This blog has had the most edits of any blog I have ever written. It is a difficult topic to write about but mostly it just wouldn’t stop writing itself. Seriously. Online dating is the gift that keeps on giving. If I was the journalist in a Hallmark movie tasked to write about my dating experiences I would have a whole column by now. How to lose a guy in ten days? No problem to me.
It’s January 2023 and I have finally plucked up the courage to post a blog on Narcolepsy and Relationships. The impact relationships have had on my life was one of the most difficult things for me to decipher. Why was I attracted to the same type of person? Why couldn’t I let go of toxic people in my life? Being in the wrong relationships drained my energy, both platonic and romantic and when you are running on dangerously low energy you really can’t afford to have it drained any further. Therefore having Narcolepsy and meeting the wrong kind of person is as bad for me as eating a load of chocolates and not expecting to fall asleep immediately…A change needed to be made, but a change also needed to be made within me, I wasn’t the perfect partner either as I went through all the difficulties that a diagnosis brings. I attended a Narcolepy UK conference in Manchester a few years ago and in the handbook it said that a high percentage of people with Narcolepsy struggle with relationships. Having a relationship is a two way street and sometimes having Narcolepsy can mean that you physically cannot put the same effort in. You are also irritable from extreme tiredness all the time. That being said, your vulnerable state can also make you more prone to being manipulated and gaslighted into believing everything is your fault. I experienced this and went to therapy as I really believed I had a problem. I did have a problem, crippling self esteem and anxiety, but not the carelessness that I had been led to believe. The more I worked on myself the more that I had more confidence in my own judgment and the more I realised that I was worthy of being treated right. Everyone deserves to be loved in the way they want to be loved. It’s ok to want more, it’s ok to challenge and as a woman it’s ok to speak up and say enough is enough, I have tried my best and I will leave with my head held high. I remember watching a Tiktok a while ago (not even gonna pretend it was a scholarly article) that said it doesn’t matter how much love you feel for another person, it’s how they make you feel in return.You can love someone with all your heart but also feel lonely in the relationship and unheard. That wish for more, for them to be more for you, can feel like the loneliest feeling in the world. You cannot change people who do not want to be changed or try for the sake of your relationship. Trust me on that. People always show their true colours and when they do, believe them (also not my original idea but can’t remember the source). You deserve the love that you are constantly giving out, please know that. Even though you have heard some of these cliches before, for me, it took a long time to actually put them in practice. Throughout all of my relationships, I always found solace in words, so I hope you find some in mine.
There’s a trend going around at the moment where people are doing a wrapped year of dates like Spotify wrapped but for their dating life. I guess you could say that this blog is similar except a bit more heavy on the feelings side.and probably less eventful ( I had less first dates but more attachment to people), however i do have associated songs linked with each relationship that take me back in time every time I hear them.
Where to start with the impact relationships have had on my Narcolepsy thus far. WELL. This is a topic I have wanted to talk more in depth about but because it’s such a personal thing and other people are involved it was difficult to decide how to approach. Unlike when I was really struggling post diagnosis, I didn’t feel like I could take to my blog and unload my thoughts completely unfiltered.
I love a quote and there is no better place to find them than song lyrics. Dermot Kennedy’s lyric in his song Dreamer has stuck in my brain whilst writing this:
‘I was a dreamer, writing stories down the back of the class
Now I sit at this piano with my heart in my hands
Take my love and all my loss and get the darkness to dance’
-Dreamer, Dermot Kennedy
That’s exactly what this blog is, taking all my experience with love and loss and trying to get the darkness to dance through my words. It’s been my most difficult blog to write to date, mainly because it is the most vulnerable and unlike others I don’t always come across well. Admitting my part has been key to my healing. I mentioned before that I struggle to complete a blog unless I have processed the emotions myself. The impact that my relationships have had on my life was difficult to capture, mainly because I didn’t realise until recently that they were a huge trigger for both my mental health decline and Narcolepsy.
