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Choosing relationships wisely can be vital to good mental health

Posted Apr 23 2009 5:23pm
Dr. Deb had a great post on her blog recently about the vicious cycle of misery and company. Although many of us like to wallow in our sorrows with a friend, she pointed out that sometimes it can actually make things worse.

Her posting really hit home for me, as I’ve had to weed out many negative relationships over the years.

Back when I first started seeing a therapist for my depression at the tender age of 17, we talked about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Fortunately I’ve never been the type to have co-dependency issues, but I did have way too many relationships that were having a negative influence on me.

Obviously there were the unhealthy high school friendships. The friends that spent their weekends slobbering drunk (or drugged) and searching for the next fun party were the first ones to go. I had to sever several relationships. Not because they weren’t good people, but because our relationship wasn’t working. I had used alcohol to try and self-medicate my depression and had failed miserably. My unsuccessful suicide after a night of drinking uncontrollably was proof enough of that. So as difficult as it was, I left those friendships behind and moved on to new healthy friendships.

Another negative batch of relationships were some family members. There were a few relatives that could never see the positive in anything, that constantly compared me to others (and found me lacking), and that generally caused me to feel overwhelmed with discouragement and inadequacy. Since it wasn’t possible to severe family ties the way I did with the above group of friends, I knew I had to make some changes.

I started by limiting our interaction. Instead of regular visits, I cut back to infrequent visits and now rarely visit except at extended family gatherings (which happen every couple of months). When I do see these individuals, I pump myself up with positive self-talk before hand and make sure my husband affirms me lots afterwards.

I also monitor how much complaining I do to my friends. Sometimes it feels good to vent a little, but if the conversation just starts spiralling down into despair with no light at the end of the tunnel, then it’s time to focus on the positive or at least something neutral, like the latest episode of So You Think You Can Dance.

When you suffer with depression, sometimes you need to make tough decisions that other people may not be required to make. Others may be able to survive negative relationships without much scarring, while those of us with depression can spiral into a deep dark place and have difficulty getting free. Although it can be tough, choosing healthy relationships over unhealthy ones is one of the best things you can do for your mental health.

What about you? Have you had a similar experience?

I wish you luck in choosing the best relationships possible for your best mental health!
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