Do note that this post is directed towards friends of those with mental illness; not caregivers.
Sometimes we have to take a step back when a relationship is too harmful. This is an unavailable option for a lot of caregivers but, when it comes to other relationships, walking away is sometimes the best option. We have to remember we are not doctors or professionals (well, most of us aren’t) – it is not our responsibility, or within anybody’s capability, to “fix” the person.
We are human – every “I’ll be here for you” has its own conditions, and we all have a limit as to how far we’d go for someone. It’s easy to promise unconditional and eternal love, but what happens when the person changes? What if the person becomes abusive? What if the person goes out of his/her way to hurt you? What if the person simply doesn’t seem there at all? All relationships come with (usually unspoken) agreements and, when breached, is inevitably affected.
I cannot fathom just how painful it is to walk away from someone you have a strong and lasting relationship with, let alone an intimate one. First, there are issues such as guilt – you have to back out on someone whom you care about, and you know it will hurt him/her; you fear that this decision ends with you having the person’s blood on your hands. Next, you have to think about how you want to end this relationship. Do you slowly fade out? Do you one day disappear? What if the person refuses to let you go? All this requires careful consideration and assessment of both of your mental states, coping ability, and situation.
The consequences of not walking away can be harmful to the both of you. You may end up causing more harm staying than if you walked away. You may end up pushing yourself past your breaking point, causing harm once more. Your frustration may build slowly, making the relationship more strenuous. Dragging out this unhealthy relationship is, well, unhealthy. All this can affect you psychologically, socially, and even physically.
There is no easy answer to this dilemma, but it is something that, at some point during a relationship of any nature, may be considered, even if just for a few minutes and that’s okay – it doesn’t make you a bad person.
Have you ever had to walk away from someone with mental illness?
Have you ever been walked out upon?