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How to Let Go and Embrace Being Alone


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I have been in a 3 year relationship with my girlfriend who is Bipolar 1. Long story short, she had an episode about a month ago and things have not been the same since. I feel confused, heartbroken, sad, frustrated, helpless...the list goes on. I've had difficulty in my past letting go even though I know it's the right thing to do.  I believe this is because I have felt anxiety in my past after break ups. I think it's the thought of facing my fears, one of which is being alone.  It's strange because even though I enjoy doing things by myself, the thought of not having a significant other really scares me and makes me feel anxious.  I've been in relationships pretty much my entire life since I was 18.  I got married at 23 for 15 years then divorced to have a string of relationships after coming out that have not worked or been healthy, probably toxic. I know inside that I should probably spend some time alone, since I haven't spent more than 2-3 months in-between break ups, but I am terrified. I have a therapist, my Dr. prescribed anxiety meds in case I need them. I'm trying to call in all the reinforcements I can prior to making any major decision. Does anyone have any advice on how to let go of a relationship in a loving, responsible way and then sit with yourself, all alone, and deal with the fear/anxiety, loneliness. Perhaps share what has worked for you in the past.

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Can you be specific about what it is that "terrifies" you?  Are you afraid of specific things like someone breaking into your home? Or do you just not like yourself very much?

I have been completely single for about 10 years after a breakup I didn't want (he dumped me, in the true sense of the word). Nothing horrible has happened to me. I live alone and am not at all afraid. I travel alone, go to restaurants alone, have even gone to bars alone. Again, nothing frightening has happened to me.

If you can pinpoint what it is you're afraid of maybe I can help.

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People end relationships when the pain of staying exceeds the pain of leaving.

You're not there yet. You don't have to join a convent.

But you also need to stop expecting impossible things such as smooth sailing with someone who has bipolar disorder with psychotic episodes and is chronically noncompliant with  treatment.

You also need to stop expecting that you need all sorts of 'loving' sugar-coated ways to breakup.

You seem to lack appropriate coping skills, so one band-aid after the next creates this cycle of your jumping back-and-forth between the frying pan and the fire.

Your focus should not be "sitting alone" or safety nets. It should be learning to handle life's difficulties and accepting that pain happens.

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1 hour ago, girltalkCA said:

the thought of not having a significant other really scares me and makes me feel anxious.

I ask the same question. Exactly what is it that terrifies you about being alone.  You must discuss the SPECIFICS with your therapist. 

You have been in what you call "relationships" your entire life, and which you state were toxic.  

It is now time to get rid of all that toxicity, and time to meet yourself

I,like Bolt, lived alone for long periods while single. Travelled alone, in fact enjoyed being alone. I can say I never felt afraid.

But I get the feeling here that it isn't physical fear but rather the fear is that sitting in silence (and this is important) you must "meet yourself", deal with your own thoughts, and start building a resilient and independent YOU. It can be done.

It may help to read this, OP

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/hut-her-own/201804/the-fear-being-alone

And:

"The inability to enjoy your own company doesn’t only keep you from getting to know the wonderful human being that you are. It can also lead you to establish harmful dependent relationships. Relationships that aren’t based so much on love but rather on the fear that those people will leave you."

"A good start is to learn not to force yourself to meet up with other people just to avoid feeling lonely. When you find yourself on your own, don’t run away from it. Accept it and begin to experience what it feels like to be in your own company."

From an excellent article:

https://exploringyourmind.com/learning-to-enjoy-your-own-company-is-key-to-your-well-being/

Edited by LaHermes
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51 minutes ago, girltalkCA said:

a string of relationships after coming out that have not worked or been healthy, probably toxic. I know inside that I should probably spend some time alone, since I haven't spent more than 2-3 months in-between break ups, but I am terrified. 

In anxious states, I refuse to give in and overthink. This means doing yardwork, watching the telly, cooking or working on other projects. Think of tangible ways to remove yourself from those negative thoughts or at least stop them in their tracks. Self-talk also helps, thinking positively and encouraging yourself to do better. 

When something terrible or hurtful happens like a break up or some other trauma or unexpected event, it's normal to feel shocked or broken. Your reality has shifted but the remarkable thing is that you can shift with it too. You can train yourself to break out of negative patterns when you know they're about to happen. If I'm in a mood, I know not to continue doing whatever I'm doing. Just break that pattern and do something different. 

