40% of clinical depression in teenagers is caused by breakups in relationships. 12% falls into moderate to severe depression. 10% fall into substance abuse.
We have been brought up to act a certain way when we meet somebody for the first time. Greet them first and don’t forget to smile, introduce yourself and try not to be an asshole. Imagine the first time you ever met somebody that you know today and think about how you were introduced to that person. Isn’t it different what those people mean to us now? Some of them are with us today and some of them are not. Whatever the scenario, we are all very different when we meet somebody for the first time than when we start being comfortable with them. Some of them turn into meaningful relationships while some of them become an occasional hello, and some we never see again.
Creating a meaningful relationship requires time, effort and a lot of compromises. Remember when your roommate always left the toothpaste cap open and it annoyed you so much, but you started realizing that your constant reminders won’t affect him/her, and you started ignoring it? We start accepting that some toothpaste will always remain unclosed and it is rather the manufacturers who should consider redesigning their packaging.
We put so much effort and time into our relationships because they are essential for our survival. Without the ability to form meaningful bonds with other human beings, the dinosaurs would have kicked our asses to Mars a long time back.
However, if we were to analyze all our relationships closely, we have different identities associated to each of our relationships. In other words, we all wear different ‘masks’ in front of different people. Notice that I will be using the word ‘mask’ very loosely and it is to be understood that it is written to connote ‘human identity’. We can only identify ourselves from other people because you are somebody through someone else’s eyes. You act a certain way in front of your mother, you act a certain way in front of your best friend, and you act a certain way in front of your partner. All are very different but all are you.
You are identified by the role you play in somebody’s life. You are somebody’s son or a daughter, you are somebody’s best friend, and you are somebody’s spouse. That is why when we lose somebody, it is as if we have lost ourselves. We meet somebody we admire for the first time, and we invest all our time and effort in creating this new mask, a role to identify ourselves with. And when that person no longer exists in our life, we are left with a mask which is now, of no use. An identity of you that’s no longer there. This feeling of unusual emptiness can be identified as ‘depression’.
A lot of romantic relationships these days have been built around the concept of Romeo and Juliet, and the pop songs that glorify romance. All these stories, songs, and movies have got us believing in a flowery world where two people with no imperfections whatsoever dance under the pale moonlight, while the birds sing the songs of love. When we hold hands for too long, they get sweaty. We have high expectation on what to look out for, in our so-called ‘soul-mates’. We believe that there is somebody who will ease all our pain, lift us off our miseries and care for us endlessly. This is what we expect of a supreme being, a god perhaps, not a human being. Human beings are imperfect and will continue to amaze the world with its stupidity.
When we put so many expectations and conditions on another person, who is just as imperfect as us, we keep asking for that constant validation and effort from the other person to satiate our needs. Sooner or later, one of them gives up because a relationship built on conditions is weak at the foundation. Just because you have a little chemistry with someone does not guarantee that you are compatible with that someone. Everyone is a little crazy but you have got to find the kind of crazy that is compatible with yours. Chemistry is easy to find.
A good relationship should improve the psychological well being of someone and not destroy it little by little. A lot of relationships these days are bounded by conditions and responsibilities we throw at the other person, the responsibilities that we can’t take for ourselves. Pop culture has got us into projecting our expectations onto the other person, failing to recognize them for who they are. We develop a delusional obsession over someone onto whom we project our innermost fantasies at. So before you go on loving someone else, you have got to love yourself first. Self compassion and inner peace is the new success.
Human connection and relationships are valuable, and therefore it is of paramount importance to think clearly before we invest time in building it. Being in a toxic relationship is a lot like smoking.
It has been fifteen days since I quit smoking and I have to tell you that the last few days have been the worst days of my life.
Why am I telling you this?
I started smoking four years ago, and I hadn’t gone a single day without a pack. I had spent a lot of time believing that these tiny sticks gave me a psychological boost, relaxation, and comfort and now that I don’t have it, there’s this emptiness that I have created for myself. Mind you, I don’t crave cigarettes any longer but there is a voice that tells me, “You are stressed”, “You are alone”, and then it takes me into a negative spiral until I find myself curl up anxious and depressed inside the blanket. Similarly, we build on toxic relationships that we think will give us a psychological boost, relaxation, and comfort when in fact they are slowly killing us inside.
So when we lose an identity of ourselves, we fall into a state of trauma, an unusual emptiness. Things start going downhill from there but we have to recognize that we always have power, even in the worst of moments. Pain shouldn’t be resisted, pain shapes us and it is meant to be felt in all its glory. The power to pick ourselves up is all within us and therefore, it is our own responsibility to do so. If you can change the meaning, you can change the outcome.
There are, of course, cases of post-traumatic stress disorders when soldiers come back home from war and all they can think about is the death and destruction. Most of them kill themselves or live in a state of trauma all their lives. However, there is also “post-traumatic growth”, the ones who had the ability to climb out of the darkness. The ones who decided to learn from their pain.
I am starting to remove the brainwash that I had about cigarettes and I have to say I am coming along. Change the meaning and you can change the outcome. It wasn’t true when I thought it gave me relaxation, because I can breathe much more freely now. It never was a social tool, because I can still talk to people. It never improved my meal, because I feel I can taste much better now. Much like how a toxic relationship unfolds after a breakup right?
Getting back to the point.
An online survey was conducted by ICICI Lombard wherein 1,100 male and female between the age group of 22-50 years in the country responded to the queries.
The survey said that 65% of the youth respondents between the age group of 22-25 displayed early signs of depression. And a whopping 40 percent of clinical depression in youth is because of a breakup in a romantic relationship or a loss of someone.
When we lose an identity of ourselves, we mustn’t forget that we also have other identities that we can associate ourselves with. We can start building upon the relationships that we have always neglected, perhaps the far cousin we hardly ever spoke to. Work on a new skill. Invest time in building friendships and relationships with family. If there are soul mates, they aren’t just romantic in nature and it doesn’t always have to be between a boy and girl. If there are soul mates, it won’t be hard.
It’s not about romance, it’s about growing up.
- Special Thanks to Shayzung Sherpa for his insights, the movie “500 days of Summer” for opening my eyes, and markmanson.net for inspiration.
- All statistics have been taken from Hindustan Times website. (hindustantimes.com)