We’ve all been given messages about living a balanced life. For me, they’ve come from a wonderful couple of years in therapy. Recommendations tend to include getting enough sleep, eating well-balanced meals, participating in healthy exercise, and limiting our work hours—all things most of us do not successfully do. I think this type of balance is incredibly important. I would, however, feel like somewhat of a hypocrite if I tried to explain it, seeing as how I’m pretty sure I’ve become an insomniac due to an unnecessarily high caffeine intake and a routine of falling asleep with my face plastered to a computer screen (Gotta keep refreshing that Twitter feed, am I right?). However, what I have been focusing on lately is practicing balance with an aspect of my life that carries far more weight for me: my relationships.
And by the way, I wasn’t being sarcastic when I called therapy wonderful. Therapy is amazing.
Let’s begin with romantic partnerships, shall we? I’ve spent the last couple of years navigating the New York City dating scene when I’d rather be doing anything else, and I didn’t apply the idea of balance until very recently. My last relationship (if you can call it that) lasted about a month, and despite being aware that I was better off without that man in my life, I was left feeling disproportionally lonely and lost when it ended. I think this happened because I quickly became dependent in this partnership. I met this person at a time in my life when I was quite vulnerable. Diving head-first into a relationship was the perfect distraction from my own problems. I lost all sense of balance. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but the relationship began to become as, if not more, important than my recovery. My self-esteem was dependent on another person, which left me in a dangerous spot when he disappointed me.
When our sense of self is shaky, it seems easier to find the solution in another person than in oneself, and this does not solely occur in romantic relationships. Early last year, I found myself in a difficult spot. When food and alcohol didn’t suffice to distract me from my problems, I looked to people like my parents to be my saviors. It didn’t matter if it was four in the morning—I would call them expecting a solution, and because they’re human, they didn’t always have the answer. This would leave all of us feeling hopeless and scared. My dependence on my parents as an adult was proving to be unhealthy and impeding some of my own growth.
I have seen in the past couple of years that dependence can be a dangerous thing. I’ve found that as I have taken more personal responsibility in both my recovery and in my life in general, things have felt significantly better. I’m at a point now where I know I have spent enough time in therapy to have the skills necessary to help myself (See? Therapy is amazing, people). I’m also coming on 25, and have had enough life experiences to know how to navigate the world independently. These days, I try to solve and answer many problems and questions on my own, from what to eat for breakfast to which tasks to prioritize at work. When I am able to make decisions myself, I feel pride and motivation. I have grown as an individual in the past couple of months, and am beginning to be okay with (ehh…maybe even like) who I am becoming.
Balance means not living in extremes. Therefore, while I am trying not to be dependent on others, I don’t want to shut them out completely. As I have previously written, this has also been a familiar go-to for me. Sometimes, shame keeps me from connecting, or like many people, I don’t want to burden others. I feel as if I’ve worn people out a lot in the past. However, it is dishonesty and silence that usually hurts the most.
The other day I walked around Chelsea with my one of my closest friends, Tyler. He’s known me since middle school, so he’s seen the good, the bad, and me in braces. Many of our conversations over the past couple of years have centered on my problems, and he’s been consistently patient with me. However, he also was aware far before I was that while he could provide support, he couldn’t attach himself to my issues and needed to establish some sense of healthy separation from them. This is one of my friendships that hasn’t broken or weakened, and has even grown stronger. That is because balance has been part of it without me even realizing it. Walking around with him on this particular day was one of the most normal and enjoyable experiences I’ve had in a while, because the conversation was fun; it wasn’t filled with pressure and distress. (Note: This is the official test to see if Tyler’s reading.)
I continue to reach out to others and try to welcome them into my life, though of course I am not doing so perfectly. But what I try to remember in my relationships, and what I hope to apply to future romantic partnerships, is that while others can provide advice, conversation, and laughter, they are not the solution to my problems. My self-worth does not depend on them. This makes my connections stronger. There is less pressure and more enjoyment. There is more conversation and less desperation.
Peace and Love,