You let go in a "loving responsible way" when you start to appreciate yourself and what you are capable of. You haven't learned that yet if you have always been in relationships or rely on someone else. Be daring and bold. When you feel ready take up your old hobbies or new hobbies again, think creatively in your free time and rethink old patterns or ways of doing things. Jumble it up like a jigsaw puzzle and create something new, see things in a new way too. Don't be afraid of change or newness. 

 

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I think you said at the end in the form of a question... how to do it responsibly? by telling your SO how you feel, what your needs are. Listen to their response and if it's not resolved, end it

Clean break. you don't drag it out. You sit with it. you feel how you feel. You go no contact. you continue to be a strong parent to yourself.  Setting boundaries- you don't reach out to her, you don't allow yourself to make bad choices that will hurt you or anyone else in the long run.

You ask yourself tough questions and understand the answers. like why can't you be alone? is it what you think it says about you? to others? Are you living for you? Or for what others expect of you?  or what you think they expect of you?

there is no easy way. no pre plan. no meds. eventually you have to face your life and your feelings. the sooner you learn to love and accept yourself, your feelings, your actions and come from an authentically you position the easier it gets.

 

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1 hour ago, girltalkCA said:

Does anyone have any advice on how to let go of a relationship in a loving, responsible way and then sit with yourself, all alone, and deal with the fear/anxiety, loneliness. Perhaps share what has worked for you in the past.

Wow what a tall order! Breakups are often messy and complicated and that's normal!   I never sat with myself or felt all alone as I had friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues etc.  I wasn't all alone -why do you think you're all alone?

What worked for me is various things -often I had extra chocolate or ice cream, one time after a short term relationship but intense I booked a last minute flight to California to spend my bday with my best friend, and very often I got right back out there -dating, socializing, updating my online profile when that was a thing.  I never really felt lonely but often missed the person of course and felt unmoored.  

I'm not sure I ever even attempted "loving and responsible" -I simply tried to end as amicably as possible.  I did so with my fiancee many years ago and we also cancelled our upcoming wedding - upcoming in 7 weeks or so.  We were apart for almost 8 years and with very limited contact.  I started dating someone new about 2 months later and it became serious.  I think he waited longer but not sure.  After almost 8 years we got back together.  And got married a few years later! 

Yes I did feel fear and anxiety but much more often in a bad relationship than afterwards.  My dad was bipolar.  My parents were married over 60 years when he died.  My mom blossomed after "all alone" - she'd been his caregiver for so many decades and the very end he also had dementia and it was so so hard on her.  So I hope you also feel some relief!  And if you really do believe you are all alone I'd encourage you to seek counseling if it starts to interfere with daily functioning.  And no it doesn't have to be completely loving and responsible when you end things.  Simply do your best not to cause harm and to lessen any "drama."  Good luck.

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This is a tough one, OP. Breakups are always painful and moving on is so hard, especially when you’ve loved someone deeply. But there comes a point when the misery of living with the person becomes unavoidable and unbearable. If you wait too long, it can affect your mental and physical health.   We can’t avoid pain in life but the pain of progress will always feel more fulfilling than the pain of lugging around a dead-end relationship, in my opinion. Creating a safe, positive relationship with yourself is worth all the effort. Good luck!

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2 hours ago, girltalkCA said:

Does anyone have any advice on how to let go of a relationship in a loving, responsible way and then sit with yourself, all alone, and deal with the fear/anxiety, loneliness. Perhaps share what has worked for you in the past.

There is really no good way to end a relationship.  It is what it is.  Someone usually ends up hurting, BUT we can't please everyone!

Nothing anyone can do.  If it's not working, is best to remove yourself from it all.

 

Being 'single' is a change yes.  It's having to adjust & accept.  Never anything wrong with being on your own.. Is actually a good thing!  We learn who we are again.  We heal from the experiences and learn to love & respect ourselves again.. That is so needed, BEFORE we consider getting involved again.  Otherwise, we drag our past into the next ones. 

Transitions can be difficult.  But is okay.

When you are mentally/emotionally exhausted, there's not a lot you can 'give'.

I enjoy being on my own now.  No stressors, expectations, etc.  I know I needed this down time! 