As I sit and edit this on a Sunday night after yet ANOTHER failed talking stage, I am struck by how all encompassing heartbreak is. You see it’s not just a single event or person, it’s a multifunctional memory beginning with the first time your heart broke right through to your recent rejection. When your heart breaks your brain almost visits the core memory or ‘tower’ of heartbreak and begins playing all the times you have been rejected in the past. The 18 year old who cried in the nightclub toilets, the 20 year old having a panic attack in Times Square after seeing they moved on over Facebook, the 24 year old who wondered why she wasn’t enough. I no longer see rejection as an indicator of my worth, therefore I view the heartbreak video in my mind slightly differently. Despite this, with every recent rejection, the chronicles of my patchy love life play and I’m taken back in time. Comparisons are made, lessons are drawn but I feel like I always have to grapple with the past and file it away again before finally hoping the next time will be different. The impact of this is that where some people have a rosy memory of when they fell in love and trusted another completely, I instead have a vault of examples of how people can let you down and hurt you. I don’t like to be reminded of this but when I close my eyes to sleep my brain continues showing me my past life via nightmares. The ups and downs of dating mean that this can be really destabilising for my Narcolepsy management. When my heart breaks, my brain plays it over and over trying to find meaning in it. Nightmares and dreams are often the brains way of problem solving and I believe this is the reason that in particular heartbreak inflames them so much. It’s because there isn’t usually a logical answer. When you’re hurt there is no way to out logic it, you just have to feel it. When your brain is solution focused, this is too painful so it continues to show you nightmares of your past over and over, like a tape that keeps skipping and won’t move on to the next image.
Before I completely dive into my romantic attachments, I would like to point out that my Narcolepsy symptoms are worsened if any of my relationships suffer..Ok I think that’s enough of an intro now…I’ll hand it over to past Christine who started this blog approx 20 times….
Not just Romantic Relationships
First of all, I want to clarify that this doesn’t just pertain to romantic relationships. You will find that your symptoms can be much worse when around a certain person or group of people. Simply put, these people drain you. A person without Narcolepsy may come away feeling a bit drained or in low mood but for those of you with Narcolepsy, these people have stolen what was left of your precious energy reserves. For this reason, we have to be seriously SERIOUSLY picky about who we let into our lives. This took me a long time to learn though and I’m happy that I now have a small group of high quality friends. Being sick also means that you don’t have the energy to keep up with the fast pace of group chats and keeping up with appearances. Having friends that get that you are just going through it and not ignoring them on purpose is essential. I have so much love to give others but I need people to understand that I can’t always spend time with them as much as I would like because of maybe the social situation they want to meet up in or if it involves travelling, I also don’t always have the capacity to take time off work to recover. Other times I am literally asleep. You need people that get that it isn’t personal and that you genuinely cannot help it.
The other thing is that I truly believe that I am a Highly Sensitive Person. This term was coined by clinical research pyschologist Elaine Aron to describe those who display notable sensitivity to various forms of stimuli. She estimates that 15-20% of the population are highly sensitive (thanks for the info medicalnewstoday.com). When I worked in an office environment I was so distracted by everything, the fluorescent light, the chatter of colleagues and I would jump out of my skin if anyone approached my desk. God forbid if I received any sort of negative feedback or criticism, it would fully occupy my mind for weeks after. Even random things like smell drive me crazy. I live in an apartment at the minute where the kitchen food smell can spread easily and i literally cannot sleep if my bedroom smells even faintly of food. Recently, my therapist pointed out that it was very possible that I had a Sensory Processing Disorder, which is similar, after I told her that I liked to go and sit in a dark room after work. Honestly if I could be a Bat and live in a cave I would haha. I’m usually up all night too so it would suit me fine. Not sure I would be a very energetic Batwoman though unless you could save people in your sleep – to the Batcave! for a snooze and snackies…
I have also mentioned before the book by Susan Cain called ‘Quiet’ which talks about what it’s like to be an introvert in a world that places high value on extroverts. I can safely say hands down that this is one of the books that completely changed my perspective of life. I always felt shame for being nervous to speak up in class or for presentations. In reality, the world is made up of many different types of people, all of which are needed and that includes introverts and shy people. Your value doesn’t depend on how much you can be heard by others. She talks about how Rosa Parks was a very quiet woman and her protest in being asked to move seats on a racially segregated bus changed the course of history. In an academic and office environment it can be difficult to embrace this as you are pushed to mold to fit their characteristic profiles for promotion etc.
