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Moving on whilst balancing mental health and parenting

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So, here’s my story. I (M28) have been in a relationship with a woman (F28) for the past three years. Our relationship seemed unique as we were both looking for something different at the start (we both weren’t looking for serious relationships) but we just connected immediately because we had the same interests. We dated in person for a month or so before the pandemic happened but then continued to date virtually for the next 5 months, chatting everyday and building a really close bond. When the pandemic ended we dated fully and made lots of memories with trips together (we both really wanted to travel). She met my 2 year old daughter (who lives with her mum) and fell in love with her too.

Fast forward a year and a half and we decided to move in with each other in a lovey flat. My girlfriend has epilepsy and can’t drive and our little flat was in a small village with limited transport but she made do with lifts from me and her mum.

After a few months of living together, I started to suffer with mental health issues. I had not been enjoying my work as a teacher and found more and more stress with the job. This made me less open and more distant at home. It also made me more emotionally unavailable. My girlfriend had also trained to be a teacher but decided that it was not for her after seeing how stressful the job was for me. I supported her decision to leave teaching and take up another career.

My girlfriend supported me as much as possible and encouraged me to change therapist. We still tried to do as many things as possible but this tapered off as I became more stressed and suffered with mental health more.

In January of this year, she brought a cat for our flat. It was an indoor cat and I had some reservations due to the practicality of it, less space inside. I did say I didn’t think it was a good idea, but as she explained to me, it would help with her own mental health to have the cat and so I agreed to it

A couple of months ago, she initiated a break for me to work on myself a bit more. She had said that my low mental health had started to bring her mood down too and she felt she couldn’t help me.

During this separation, I tried hard to work on some of my issues and tried to change my behaviour. One week into the break, she phoned up and said that she really missed me and loved me so much. She said she would be coming home soon. At this point, I seemed to improve but following a return to work after the holidays, I fell ill which also hurt my mood and motivation at home.  

Despite doing more together and as a small family of 3, she decided that it was not working for her anymore and she decided to leave. She had said that we had different interests and goals for the future. She said that I wanted to have another child (which she couldn’t give me due to her epilepsy) but I challenged her and said that was never the case. She moved all her stuff out of the flat within the week and went on a solo holiday trip leaving me distraught and alone.

I reflected on my actions over the past few months and I have been able to accept that my depression soon manifested into a video game addiction that made me distant, irritable and emotionally unavailable. It had started during my work stress but got out of hand. I had recognised these behaviours before the end of the relationship but was too engulfed to do anything about it. It made my life seem boring and worthless, which in turn made my girlfriend feel lonely and bored. I had the same interests still but they had been taken over by this addiction. She had no idea that this was an addiction for me.

So… she left, after 3 years together. It has been difficult. I wrote a closure letter to explain the addiction and how it affected my behaviour. I explained that my goals still aligned to her goals of travelling together and buying a house together (something we had been talking about less than a week before the end of the relationship) I thanked her for being an incredible girlfriend and a fantastic stepmother to my daughter. I accepted her decision but said that I still love her, but wished her happiness for the future.

I haven’t spoken to her at all since the breakup and have just cut off social media use as I saw some upsetting things on FB of her solo trip. I’m aware that she would do the solo travelling because she did it before me and would hook up with strangers on these trips when she was younger. Seeing this on social media killed me and made me feel that she didn’t care about me anymore. This is 10 days after the breakup.

I have been struggling with my mental health more but have taken on new medication, removed all aspects of video games and taken up my old hobbies of reading, running, hiking and doing other mentally stimulating things. I have spent time with close friends but have been struggling to cope because in my eyes, this incredibly supportive and loving woman was the one for me.

I just wanted to explain the situation as I have struggled to process it. I am aware of my issues but I’m also aware that I am a good boyfriend but was just limited by mental health.

Any other pieces of advice to help me mend my broken heart?



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1 hour ago, Jmal1994 said:

Any other pieces of advice to help me mend my broken heart?


Yes. Dont be crying too much about somebody who said your mental health is "killing her vibe". Especially if her vibe is hooking up with strangers minutes after the break up.

Anyway, its important that you recognized your bad patterns and trying to switch them with more healthy ones. Just keep working on that for now. I would also suggest to cut her off completely and go "no contact" and block her on everything. It would help a lot to get to acceptance its over.

