Kym Marsden’s monthly mental health column aims to help anyone suffering from any mental health concerns. If this article raises any issues for you please contact the resources at the bottom of this article.
It sounds cliché but surviving a breakdown in a relationship can be one of the most emotionally trying and painful experiences we can be subjected to throughout our lives, whether it be in the form of marriage or long-term partnership breakdown.
It is incredibly daunting whether you were the instigator or on the receiving end, as life as you knew it is about to transform as will your life trajectory—whether you are ready or not!
We develop a shared sense of self and identity with our partner which all of a sudden no longer exists; a truly enormous emotional upheaval. All of which is followed by a flood of dominant emotions we will experience differently but commonly, including anger, helplessness, fear, regret and disbelief.
Personally, when I’ve been through this process the phrase that comes to mind is ‘I’m a failure’, as you have to start to re-evaluate your life and choices whilst juggling your mental and physical health, money challenges, accommodation options, shared care for children and maintaining your resilience at work and on a personal level. This is no easy feat!
Naturally, it’s easy to point the finger at yourself and pass blame whilst regretting choices you didn’t make and overthinking what’s occurred. Try to remember in any partnership, there are two people that are trying to have their needs met and some couples have the ability to recognise and succeed, whilst some do not.
Those of us that don’t often continue to stay for the wrong reasons, whether it be guilt, co-dependency or fear of the unknown, but it only builds what is likely to be already mounting resentment.
It’s important to point out that none of us enter a relationship with the intent to fail or inflict pain, and realistically we all do the best we can with the tools we have derived from our lived experience.
I want you to pause for a minute, think back and remember that you were able to function on your own before you made the choice to enter into your relationship and no doubt you did it well, but overtime we forget and catastrophise in our minds believing that we are unable to survive now we are on our own.
Cut yourself some slack as you’ll not be fully functional for a period whilst you work through your emotional vulnerabilities. Be kind to yourself as break-ups tend to create chaos across many facets of our lives, so think about implementing routine to increase your stability and consistency.
Prioritise self-care to ensure your needs are being met, as it’s easy to neglect yourself when you feel depressed. Implement healthy choices such as ensuring you are getting enough sleep and are eating appropriately as it’s easy to overeat or starve ourselves in trying times.
Consider engaging in exercise as this will help you to feel better physically and emotionally. It doesn’t have to be a gym, it could be walking on a beach with music in your ears or taking up a yoga class which will also form part of your weekly routine, giving you structure.
Lastly, reflection is positive at the right time as it helps us understand what we do and don’t want in future relationships. This does not mean use the opportunity to beat yourself up! View it through the lens that, learning encourages self-growth whilst criticising oneself will only prolong your suffering.
It’s normal to experience a range of emotions, but if they persist or worsen you should seek professional help from your GP or Mental Health Professional who can help you navigate the emotional reactivity you are experiencing.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:
- Lifeline – 13 11 14,org.au
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, org.au/forums
- MensLine – 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
- Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet – ecu.edu.au
By Kym Marsden
Kym Marsden is a Kamilaroi woman and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 19 years’ experience in Mental Health and Community Services. Her qualifications include BA Health Ageing and Community Services, Masters Social Work, Dip Counselling, Dip Community Services (AOD and Mental Health), and Cert IV Training and Assessment.