You should come to the point, eventually that you are okay.. That you are not living in 'fear' of anything.

Is unhealthy to feel like you 'need' anyone.  Because, then you are just getting involved so you are not alone.

So... you give yourself time.  Time to adjust, time to accept what is.. time to heal and feel better.

You get back into your hobbies.. hang with your friends... get out there & get some air.  Take a nature walk & reflect.

Journaling is good as well.. a way to 'vent' in another form. Is good to 'release' all your thoughts, etc.

So... take it all one day at a time.  Focus on YOU for a good while. ❤️ 

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4 hours ago, girltalkCA said:

Does anyone have any advice on how to let go of a relationship in a loving, responsible way and then sit with yourself, all alone, and deal with the fear/anxiety, loneliness. Perhaps share what has worked for you in the past.

Yes, I thought about it a lot before I actually did it. I posted this in your other thread, but maybe I was too vague. I've broken up with a fair share of people, and I've always done it respectfully and after careful thought. I deliberately thought about breaking up while the two of us were together in one space, or while we were talking on the phone. It helped me to observe our relationship and determine if it was salvageable. It also helped create distance between us. I also took actions that separated me from the routine of our relationship. This gave me a greater sense of freedom, and more mental space to think about the relationship and carefully tie up loose ends. You do have to be deliberate and somewhat systematic. 

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This is the time you bust out of your shell and throw yourself into everything. Fill up ever inch of your day with dinner with friends, watch a movie, go to the gym, go for a power walk with a friend, head out for a coffee, see an art exhibit, go for a bike ride with a buddy, take up a new hobby, etc.

Take a journal and write something positive in it everyday, like what you like about yourself, a dream, what inspires you, what moment was best for you that day, etc. This is all about feeling good 🙂

IMO you don't need those meds, you can do this if you put your mind to it!

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On 7/30/2021 at 10:56 AM, girltalkCA said:

Does anyone have any advice on how to let go of a relationship in a loving, responsible way and then sit with yourself, all alone, and deal with the fear/anxiety, loneliness. Perhaps share what has worked for you in the past.

Oh, yuck. I would change this horrible and unnecessary goal. Who would want to do this? 

First, I'd qualify this "...let go of a relationship in a loving, responsible way..." by specifying what I mean by 'responsible'. As adults, we are NOT responsible for the responses of others. So, I'd avoid putting myself in charge of how parter responds beyond offering an incentive for a clean break.

For instance: if ex will move out (or allow my move out) without drama, I will reimburse the first/last month of rent plus security on her new apartment (or X months rent on the apartment I'm leaving) but if there is trouble, that offer goes off the table.

Or, I'll pay for her next 3 counseling sessions if the break remains clean.... or whatever deal I want to negotiate for a peaceful ending.

I'd also change this, "...then sit with yourself, all alone, and deal with the fear/anxiety, loneliness..." to the complete OPPOSITE. I'd form an incentive for myself to focus PAST paralysis and move TOWARD something wonderful, instead.

I'd plan an immediate post-breakup trip or goal with family or friends to REWARD myself for a difficult task. Then, I'd deliver the breakup with my bags all packed and shuttle myself straight to my launching point with a celebratory goal.

If you WANT to stew in misery, you can do that. OR, you can regard this life experience as a lesson in problem-solving and mitigate the degree of suffering you 'must' endure.

It's a decision. Choose wisely.

 

Edited by catfeeder
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So I never felt "alone" because of a breakup of a romantic relationship (because I wasn't) but I also never tried to "embrace" being single (or unmarried - to me I was always single until engaged but of course if I was in an exclusive relationship I didn't date/try to date others).  That would have been a lie.  I wanted to be married and have the chance to try for a biological child if possible.  I had a fun, fulfilling active life - friends/family/work/volunteer work/social activities but I never saw the need to pressure myself to embrace being single since marriage/family were two of my top goals in life - and I had a really short list of broad life goals (lots of smaller ones, still do).

I knew I might never find the right person -no guarantees - but it didn't mean I had to feel totally fulfilled if it never happened or rationalize that it was better or "freer" to be single (I feel freer being married, less free now being a parent during a pandemic than were I child free - but it's still more than totally worth it).

I like Catfeeder's input.

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