You will have noted that I have posted very sporadically over this past year. This is because I was thrown into the world of singledom since last July. Initially I took the approach you are meant to, spending time with myself. But after a while my brain just wanted a distraction (especially when it started to sink in) so I decided to download the dating apps and go from there. I don’t advise it but this is my journey.
Love is all consuming for me, as Joanne McNally the comedian said on one of the episodes of the podcast My Therapist Ghosted Me ‘I don’t fall in love… I fall insane’. When i am with someone I zone in on them and what they want so much that I begin to lose a bit of myself. Factor in that I am already a people pleaser and you had someone who was easy to manipulate. When you don’t know who you really are it’s easy for others to mold you into who they want you to be, the type of person they want in their lives or the type of person they don’t. Sprinkle in a bit of self-doubt and lack of confidence and I was a Narcissist’s dream candidate.
I should specify that when I talk about relationships affecting my Narcolepsy, I mean negative ones. The type that’s constantly a rollercoaster of emotions, hot and cold, animosity never far from the surface, ready to boil over at any moment. I’m gonna write as honestly as I can and edit where I feel reveals too much. I have tried to write this blog so many times but it’s hard to get the balance right.
I was always a little over dependent on others and their opinions. Being the youngest child I often looked to others to make the big decisions. As i grew older this often meant I doubted my judgement, I was indecisive and whilst I was strong minded in terms of what causes and who I believed in from an outsiders perspective, deep down I struggled to believe in myself. My confidence was low and I developed slowly as a teenager, I looked pretty young for my age (which at that age wasn’t a good thing trust me). I didn’t have my first boyfriend until I was 18 and I was ID’ed everywhere I went. Pretty sure I only went to Sugar nightclub when I was 17 and a half and I had to torture my cousin for her ID when I did go haha. Even now, I get asked for ID, most recently in B&M trying to buy lighters and you only have to be 16 for that! So yeah…that paired with an awkward indie/emo phase…i wasn’t a popular gal with the boys. That’s not even me being hard on myself that’s just the truth haha.
That scene being set, it wasn’t hard to trace the pattern of my romantic relationships. I was such a pick-me girl and my confidence was on the floor. But at the same time I had a weird parallel personality of academic confidence and im-going-to-take-over-the-world vibes. I knew from an early age that I wasn’t comfortable with rejection in any form and I would try and avoid it where I could. In my first relationship I didn’t get burned too badly on reflection. We broke up after my first year of University but then continued an on/off interaction until I went away for a year to study in America. I actually went into my old Facebook messages to remember what happened and could see that we really cared about each other but we were both very young and immature. I got over it by the old ‘out of sight out of mind’ technique, and moved on by leaving for America for a year…to a bigger disaster in the form of a Bolivian man who played me biggggtime. In my mind I almost felt like this was karma for being so nonchalant about my first breakup.I returned home for the Christmas break a shell of myself. This was the first time that i had experienced soul crushing heartbreak. The first one was different because I made the choice to do it. In this case, I felt so out of control and obsessive about the fact that this wasn’t what I chose. I stopped sleeping, I constantly checked my phone calculating the time in Bolivia to see if he was awake and could reply to my manic messages. I don’t know why I hadn’t cut him off. I couldn’t accept it and he wanted to continue as friends which to be honest drove me half insane. I look at photographs now of my Birthday at home that year and my eyes look black from my heartbreak-induced insomnia. I returned to campus in January, exhausted and emotionally drained. It was difficult to separate from him, mainly because I didn’t want to, and despite us breaking off our romantic attachment he still remained in my friend circle upon my return. This only meant that heartbreak continued to linger and even when I came back in the summer time, the draining heartache remained. I actually stopped speaking all together as I also experienced reverse culture shock as well as dealing with having to leave him forever. Reverse Culture Shock is when you live in another country different from your home for a period of time and get so immersed in their culture and traditions that when you return home, you struggle to adjust to your own culture again. For me, I was struck by the negativity of Ireland, the criticism of others and general lack of joy and cheerful compliments. GET IT GURLLL. Yeah, I wasn’t getting Ireland. At all. I wasn’t sure I wanted to fit in here anymore. The lack of sleeping was wrecking havoc on me but at that time I didn’t even know I had Narcolepsy. I was depressed and would stay in bed as long as I could. The memory of that time is a blur. I remember a day distinctly that my Daddy told me that someone was coming into the house for tea and could I sort it. I must have looked horrific because I remember the person being really startled and asked me here are you alright? And that was someone that didn’t even know me that well. I just remember feeling embarrassed that they had noticed at all. Looking back I’m starting to wonder if that was some sort of set up by my Da….let me tell you I was not dressed for any sort of suitor that day hahaha.