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I am so sorry you're disappointed and feel badly for your daughter since she likely got attached to this person who wasn't her mother or married to you -please do avoid this in the future -kids don't "get dating" they get attached -I for one remember how very attached a 2 year old girl got to me when I was her nanny for a summer at the family beach house, for example. 

I don't think this woman was invested in the relationship and I think you were too passive - even if it's the way you describe I'd avoid telling yourself that gaming "made you" emotionally unavailable or anything where you don't take full responsibility for your choices -make the choice to get help in some way whether professional help or otherwise.  In your last paragraph you list what you are doing -those are great efforts and ways to improve mental health - which ones were you doing when you were dating this woman? 

And yes a woman with epilepsy can "give you" a child - you can adopt, use a surrogate, etc.  Certainly more time consuming and $$$ but it can be done. My sense is she was never all in and it became a cycle where you sensed that and you chose to distance yourself rather than leaving/working on your own issues.

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3 hours ago, Jmal1994 said:

 I have been struggling with my mental health more but have taken on new medication, removed all aspects of video games and taken up my old hobbies of reading, running, hiking and doing other mentally stimulating things.

Sorry this is happening. You're doing all the right things to help yourself. 

Continue to follow up with your physician and therapist. It's great you've made some lifestyle changes as well. 

Do all this to have a better life and be the best dad you can be.  While she was a fun person for a while, you weren't really compatible and unfortunately you both drifted into your own unhealthy worlds. 

Consider this an inspiration to improve the quality of your health and wellbeing. She wasn't the right person for you. If she were, you wouldn't have retreated into another world. 

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Thank you for your comments. It is good to see an outside view on the situation.

I firmly believe that my ex was invested in the relationship but quickly retreated when she perceived we had some compatibility issues and there was no way she could settle down just yet.

These (running, hiking, puzzles and socialising etc) were my hobbies before I met her and we did these together too which often makes it hard to do on my own now

I understand the video gaming situation too. I spoke with another ex today (the mother of my child, who is still a very close friend) and she said that I had also fallen into video gaming in my relationship with her and this caused distance between us too.

With further reflection, I think it was my coping mechanism growing up in a challenging household with very little warm parental contact. Furthermore, I used the gaming to get over my first girlfriend that left me for someone else back in 2015. (See my previous topic entry back then!)

I think it’s my main issue and the escapism of it has hurt my relationships. (Eg. When I play, I really get involved like it’s a completely different reality).

I am trying to make the positive steps and am trying to hold the temporary mantra that she is not worth my attention and emotion anymore because she doesn’t care at all about me. Am I being too irrational maybe?


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14 minutes ago, Jmal1994 said:

I think it’s my main issue and the escapism of it has hurt my relationships. (Eg. When I play, I really get involved like it’s a completely different reality).


You use gaming as "escapism" from reality. Which is fine is small doses as gaming is a hobby and is a form of escapism. Where you can come home from work, fire up a game and be somebody else for a while and relax. But in your case, its an addiction. I have a buddy that is a gaming addict. To the point where we come to his house to talk and have fun and he plays video game because "Its season time"(he plays one of those online games, if he misses season he misses some rewards). That kind of behavior is just unhealthy and you(and my friend) should work on that. Sadly with new times we got new forms of addictions as well so we have online addiction, porn adiction and gaming addiction as a product of new times. Its new but it still requires work as any other addiction.

23 minutes ago, Jmal1994 said:

I am trying to make the positive steps and am trying to hold the temporary mantra that she is not worth my attention and emotion anymore because she doesn’t care at all about me. Am I being too irrational maybe?


Nah, you did OK. Somebody else might have a different opinion. But I adopted my moms attitude when it comes to cutting ties with somebody. Once I am done I am trully done. It didnt help that some of my exes werent really tactile when it comes to words. So I got a various forms of disrespect. One told me how I am not going to achieve anything. Ironically I finished my college before her did. Am I suppose to think that kind of a person cares about me at all when she can say to me stuff like that? Same with you. Yours went to travel and is hooking with various men there. You arent even on her mind. Its a fair assessment that she doesnt really care about you or your feelings at all. So its OK to cut her off completely.

