It was a cold January evening and I was pulled over an hour outside of Edmonton trying to sleep. I woke up shivering and started the car so I could warm up. The frost that had crept across the windshield slowly began to recede. The green light emanating from the centre console read 2:30 am. I looked down at my phone and re-read the last message I received from my now ex-girlfriend, “I hate you.”
Things had gone well up until the last day of our first mini-vacation together. We drove to Edmonton Thursday, I had taken Friday off work and booked a hotel for three nights. We spent Friday afternoon shopping and went to our first NHL game in the evening. On Saturday we were supposed to go to the World Waterpark but she didn’t feel like it. I came back from a mid afternoon walk and she was gone. I texted her asking where she was, a few minutes later she replied that she was outside. I met her downstairs and she seemed distant and agitated. Mood swings were common with her. She was bipolar and off her medication but since she was usually fine around me so I thought I must be helping. As you might have guessed, I was wrong.
When we got back up into the hotel room she began packing her bags. I asked her what was up and she said she was leaving and would stay with a friend, she’d find a ride home and that she didn’t want to see me anymore. I had become too crazy for her.
I spent the rest of the day in the room watching television, reading and hoping she’d come back. Once 10:30 pm rolled around it became apparent that wouldn’t be happening. I didn’t feel like sleeping in the room where I had just been dumped. I texted her asking if she actually needed a ride and she said no and that she hated me. I was surprised by an additional $20 charge at checkout, she had charged a few drinks to the room before leaving.
I didn’t drive far before I was too tired to continue, I pulled over and tried to sleep. In the morning she began texting me again. She wanted a ride. I drove back into Edmonton to the hotel where she stayed with other friends then drove my ex-girlfriend back to Saskatoon.
I was crazy.
People familiar with the situation would tell you she was the crazy one but I still believe her point was valid. Going into the relationship, I was living a lifestyle that made me feel invincible. I ate well, got plenty of sleep and exercised regularly. I thought I could handle anything. Unknowingly to me at the time, trying to keep us together took time away from my daily rituals. The most detrimental of which was giving up sleep. I had only averaged 1-2 hours of sleep per weeknight since getting involved with her. She was currently unemployed and partied or stayed up late most evenings so I would keep my ringer on and be sure to answer any 1-3 am messages and then go out and meet her. If I was lucky I’d go to bed by 6 am and head into work at 8. It wasn’t until months after everything ended that I was able to acknowledge how much my mind and body had degraded over the span of our relationship.
So what allows us to put up with these negative situations and coward away from the changes that need to happen? Why do we ignore that little voice in our head that is trying to lead us away from insanity? I have a few reasons:
Change is scary
Change can be scary. I have to give up everything I’ve worked for and start from square one. All my accomplishments have been for not. What if I fail or make things worse? I may not be happy now, but at least I’m not completely miserable. Change introduces uncertainty which leads to doubt and excuses. The doubt in myself eventually projects itself onto others.
People will judge me
I begin to imagine people’s reactions to my decision. They will think I’m a failure and be embarrassed by me. The important people in my life will abandon me. I’m scared to tell anyone that something is wrong. Fear and doubt manifest in my brain and instead of dealing with the stress of changing I instead start to tell myself things will get better.
Things will get better
If I keep being selfless, kind, and supportive towards someone I like eventually they will like me back or if I keep pouring everything I can into my job eventually I’ll enjoy it, or get more respect from my boss, or get paid better, etc. Eventually I’ll be treated better. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Instead I start growing numb to the situation. What I think I deserve for myself begins to degrade. With my lower expectations I start to trick myself into thinking that things are getting better.
Things are getting better
I’m sure you’ve lied to yourself about this too. The tricky part is when we start to believe our lies. When I was waking up in the middle of the night to deliver booze to my girlfriend I believed it was ok. I thought it was a small price to pay for having someone so wonderful in my life. I believed she was good for me. I told myself over and over again that it was ok and that I could handle it. I choked out the voice in my head telling me I need to change.
Why you need to change
The time, energy and money you are focusing on a bad situation or person could be used on something or someone positive. Looking back, I don’t mind that I spent just over a grand on a weekend only to be dumped but I’ll often think of the fun I could have had with my real friends had I chose to spend it with them instead. That thought never crossed my mind at the time. When we are transfixed on a negative situation we fail to see and create opportunities for ourselves.
I would grow spiteful. I would waste energy on complaining about the situation instead of trying to find ways to change it. It would become the reason for all my problems, when in truth it was I who was the cause of my problems. I was giving it the power to hold me back.
If you don’t make the change for yourself, often someone else will. When you feel like you don’t belong in a situation, you will naturally become disconnected. People will start to notice. If they have the power they may remove you from the situation themselves. This is actually a good thing because you are free from it but now you have to deal with the rejection. It is easier to leave on your own accord. I’ve learnt this lesson many times. Don’t let other people write your script for you.
Doubt and fear is what keep us from making changes. The only way to conquer it is through doing. We have to discover that the consequences of our actions often aren’t as bad as we imagine them to be.
The easiest way to make big changes in our life is to start with small changes within ourselves. By working every day to better ourselves, changes will start to become less daunting, natural even. Opportunities find their way to me when I am mindful of my physical and mental health every day. When you do this eventually you will begin to seize opportunities but be careful not to give up too much of what got you there. Once that happens everything can unravel. You can become crazy too.