Eventually I returned to QUB after my time spent away and erm went through a bit of a ‘phase’ where I was basically emotionally unavailable. I was as Anastacia says, all out of love, and I was setting myself free. I was heartless. At least temporarily. I met a few nice boys along the way but i either had no interest in contacting them or one time I actually chose getting a subway instead…I was drinking a lot, like most students, but I had an added layer of heartbreak that I wanted to squash down and forget about. In November of my final year I met my second ever official boyfriend. Looking back, I met him during a really turbulent time of my life. This was the year that my Narcolepsy was worse than ever and when the investigation into why my sleep was so bad first began. I remember one day he brought me to a sleep appointment and unbeknownst to me I was actually having a limited polysomnography that day. This consisted of electrodes being fixed to my head and an oximeter on my finger, amongst many other different leads and flashing lights. I remember the sleep nurse saying if he didn’t run away when seeing me ‘he’s a keeper’. I will never forget coming home that day to his apartment and his housemate walked in and I was sitting like something from X-men. He saw it all, the exam failures, the prolonged confusion about what was wrong with me, the consistent bad moods as I struggled to deal with it. It’s hard to reflect on because I don’t think I was conscious then of how much my crappy situation was impacting another person. I was using him as a crutch and when I look back I know that he was leaning on me too, neither of us wanted to be alone but we didn’t want to be together either. We were co-dependent on each other and I wanted out. He did too, i know he did but neither of us had the courage to end it. Eventually, we broke up (after many features in my family wedding picture albums). It was a relationship that had ran its course and we had both changed since we first met. That being said I have fond memories of shared friends, gigs and holidays. He was also the first person to point out that what I ate had an impact on my tiredness which was one of the most crucial things for me in identifying triggers for my symptoms.. We had a shared teddy elephant called Ellie which I sometimes wonder about since he got custody… I wonder where she is now…
I didn’t stay single for long (I know walking red flag or what!) and after that relationship ended in November 2016 I met my next boyfriend in February 2017, making it official in April 2017. Our first date still sticks in my memory, I was twenty minutes late (much to his dismay, being an avid timekeeper).
This was it, or so I thought. With lots in common, a shared interest in History and Politics and dark humour, it seemed the perfect fit, or maybe I just really wanted it to be. Difficult to know. It was an easy alliance, his nature seemingly relaxed which fitted around my planning, hyperactive anxious brain.He visited me once a week and it felt like we had known each other for so much longer than we had. We talked about things like feminism and the state of Northern Ireland politics. When I met him, I was insecure, not totally certain in myself and put up with my life instead of taking charge of it. He was pretty much the same. Both unhappy with our jobs and not sure which direction to take. The relationship moved quickly, both infatuated and unable to believe our luck. The lease in my apartment was coming to a close and we decided to take the leap and move in together. When I look back now, it was all very convenient timing for us both as he also needed to be closer to Belfast for his job. When you’re in love there isn’t much thought given to what happens when it doesn’t work out. Honestly, if you had told me then the events that followed I wouldn’t have believed you. Ever the romantic, I was walking into the sunset, this was my time, finally.
