My Boyfriend Told Me to Leave Him. It’s the Best Self-Care Advice I’ve Received

Featured image by Brett Sayles from Pexels

 

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Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

 

I’m sitting on the couch with my legs up, complaining about my family drama. He stands there finishing off the last of the dishes, hands wet and eyes on me. We’re discussing how stressed I’ve been since taking on huge family responsibilities. He feels bad saying anything about people he’s met a few months ago. He’s only interacted with my family twice. The longest interaction was at a theme park with screaming children and make-believe castles – too chaotic to have meaningful conversations. So, of course, he doesn’t have much material to build a decent opinion.

“I’m hesitant to say what I’m thinking,” he says, shifting his weight from one foot to another. It’s a phrase that’s become commonplace in our relationship. He doesn’t want to sway my decisions. He doesn’t like feeling as if he’s planting seeds for something that may benefit him in the long run. If I wasn’t living with my family I’d be living with him.

“Say it. Nothing you say hasn’t already crossed my mind.” I always urge him and he always continues to hold back. But, this time is different.

“I think you should try to figure out what will make you happy and go for it. Your current situation clearly doesn’t work. You only have one life and you have to live it for you.”

I nodded, hoping he’ll continue because these are the words I’ve repeated to myself. Words I’ve said when I get up in the morning, head off to work, and lay down at night. But, these words always get tainted by the feeling that I don’t deserve my own space. I don’t deserve to live in comfort and happiness if those closest to me can’t either. What makes me worthy?

“If they heard me they’d probably think I’m trying to manipulate you. But, if you ever feel that way, leave me.”

He says the last part without hesitation. I work to keep my face neutral while inside I’m shocked. I’ve never heard anyone in a relationship tell their partner to leave them in a tone that wasn’t threatening. My father would say the same thing to my mother towards the end of an argument. “Leave me,” were words meant to challenge her to venture into a world that seemed even harsher than him. My father taught us we couldn’t survive in the world without him and that’s what I thought most men wanted their family to think. But, now, I was hearing something completely different.

My boyfriend’s urging me to leave him told me I needed to start working on how I looked out for myself. He didn’t want to be with someone who’d believe he was manipulating them. Nor, did he want to feel bogged down by the guilt of living with the small luxuries he could afford. And that was his way of looking out for himself. He decided to completely choose things that served to make his life stable and balanced.

“I help my family whenever I can, but I can’t split myself five ways. It’s not sustainable. You help people more when you’re in a healthy place,” he tells me as he dries his hands on a towel, ready to move back on the couch next to me.

Making decisions for my pleasure sounds like such a cold-hearted thing to do if I’m being honest. I was raised Christian, so the desire to dedicate my life to others feels like the most respectable way to live. I’m ashamed for wanting to make choices that result in me being at my happiest. But, being with my boyfriend seems to open a door to unabashed self-love and self-care. He’s showing me a version of self-love I never thought I’d be able to learn from someone else, but instead would have to go on a solo journey in some mountain where the trees seem to touch the sky, engulfing me in pollen and hard truths.

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Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

“How do you live for yourself without feeling bad all the time?” I ask as he lowers himself beside me.

He shrugs with a nonchalance I will always envy. “I want to look back on my life and say I enjoyed myself.”

I’m addicted to suffering. If my life was ending today I would look back and see anxiety embedded in the happiest of moments. Anxiety often feels like a life raft, keeping me afloat in the world that’s vast enough for me to sink to the bottom. But, my boyfriend looks at this life full of experiences yet to happen and comforts ready to claim.

It’s going to take me time to untangle my guilt from my longing to act on pleasure. My pursuit of happiness will look different from my boyfriend’s – which, is also something I should keep in mind as I attempt to mimic his mindset. My experiences with self-love are tangled with religion and the expectation that women are natural-born caregivers. As I work on releasing my guilt I will remind myself to be open to leaving behind the things barring my happiness. The permission to leave feels like the freedom I’ve always had, but ignored in favor of a life that looks more respectable. To leave will be my first real act of rebellion in the name of self-care. I couldn’t be more excited.


 

What are you planning to leave behind to pursue a happier life?

Workplace Natural: The Peanut Galley Never Fails to Irritate Me

Feature image by: Shalom Mwenesi on Unsplash

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Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

 

My boss infrequently walks around the office to say ‘hello’ to everyone. He’s a white man who dresses in cotton polos and tan slacks every day of the week. Sporadically, we’re invited to play five minutes of put-put with him to win snacks from the break room. His attempts at interacting with us are nice in theory but tainted by the reality that he’s not hoping for a genuine connection. Instead, feigning familiarity serves as a cop out to actually cultivating relationships with employees.

On one of his rounds, he paused briefly by one of my co-workers who recently removed box braids from her hair. From behind her, he reached out to touch her intentional placed puff. Her 4C kinks poked out underneath and clean, white visor.

“I had to make sure it was real. I thought it was one of those hats you buy during Halloween.”

His teasing made everyone around her laugh. She joined in and I couldn’t tell if she was laughing because his sense of humor aligned with her own or because voicing a disagreeing retort would result in her “not being able to take a joke.” He continued teasing her for a few more seconds, making it seem as if they had a growing friendship because of the small number of interactions they’ve had doing his roundabouts. I bit my inner lip as he walked passed me, ruefully thankful I hadn’t worn my hair in a way that would cause an extra amount of attention.

Being big meant being seen by someone who wanted to touch and make jokes out of a part of my body I’ve been learning to love.

I wanted no part of being big that day because it felt like it’d be a tiring battle between keeping quiet and wanting to scream.

