therapy but I’m really depressed. One minute I feel positive and it feels like I’m doing the right thing but all of a sudden it turns into major anxiety and fear that I’m going to lose her. Any advice you can give would be great.
Hey thank you so much for writing in. Wow. It sounds like you guys have had a hell of a year. The pandemic, changes in work, loss after loss after loss, and all of that while trying to remain above ground and sober. This now on top of you two being on a break and being separate from one another. That’s way too much.
I think the first thing that you need to do is have some patience with yourself. I wouldn’t expect the pain from all of this to be gone by now. Like I said, it’s been a hell of a year. In a way, you’ve been hit with one thing after another so consistently that you actually haven’t had time to slow down and process it. You’ve essentially been in survival mode. It sounds like you are doing some things very right such as going to meetings and therapy, but time is also going to be a factor here. I’m glad that you aren’t ignoring things. That will serve you well. But you’re still reeling from the whirlwind of it all.
It’s so hard to say whether breaks in a relationship are usually a good idea. It’s so personal and in the end, hindsight is the only thing that will tell you if it was the right move. But what is smart about what you are doing right now is taking time to work on yourselves and recover from everything you mentioned. Anxiety, depression, and grief can be terrible things to have to deal with. However, they are also treatable. That’s one of the advantages that you have here. It’s very likely that with time and effort, you will heal from this, you will grow, and you will no longer have the same symptoms that you are experiencing now.
Be aware of codependence
On the anxiety and fear of losing her part, I think this is an important opportunity to work on what might be some codependent tendencies within your relationship. It sounds like the relationship started, moved with intensity, and then had all of these complicating factors. This probably caused you guys to become really enmeshed where your emotional state depended so much on the emotional state of the other. I am absolutely not one of those people that thinks you should be perfectly independent and fine on your own. But this can be a time to reflect on things that you would like to work on in yourself and within the relationship if it is to continue in the future. You are both taking a chance to find your footing and become stronger with the hopes that it will facilitate you being together again. That may or may not happen. But even if you do not end up continuing the relationship, all of this effort will still be important in terms of your own health and development.
I would encourage you to keep the line of communication open (if that’s within your arrangement) and be honest. You can be clear in your communication and also maintain the boundary that has been set. And you can encourage the same from her. I think that the goal here should not be to rectify the relationship at all costs, but it should be to work on yourselves and find a better balance emotionally. With that progress, then it’s about deciding whether the relationship still makes sense. You also can’t change her. I hear what you are working on for yourself, but I’m not sure if she is making progress or is involved in any form of treatment herself. You can obviously provide support and encourage her to seek those things out, but you can’t control where she goes from here.
Use the resources you have available
As always, if you feel like therapy is not a good fit for you, you can always change therapists. Otherwise, just keep pushing forward in that and continue making good use of the resource. If you are having a really hard time shaking the symptoms regardless of the treatment that you are getting, you may consider asking about medication as well. A lot of people go on medication in the short term to endure a very difficult time in their lives. There is no shame in that. You may also be in the situation where you are focusing TOO much on what feels like the most important issues to you – getting back together and your mental health. Those are important aspects of the situation for sure, but what else are you doing?
Are you getting any joy in your life? Are you involved? Do you have other loved ones that you are following up with and spending time around? Sometimes you can get in the position of basically being a professional patient. And while it’s great to be making such good use of resources and focusing on your wellness, it can also put the issues that you are working through on a pedestal. Everything else can fade to the background and you start to identify yourself by these problems rather than by the other awesome parts of your personality.
I think you are doing a great job overall. Maybe there’s a better balance to strike between self-work and actually trying to start living life again. As I said, you also just need to be patient. Understand that time will dull the edges of your pain and that the work you are doing is useful. You will be okay.
You can listen to this on Episode 279 of the podcast!
Thank you for the great question!
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