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Lyme and Relationships: Toxic Romantic Relationships

How to spot, and deal with, toxic romantic relationships when you have Lyme disease or another chronic illness.
How to spot, and deal with, toxic romantic relationships when you have Lyme disease or another chronic illness.

For a long time, I believed my ex-husband had already left me emotionally by the time I realized the darkness of my illness was only doubled by the abusive nature of our marriage and worked up the strength to file for divorce. Now, years later, I just how much verity that notion lacks. You see, he left me emotionally in regards to the way I knew him in the days before the scalding lava of the erupting volcano of a life changing illness flowed within and without. However, he did not entirely leave me emotionally. In fact, he was just as attached to me emotionally as he was before -only now, my sickness, for whatever reason, had transformed his new emotional attachment to me into one that was sick in itself. Suddenly, the person who was supposed to be my protector became the largest threat to my health, as his words turned from fiery passion to ones laced with icy intent more and more with each passing day. I went on that way for a year, crying every time we spoke until the stress on my inflamed brain induced a seizure.

Ultimately, I stressed my immune system to the point where treatment was undoubtedly useless. I told myself I was staying in the marriage for love, along with a plethora of other excuses such as religious beliefs and morals. Deep down I have always known true love has no opposite, though. I stayed with him was because I was weak. It had nothing to do with values, except in the sense that I did not value my self-worth. Earlier, I mentioned people leave us because they are too weak at times, and the task of caring for us scares them to the core. We are guilty of doing the same when we become so desperate to feel anything that we willingly latch onto toxic relationships, acting as if we are ourselves are parasites. Finding the strength to part ways with such relationships takes immense courage, especially for an individual who feels as if they are navigating through dark fog towards their impending doom. It requires them to be strong enough to be alone with their own thoughts during the dark witching hour of the bright full moon lit nights. What we must realize is that these relationships are not offering us security along the way. They offer us nothing more than a shortcut to the grave. Being mindful of the signs that a relationship is becoming toxic is essential for our well-being.

Many of us suffer from intense rage due to our illnesses. Although we may be unable to help it, we say hurtful things that make our partners’ hearts sink. Still, they often forgive us because we acted unkind due to our medical conditions. In short, the ones that stick around while we are ill let it slide due to the notion that when we lash out at them it is not really us speaking, it is our illnesses. Really though, they feel backed in a corner in which they have no choice but to sweep our harmful words and/or actions under the rug due to our health challenges. If not, they would look, and perhaps feel, like bad people. Our partners may tell us they forgive us for the harmful things we say and do, but unlike us, they tend to have properly functioning memories and do not forget incidents when rage and emotions get the best of us. Since they are unable to vent to us about the issue for obvious reasons, they dwell on it internally and keep their hurt bottled up, in turn leading them to eventually burst out in anger towards us. Partly because they are human and partly because they hold resentment towards us for things we have said and done during our own fits of rage, even if the resentment they hold towards us is subconscious and they have no clue it exists until their fumes boil over and the damage is done -this is the problem.

Understanding all the above, we feel inclined to forgive our partners for hurting us, as they too are only human. Furthermore, we feel as if we are obligated to. After all, they have forgiven us multiple times for irrationally assaulting them verbally. Unfortunately, doing so comes at a high price. The hurtful things they say do not merely upset us, they literally make us sick. Thirty minutes of anger from our partner can result in excruciating hours to days of intensified pain for us both physically and mentally, and we may unintentionally treat them unkindly once again due to neurological flares while trying to recover, contributing to the possibility that they will in turn repay the nasty deed before we even get the chance to recover. It is a vicious cycle. So, where do we draw the line? Here. We draw it here, at the point where even if we are not fighting with our partner 24/7, we fight enough for the stress from the fights to repeatedly knock us down the minute we get back on our feet -or, if less unfortunate, before we so much as get the chance to. Of course, this is easier said than done. Excuses make sure of that.

"But I love my partner"

Do we? We may think so, and it may very well be true that we do. Nonetheless, once toxicity has permeated a relationship, it is also true that we are both giving and receiving only a miniscule amount of the capacity of love which we possess the potential to offer to both ourselves and others. To fully love another, we must first fully love ourselves. If we do not have enough respect for ourselves to be strong enough to delete the variables in our lives that are prohibiting our healing, then we do not have much respect for any person or thing, or for life as a whole.

"I can’t just walk away."

From who? We already walked away from ourselves when we chose a relationship that, for whatever reason, became toxic to our health. By distancing ourselves from negative relationships, we do not so much walk away from the other person as we do towards ourselves. It is only when we are in touch with our true nature and are able to respect and cherish our own hearts that we can be trusted to do the same with another’s. Then, and only then, do we have a shot at engaging in a relationship of substance.

Simply put, stepping away from a relationship that has become toxic in nature does not necessarily mean a breakup. If anything, it means putting forth the effort to prevent one from occurring. It is anything but selfish to take time away from activities and people who for whatever reason place excess stress on us. It is extremely selfless and requires great inner strength to do so, as no one wants to be alone through hardships. Taking care of our health and deep rooted desires and needs teaches us how to properly nourish not only our own hearts, but the hearts of our future partners as well, whether they be the same ones we left or new ones. Ultimately, we must keep in mind that we essentially walk all over ourselves when we allow someone else to walk all over us. In the end, we are the only ones left to blame because we failed to take responsibility for ourselves the moment we failed to draw the line between empathy and abuse -both from ourselves and another.

This does not mean we should those who we are forced to separate from due to the stress the relationship places on us. It means we should be kind to ourselves and shield our hearts from harm. Doing so is a responsibility not to be taken lightly; because how can we ever shield another’s heart if we neglect our own? We simply cannot. This also does not mean we should hate or despise those who treat us unfairly, but that we should love and value ourselves enough to walk away from them before we end up making the mistake of instead walking away from ourselves. How can we ever feel alive if we allow others to steal our zest for life and thus make us numb inside?

We have choices, always. The seemingly easy ones are sometimes at the same time the most destructive, leading us down long and difficult paths. On the other hand, the hard ones are painful, but in a different way. It is hard to take responsibility for the areas in our lives where change is needed in order to experience more joy; but it is crucial to understand the pain that manifests from making hard but overall positive changes in life -unlike the easy, and for lack of better words, lazy ones- is an acute pain as opposed to the alternative dull yet chronic pain. Suffering can only end when we realize there is no longer any use for it. Are we brave enough to take the acute pain as opposed to less pain that is long term and never ending? Are we brave enough to love and value ourselves enough to do more than be “content” with our lives, to do more than “settle?” Those are the real questions worth keeping us up at night.

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