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I think you need to focus on what's important and start being the person you wished you were.  Everyone has people they admire, people that act the way they wish they could.  You can be that guy, but you have to put the effort in.  It's not selfish to work on yourself, it's selfless.  Until you are the sort of person you are happy with you'll never be happy with someone else.  

All of it comes from within and that's how you move on.  Start learning, start growing and challenging yourself.  Don't worry about a relationship or building something with someone else until you've built up yourself.  

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Concentrate on your mental and physical health.  This is the direction I always use whenever other people sorely disappoint me and I thought they were better than that.  Immerse yourself into doing what you enjoy and everything else will follow.  Become independent minded because this is will give you steely strength,  mental clarity,  toughness and security within yourself. 

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Well some people actually do date people who struggle with mental health. I mean, some people have more severe mental health struggles than others. I'm not going to lie, it is difficult to be with someone with bad depression. My ex fiance had bad depression and actually that part didn't bother me as much. I made the decision at the time to marry him and support him through his mental illness. The thing that made me leave him in the end was that he had anger issues and developed a severe drug addiction.

I'm really glad you recognised that you have the video games addiction and that it affected your relationships badly. The thing about dating a person with addiction is that their addiction is the number one thing to them. So while it might not seem that bad because it's only video games but usually when someone has an addiction, they just check out of the relationship. 

The other thing too is that if you do have ongoing mental illness (e.g. depression), you need someone who can accept it. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't always be trying to be "in recovery" as it's called. Like taking your medication, seeing your therapist, doing exercise. Sounds like you've started doing all of that which is really good.

To me it sounds like your ex maybe fell out of love with you. I didn't think that people with epilepsy can't have children. Though I guess they probably shouldn't be left alone with the child because it does make it more dangerous if they had seizures. I think maybe your ex just didn't see a future with you. That might be why she said she can't have children, etc. 

I know it really hurts but sometimes people's feelings just change and you can't do much about it. Just try to focus on your mental health recovery and being a good Dad to your little girl. At least with your child it's a lifelong and unconditional love!

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Thanks for the advice. I really appreciate it and have been making some more positive steps in moving forward.

I had moved out of our shared flat for a while to get some headspace away from all of our memories. It felt so empty there once she had left but I have moved everything around and brought new ornaments and plants to make it more of my home. I moved back in a couple of days ago.

I have been exercising everyday and reading books. I’ve also planned a charity 100m hike to support men’s mental health and this has given me some more purpose and drive.

The only setback I’ve really had was yesterday evening when, on my way to the shops, my daughter and I bumped into my ex. I know I should t read into the meeting but this is how it went…

My daughter ran to my ex and hugged her tightly for like 10 minutes, nestling into her and giving her lots of kisses. My ex was doing the same back and didn’t want to have to put her down. We then chatted politely with each other. Although I felt emotional, I stayed strong and said that I’m getting on with things and keeping busy. She had seen everything I had been up to on social media over the past couple of weeks and was happy to see that I had been making changes. It get strange but just as the conversation finished, we looked at each other deeply and I replied with ‘would you like a hug?’ She said ‘I was going to ask you the same thing.’ We hugged for a good 1 minute before she went off to catch her train.

Now I k ow shouldn’t read into this at all but it has really set me back today. My rational brain is saying that it was a really positive and memorable interaction that is healthy for everyone involved, but my irrational brain thinks otherwise.

I thought I’d update the topic a week later. Again, any advice is much needed. 

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I am so impressed with all you are doing to take care of yourself, your family, and your community.  (One of my cousins participates in similar hikes even in other countries and I love his FB posts, cheering him on and yes I donate!).  

I think the hug was a mistake for your best interests - felt good at the moment but means too much to you at this point and risks a setback.  Please keep doing what you are doing and any reconciliation if at all would have to happen much further into the future -don't you think? Also I'd stop having her see your social media.  I'm sorry you're disappointed.

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44 minutes ago, Jmal1994 said:

 I replied with ‘would you like a hug?’ She said ‘I was going to ask you the same thing.’ We hugged for a good 1 minute before she went off to catch her train.

It's good you can have an amicable breakup. But continue to focus on your physical and mental health as well as your child's wellbeing. Try not to fantasize about getting back together. Your ex is being polite and kind to your child and that's the best outcome for now.

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