Now…I don’t know what my advice is anymore. It used to be, if you really want to know who someone really is then live with them and then decide if you want to share the rest of your life with them. I think for platonic friendships then this advice still rings true.Since going through a breakup and having to move out at the same time, I think I would slightly adjust this advice. Get to know someone well enough before you move in and have no niggles or doubts that you are actively ignoring because of your rose tinted glasses. Love them in spite of their flaws, don’t love them with an expectation that they will stop doing those annoying things like subtly putting you down and THEN it will be perfect. It is what it is, people are not going to magically change over night. I wish I had embraced this sooner, but sure I love a project….After I made the decision to leave the corporate world I actually moved in with him at the same time. Now when Iook back maybe there was a link there. Maybe I desperately wanted something in my life to look like it was progressing in the way it should. At least if I looked like my relationship was successfully moving through the right hoops and moving in the right direction, then maybe I could pretend I was ok with the fact that my career wasn’t.
When I began to make changes and try to become the person I knew that I was meant to be, I noticed a shift. The version of me that constantly criticised myself and had low self worth was being challenged by a newer-ive-had-enough-of-this version. A change within me meant that I no longer accepted what I used to and there began the challenge. This is so difficult to write about because there is still a part of me that is grateful that I had him there at that time. I heard in a podcast today that it is difficult to hate someone when you understand why they act the way they do. My ability to be extremely empathetic whilst also self loathing kept me in this dark place where instead of seeing anyone else is the enemy, I was enemy number one. Worse still, he agreed and was easily able to blame our relationship problems solely on me and my illness.
The stability of this relationship relied on the instability within myself and the severity of my Narcolepsy. It was like a mirror. If i felt like shit, he reflected it back to me in the form of I will look after you and you can stay helpless, which not only made him feel in charge but confirmed my worst fears, that I couldn’t trust myself and needed looked after. There are two sides to this, you feel guilty for leaning on someone else when you are manically exhausted whilst also taking in their message that you need them and wouldn’t be able to do anything without them. It’s an odd feeling of feeling tragically grateful that they make you dinner but for the benefit gained of eating, your self esteem is screaming that you are useless. If you have even a smidgeon of feeling stupid or helpless and someone then reflects it back to you in a passive aggressive manner, or even just making you a butt of their snidey joke..then you seriously begin to think that you are. It’s as dangerous as drinking poisin in my opinion, poisin for your mind. He convinced me that I really needed help and that I was the cause of every problem. Now, I know that this was Gaslighting…
Merriam-Webster.com defines Gaslighting as:
“Pyschological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator”
It can be difficult to recognise when you are being manipulated into thinking you are always in the wrong because the purpose of gaslighting is to get you to believe just that, you are always wrong. The very premise of questioning whether you are right or not is the intention of the person who is gaslighting you in the first place. If you have even a niggle of self-doubt already it acts as the small crack in your resolve needed to push the door wide open on your insecurities. It’s difficult to explain to someone who is super assertive and confident in their opinion on everything in life. Not saying they can’t be victims of gaslighting but they are more likely to push back against the incorrect narrative being presented to them of themselves. If you know who you are and what you aren’t then you are less likely to be convinced otherwise. But in saying that, a small chip at a time can take even the most self-assured person down.
As mentioned earlier I find it hard to hate someone that I partially understand. I’m not condoning the behaviour by any means but in my experience people that gaslight have little insight into their own emotions and prefer to suppress them. If they suppress their emotions then they are definitely not going to recognise yours. They simply do not have the capability of dealing with your concerns and emotions when they don’t know how to deal with their own. Thus, they find it easier to deny yours as easily as they deny their own. This is what I think is known as unconscious gaslighting and why I found it so hard to recognise. I don’t believe that he intentionally did it out of malice, but more out of his inability to be able to process my emotions on top of his own. I think this is also the reason it can be hard to recognise, there’s a scale to it and not everyone that does it is an automatic villain.
