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  • ericaanne

Silence

Updated: May 27, 2022

I have mentioned that I didn't tell friends and family what was going on with Nick in the early stages. There's a handful of reasons for that (beyond being unsure how to explain that he can't stop thinking about his blinking without getting a weird look in return).


First, I felt like I didn't have the right to share Nick's struggles. I didn't appreciate it when people I knew told other people my business, so why would I do that to Nick? This was the problem, though: Nick's problems affected me. They affected me deeply. So it was actually partially my story to share, too.


The second reason I stayed mostly silent had nothing to do with Nick. I was previously in a very toxic relationship that I had a hard time getting out of. This relationship almost destroyed a number of my friendships. After Nick started suffering, I was in a session with my therapist and realized that I was afraid to tell anyone about what was happening because I was afraid that the same thing would happen again. I distinctly remember sitting on our balcony, looking at a sunset, and thinking, "what if I tell them about what's going on and they want me to leave him but I don't? Will they want to still be my friends?" My therapist and I were working on my perfectionism at the time and perfectionism was seeping its way into this problem. I wanted our relationship to look perfect, all the time, and never admit something might be wrong.


Third, and building off the perfectionism thing, I thought I should be the "strong" one all the time. I guess at some point I decided being "strong" was part of my identity. Ask for help? Me? No. That shows... weakness. Ew. I would much rather just talk to my therapist about it and continue to feel completely alone in this whole entire process. Looking back on it, that all sounds completely stupid. I now realize that being vulnerable actually requires the most amount of strength. To put yourself at risk of scrutiny is actually the most courageous thing a person can do. Perfectionism, on the other hand, stems from the fear of scrutiny. Being vulnerable is to stand centre stage, whereas perfectionism is to hide behind the curtain.


Additionally, I had been working on codependency in therapy. Since Nick's dad got sick with pancreatic cancer in 2017, I had been operating out of codependency. I was getting my personal worth from how much I could help Nick - on how much I could fix him and the situation at-hand. But with the help of my therapist, I was starting to realize that not only was that view point completely f*cked, but I could never fix Nick. Nobody fixes anyone. Not even my therapist. She wouldn't fix me or save me. I fix me. I saved me. Nick fixes himself. Nick saved himself. I bore witness to it. I encouraged him. I held him accountable. But I didn't do the work for him.


At some point I threw my hands up in surrender. I couldn't hold it all in anymore. "Fake Smile" by Ariana Grande became my anthem for about 6 months. I didn't have the energy to pretend everything was alright anymore, nor did I care to try. I remember sharing an Instagram post about my grandmother's death and saying I wouldn't be entertaining a fake smile anymore. I didn't share anything about Nick's mental illness publicly on social media (at the time), but I did start to open up and share more with my friends and family. It was freeing.


In the end, none of my friends actually ever told me to leave Nick. While they didn't like his behavior some of the time, most of them recognized this was a completely different situation than my previous relationship. I'm no longer "codependent" (in the therapy sense of the word). I've learned to depend on people and trust that there will be people there to catch me if I fall, but I don't generate my worth from others.


And eventually, Nick started to share his story with people. He now shares it on a large scale.


So now I share our story from my perspective: the good, the bad, and the ugly. No matter how vulnerable it makes me.



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