As I briefly mentioned in a previous note, I recently went through a rather strong depression for about a month and a half, due to the loss of my primary relationship partner. (I’d like to avoid going into too many details, but this loss was first my partner choosing to move away, and then it finally evolved into an actual breakup).
You may be happy to know I seem to be finally moving out of that depression. Well, I’m not really here to talk about that right now, but I feel like mentioning it as the context for something I learned during this time.
A lot of people, by way of giving me advice as I suffered, tried to tell me that I should be okay with being alone. I should be happy being alone first, and then I could find a new partner. I should love myself before loving other people. And so on.
I had heard the “Love yourself first” mantra many years back, before I even got into relationships. I think I wanted to believe or to follow that advice, but really, I had (and have) no idea how I’m supposed to love myself first, or what loving myself first actually means. So, without entirely choosing to dismiss that idea, I more or less ignored it and chose to follow my incredibly strong desire to have a romantic relationship.
I remember crying once as I lay in bed, feeling how painful it was to always sleep alone. I felt guilty for these feelings, because I thought I had to be okay alone, but I just wasn’t.
And when I started having relationships, I realised that my life felt about twice as good in a relationship as out of one. Is it because I don’t love myself enough to be that happy outside of a relationship? I don’t know, but growingly I’ve come to believe that there is nothing wrong with me. It is just a human need to be close to others.
Back to my recent situation with my breakup; several people told me by way of giving me advice that I should be okay with being alone. Perhaps with the momentum of all of that past cultural conditioning behind me, I tried to take their advice. I tried to be okay alone.
And then I went through about a week of feeling suicidal. I never really thought about killing myself in a practical way, but I fantasised about it a lot and started feeling really jealous when I read or heard about someone who died or was dying. I had thoughts like, “Why can’t I have cancer too?”
This phase ended when I finally admitted to myself, “I need a partner,” and started to make serious plans about doing whatever I could to increase my chances of meeting someone compatible. The suicidal feelings lifted almost instantly when I had those thoughts. I suddenly found myself washing my piled up dishes and cleaning the house, having energy for doing these things for the first time in a week.
Afterwards, I started thinking just how twisted it was to tell people that they shouldn’t need others. We do need others. Look at children; they need company and attention and affirmation all the frikkin’ time. And while I do think we normally grow to need it a bit less than children do… I don’t think we end up needing it all that much less. I think we just learn to hide and repress our needs, to deny their existence even to ourselves. I think we try and become tough and independent, which I see as being scared of being dependent. But we do depend on others. That’s just the fact of our existence.
I think dependence on others is a problem when that traps you in an abusive or otherwise sub-optimal situation. I don’t think the problem is with dependence itself, though; I think the problem is, for whatever reason, being unable or unwilling to find other people to depend on.
I think it’s inhuman to try and deny our needs. We are social creatures by nature. Our biology draws us to bond with others. And I think if we let ourselves do that more freely, perhaps we would be rather more functional as a society, and less inclined to hurt others or be apathetic towards the hurting of others.
So no, I’m not going to isolate myself in order to try and gain some kind of self-love that lets me be happy alone. That kind of self-love doesn’t exist. As I said to one of my would-be advisers, these are two different issues. Maybe I do need to learn better self-love? In which case, I can work on that. However, in the mean time, looking for new partners and friends doesn’t affect that purpose one way or another. It’s completely unrelated.
How about this: I love myself enough to not be alone.
I should give some credit to Teal Scott for helping me clarify the ideas I’ve put down here. Particularly, this article helped me: Dependent or Independent?