Even now, the seeds of self-doubt that he helped grow, still pop up in my brain. Maybe you were just a bit much, maybe he wasn’t that bad…and then I catch myself on. I tried to save that relationship with everything I had in me and got nothing in return, so many broken promises made and a common theme of being unwilling to compromise..
After less than 6 months of living together I was fully a convert of Christine-is-the-problem and decided to go to a therapist for the first time. Now…going to therapy was the best thing I could have ever done and the worst thing he could ever have encouraged. Those therapy sessions were the catalyst of change for me, not only in beginning to understand that I wasn’t the worst person that had ever graced the earth but I also began to validate my own struggle which up until that point had went unacknowledged and dismissed my him. I would love to say that I got up immediately and left him but I didn’t. I was still half convinced that I solely could change the course of our relationship with this new found knowledge, maybe he too could explore why he was the way he was. Even typing that, i shudder with the memory of such delusionment but i just didn’t want to let go. There was our relationship how it was in reality and then there was the future perfect version that I was desperate to reach. Maybe if I explained myself just one more time, maybe if i phrased it differently how much he upset me he would understand. Time after time I made excuses as to why I should stay because the discomfort of admitting it wasn’t working and having to turn my life upside down was too much. I think I also didn’t want to fail again, I wanted this relationship to work. Something in my life at that time had to go right.
When I look back at that time in my life, it feels like hearing a story about someone’s else’s life. Thinking about what my life was like and how lost and anxious I felt, fills me with sadness and an odd feeling of separation from the person I was then. I want to reach into the past and help her and tell her everything I know now. But that’s the thing about life, you can read and try and learn and plan and organise, but ultimately, only your lived life experience teaches you. Pain and feeling loss is not completely preventable. Yes, you can take steps to make sure you don’t feel pain because of things you can control. But falling in love and putting essentially your wellbeing in another person is one of the biggest gambles we can make. When successful, it’s a risk that pays off tenfold. When it falls apart you can find yourself spinning to find your path again and not being sure where to turn. Suddenly, the map of where your life is going seems to be impossible to navigate and instead you are anchored to the spot, separated from your old life upon which you had entrenched yourself in and this new unfamiliar, single life. Lewis Capaldi’s new song ‘How I’m Feeling’ describes it perfectly ‘no sense of self but self obsessed, i’m always trapped inside my fucking head’. That must have triggered some sort of emotional wound because I just went and inhaled 4 chocolate hobnobs. Anyway….*dusts off crumbs* back to my past emotional wounds…. I noticed that as I was writing this that I skipped over the entire relationship and was going straight into the aftermath but not only would that be telling half the story (or none of it) I would be blocking it out rather than processing so I went back and filled in some of the detail. I had to actually go back and review my old journals to pull out the memories again so I could write about them accurately. I also had a really strong urge to nap after I found them and the link between the health of my relationships and how severe my narcolepsy symptoms present is so clear to me.
Going to therapy meant that I was beginning to reset myself back to the Christine before all the criticism mounted in my mind. The first thing I realised was that the critical voice wasn’t entirely my own but a mix of external voices. Even though I recognised that deep down I didn’t actually believe what it said, it is still difficult to completely drown out to this day. The more I challenged it the more I was beginning to realise how another person was contributing to it. How loud the voice was depended on who I was around and I began to notice how my energy levels were affected. Writing was something that I had always wanted to do more of and as I had each therapy session I noted down different observations throughout the week. This started with as simple as noting my mood in the morning and evening with maybe a few words attached. Eventually I began to journal in detail about my feelings and correlating how I felt with events that happened during the day. I would note why my mood changed suddenly or when my energy dipped and after a while I had a long list of factors. I don’t ever want this to come across like I am placing blame on him completely for my poor mental health at that time because not only would that be irresponsible of me but I hate the victim mentality. Yes, there were things that he said and did that didn’t help, but I also didn’t recognise my own autonomy to not put up with it and walk away. I blamed the actions of the person which meant that I didn’t have to examine what I could really do about it. At the start I would confide in friends about fights we had but after a few times of complaining without taking any action, I learned to keep them to myself. I was recognising that I wasn’t being listened to but I had hope that with every fight it would prevent a future one from happening. That’s a land of delusion that I never want to live on again. Thinking and hoping that someone will change their view of you or begin to meet your unmet needs in a relationship is the road to craziness (and I was on that road for a longgggg time). The fantasy of what we could be was fuelling my disappointment. When things are dark, hope can be such a great thing but if it only leads to disappointment it can be the most soul crushing thing in the world. Not only are you putting pressure on another person to change and be something they aren’t, you are putting pressure on yourself to somehow fix the unfixable. I wish I had learned earlier when to give up and that it was also ok to give up, I wasn’t a failure because of it.