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Photo by Dhivya Subramanian on Unsplash

 

The girl that sits next to me is Colombian. She’s trying to get her hair back to the curls she once had as a child. Right now, it’s wavy and limp due to years of dedicated flat-iron usage. Quite recently, I shared the hair typing chart with her. The chart was her first introduction to the natural hair community. And now, she attempts to offer me advice on my own kinky texture. Two days in a row I wore a headscarf to work in an attempt to spend less time untwisting my hair because our shift starts at 5:45 AM. Naturally, I want to stay in bed for as long as possible.

“Why have you been covering your hair?”

She asked me the question with eyebrows pulled downward and eyes trained on my head. “People with our hair shouldn’t hide it. I know it’s hard some days, but even on the bad ones, we have to embrace our curls.”

I tugged my scarf over my ears, suddenly conscious about being seen as someone who was ashamed. My reasoning was given to her in a polite tone, “It takes too much time. I’d rather do something else.” What originally felt like a logical solution to managing my time to fit my mood, morphed into guilt.

Being covered meant I was being seen as not loving myself entirely. To argue and advocate for rest meant I wasn’t willing to put in the time necessary to wholeheartedly embrace my kinks.

I simply wanted extra sleep and break from putting my fingers in my hair daily.

 

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Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

 

A guy in my training class said he liked my hair more when they’re in Marley twists. Except he didn’t know the word for them. Instead, he told me,

“I prefer your hair when it looks like ropes. It’s nice that way.”

My twists are tight, sleek, and neat. They’re easier to put in a bun and don’t attract too much attention since they fall below my shoulders in contrast to how my afro stretches upward and outward. In no way does Marley twists make me seem more white. But, undoubtedly, the preference for this style roots itself in the idea that hair should be tamed in order for it to look attractive.

I wish I had the courage to challenge him with the question: “Why doesn’t my hair usually seem “nice.” But, it’s too aggressive. Too bold. Too argumentative for the workplace. Though I honestly would like to understand. I’m curious if his preference can be attributed to a conscious or unconscious association to Euro-centric beauty standards. Or was it simply because without an afro there was nothing else for him to comment on about my appearance.

I put my hair in Marley twists to minimize my day-to-day drama. Surprisingly, it became the source of attention that left me annoyed because once again, I was forced to think about my appearance by a stranger who saw nothing but an end result in a complicated process.

 

For years I’ve managed and studied exactly what my hair loves, likes, and hates. I’ve ignored it in anger because it didn’t respond to how I wanted. I’ve de-prioritized its needs in favor of things like mental health. I’ve coddled it when it’s going through a new, difficult stage of growth. I don’t always want to be big, embrace the kinks, or twist it up so it falls towards the floor.

My hair and I don’t need outside opinions. Our relationship is and will always be strictly monogamous. My decisions on how I present it to the world don’t need comments. I know wearing natural hair is powerful. My hair speaks to people, but here’s the thing: It’s giving a lecture. So, sit back and learn. Commentary is not necessary.

 

 

Understanding My Depression and Staying Still

I am what I refer to as ‘leveled’ right now in terms of my depression. Whenever I’m leveled I usually try to take advantage of my energy by eating three meals a day, working out, writing, and creating to-do lists I have a realistic chance of completing. I’ve never really timed these leveled moments, but I know roughly, they’ll last a few weeks before I or something in my life triggers me to retreat into a heavy sadness. Thereafter I’m stuck for a few days with thoughts that feel more like reality than my actual life – which always waits impatiently for me to come back. It never pauses or slows, though I can’t blame it.

I’d like to say it has gotten easier for me throughout the years. I’ve been depressed since I was in my early teens and first considered suicide when I was seventeen. When I’m in the thick of it now, it still feels like my emotions weigh a million ton. My brain is as harsh as it has ever been and every time I recover I’m surprised I made it out again.

What’s helped me over the years is a mix of things. I went to therapy for two years. Changed my diet by dabbling in veganism before settling on a type pescetarian diet. Started trying out different exercises before figuring out I really enjoy biking and Pilates. I’m sure my efforts made and still make a difference, but the efforts, of course, never seem to completely do away with my recurring episodes of sadness.

I attended college with the depression. Occasionally skipped classes and dropped courses because of the strain. I met my boyfriend while struggling to get a hold off crying spells between dates and late night text conversations. I loss friends because a part of me insisted on juggling friendships and mental health was a feat I wasn’t strong enough to take on. And, besides, who really wanted to hang out with a person who seemed to never completely get out of the darkness? At least, that’s what I reminded myself each time I held back in my social life.

Having a suicide plan is something I’ve never admitted to anyone. I’ve shared my thoughts of suicide with a therapist, but always denied I had a plan because I was too afraid of what might happen. I’d read frightening stories of people who were hospitalized for their own safety and I couldn’t take the idea of numerous people finding out that my mind was in such a dark place I was going against basic human survival instinct.

How I got through the suicidal thoughts was being still. It’s something I coax myself to do on those terribly dark days. Being still with depression feels like second nature. But being still with suicidal thoughts often became a challenge for me. When something’s wrong I like to act. Even if that acting a simple Google search. Staying still and waiting for the next day is what kept me alive. It’s what continues to keep me alive.

I’ve been on this journey for ten years now. Most times it doesn’t feel like I’ve learned anything because my thoughts get so dark. But, I’m still here so something must be working. So, my advice to anyone who is struggling would be to be still when it comes to thoughts of ending your life. And definitely move when it comes to talking, or running, or eating, or praying, or writing. Whatever works.

There are ways to get through this. I know it doesn’t feel like it the majority of the time, but I promise.

If you need help or just want to educate yourself more about suicide prevention visit here. Thanks for taking the time to read this. And if you’re hurting please reach out. If not to me then to someone. Anyone you trust. I’m rooting for you.