So what was the hope? Why could I not give up on us? I just felt deep down that we were somehow meant to be in each other’s lives. In a way, I still think we were but not for the original reasons that I thought. We were a mirror of each other and highlighted the areas of growth that needed to happen for us to be able to move to the next stage of life. I think sometimes when you meet someone who has a similar outlook to you and the beliefs that you have held by default then that familiarity makes you feel like you are at home. But then what happens when you realise that those automatic ways of negative thinking aren’t serving you and that actually you don’t want to live in that home anymore? I firmly believe you attract what you are and when we first got together we were hugely different to what we were towards the end. A couple that grows together and still stands by each other through all the different versions of themselves is something that we just weren’t. The niggling feeling of ‘what if’ no longer plagued me because I knew I had tried everything I could and tried my best. It was time to let go.
If you had told 2021 Christine that she would be sitting in her own apartment writing a blog about how relationships affect Narcolepsy she wouldn’t have believed you. At that time I truly didn’t know how to find a way out of the mess I was in. As we lived together, with two tabby cats, it wasn’t just our relationship I was losing, it felt like my whole world was collapsing in on itself. All the hopes and dreams that I had envisioned of achieving together, the shared future and future milestones we thought we would witness together, buying a house, seeing more of the world, imaginary children that had been discussed in depth, all no longer on either of our life timelines. Rubbed out, removed from the script. It felt like another staircase and steps to progressing in life had been taken away from me. I had absolutely no idea what I would do next and how I was going to get through this massive shift in my life.
I used to sit up at night, unable to sleep thinking about how I would be able to leave. Where would I go? Would I house share again or could I afford my own apartment? Then I would talk myself around, how could I possibly live on my own, thinking maybe he was right, that I was truly helpless and needed someone to look after me. I don’t know when it switched, one day I just knew that the scary unknown couldn’t be worse than staying where I was. That I had to make a change. I was on Property Pal and an apartment popped up at an affordable price, it was go time, it was now or never, with shaky hands I emailed the letting agent and the next morning I got a phonecall. A viewing was arranged and that was it. I honestly can’t remember if i did this before or after ending the relationship – everything is blurry in my memory. Maybe that’s my brain’s way of protecting me. Who knows. I do know that I had two weeks until my apartment was available so yep, you guessed it, we had to cohabit for that time. I had one of my best friend’s weddings that week which I attended alone. Some might say that going to a wedding fresh out of a breakup would be hard but for me it was lovely to be in good company and to be able to stay away from the house for a few nights. Plus it reminded me that I could maybe I could find a love like theirs in future. I remember telling my sister, I want a wedding like that ..and the fireworks (literally – it was unreal). I realised I deserved the fireworks too, in every respect.
The 1st July came and I moved out…..down the street. Yep, my apartment was and is down the street from where I used to live. To some that might be strange but for me it was oddly comforting that whilst the rest of my life seemed to have been turned upside down, at least the area was familiar to me and the work commute was the same. I won’t lie and say everything was amazing from that moment, it took me a longggg time to get used to. But I will say I felt more proud of myself that I have in a long time. I had taken action to address my unhappiness and I think when you act on how you actually feel, it really builds your confidence. It tells your brain that you can do hard things that needed done and actually survive it.
The purpose of this blog was to shed some light on how I have been affected by the different types of people in my life. At the start I think I was more on the vein of how toxic people can affect you but in writing this blog I have almost grown and changed my opinion. The bottom line is that you can do nothing about how others treat or view you. But you do have the choice to walk away, set the boundary and say no. This autonomy was something I seriously struggled with and still do struggle with being a people pleaser by default. You deserve to take up space, you deserve to have a relationship where your needs are met and heard, please, please, never stop raising your voice to please another. You have a voice, you have always had a voice, you just need to rediscover your confidence to use it.
I know I began this blog intending to finish it with a discussion of the dating apps and the change I have experienced since the breakup but I think this is a good point to end this one. I actually wrote down a list of things in my journal at the time that I would never tolerate again in a relationship and i think I thought it would be simple for me to incorporate into my new dating life. But old beliefs die hard and I am still working to love myself and really believe I deserve it all – I do think my Prince Charming may have gotten lost though….if anyone sees him can you tell him I am in my apartment watching netflix and eating snacks..thanks…
My Relationship (s) Mixtape
I leave you with some songs that stick out to me from those relationships, the romantic one and the breakup one because after all they weren’t all bad or I wouldn’t have been in them:
Just The Way You Are – Bruno Mars – weirdly i heard this song just before the end of my last relationship and it reminded me that you don’t need to feel like you need to make all these changes for someone to love you
Someone Like You – Adele – this still gets me, the final time he left me home this came on the radio and we both cried..
Don’t You Worry Child – Swedish House Mafia – and just like the words I did cross a big lake (to America) and got my first heartbreak haha.
The Co-dependent Love
Too Young To Feel This Old – You Me At Six – we bonded over emo music haha.
Million Reasons – Lady Gaga – not being happy in the relationship but just not wanting to leave because you don’t want to leave and if they could just do one thing to make you want to be there it would help.
The Growth Relationship
I have a lot for this one because music was half the reason I was able to feel empowered enough to leave so I have split this one up into phases
Perfect – Ed Sheeran – I remember the feeling listening to this in my old apartment after a night out and i really did feel like I had finally found the one that was waiting for me as Ed says. But looking back we really were just kids when we fell in love like in the song – I was 25! I loved every single version of this song despite his hatred of Ed Sheeran and played it numerous times haha.
Shotgun – George Ezra – no real meaning in this just that we liked singing it together.
C’est La Vie – Bewitched – we shared an enthusiasm for hitting the dancefloor with this one
I’ve Had the Time of my Life – Dirty Dancing – I’m pretty sure I am responsible for his back injury due to the amount of times we tried to replicate the lift. Soz future wife.
Break Up Song – Little Mix – I now understand why I loved this song so much haha a Covid favourite!
Give me a Minute – The Coronas – ‘i’ll take my medicine, you’ll take the credit, this thing could get the better of us if we let it’ that line just resonated with me so much when our disagreements were due to my nightmares or sleep issues.
You Can’t Stop The Girl – Bebe Rexha I just remember a shift in myself when i heard the words ‘the truth will set you free – you can’t stop the girl’. A seriously powerful song.
Lose You to Love Me – Selena Gomez -’Singing off key in my chorus because it wasn’t yours’ that feeling when you feel like someone you love doesn’t have your back. A song I would listen to over and over as I nearly lost my mind trying to break through my own mental barrier with the relationship. The slow realisation that for me to move forward I had to leave the relationship was so unwelcome because I just didn’t want it to fail.
Solitary – Lilla Vargan – the feeling of feeling lonely in your relationship because you don’t feel heard or seen so she sings about preferring to be alone. I nearly always cry listening to this remembering the lost feeling.
Landslide – Fleetwood Mac – I absolutely love this song, but it’s a strange bittersweet one for me, it makes me feel both happy and sad. It’s just a reminder that when you grow and change as a person you can move away from people you previously foreseen as a permanent fixture in your life.
‘Can I sail through the changing ocean tides, can i handle the seasons of my life. Well I’ve been afraid of changing because I’ve built my life around you. But time makes you bolder even children get older and I’m getting older too’
Coming up – Relationships Part 2
Learning to find a home in myself
Therapy (Take 2 – Relationship edition)
Learning to Box
Learning to Swim