A while back I dated a guy who was, at the time, a very good friend. I fell head over heels and it was blissful. And then it was heart wrenching. And then it was heart wrenching. And then it was more heart wrenching. Did I say it was heart wrenching? You get the point. But we had agreed that whatever happened in the relationship, we'd remain closest of friends. The relationship didn't work out, and I was heartbroken, but I was comforted by the fact that I'd still have one of my closest friends. Except that as the weeks, and then months, moved on I realized that I didn't. I was making all of the effort. When I did get a reply it was a very generic one - something you'd send to a business colleague that you don't really know, a "hope all is going well with you" type of thing. To me, a generic reply once a month if that does not constitute friendship. Especially not the kind we'd always have. But I don't break promises, and I was bound and determined to keep my end, and for us to remain close friends. I tried and tried for over a year. If you hadn't guessed, it was heart wrenching.
I hate losing friendships. I've only ever permanently walked away from one friendship in my life, and that's because she did something beyond unimaginable to me and refused to apologize. So here I was, holding on to a friendship that I thought was forever, assuming at some point he'd come around. And suddenly one day, I stopped. I'm sure he has his reasons. I don't necessarily understand or believe them, but in the end, I don't have to. I just have to know what I deserve, and what I don't.
For anyone with depression, anxiety, mood cycling, and the like, the feeling of lack of control can be horrendous in every day life. Give us a situation in which we truly do not have any control (ie someone else's emotions), and it can be down right terrifying. Therefore, at least for me, the tendency to hold on, is almost second nature. It's that one illusion of control in a situation in which you otherwise feel completely helpless.
But trouble with holding on is not that you're giving someone the benefit of the doubt, or even that you're holding out hope. The trouble is this: you imagine yourself dangling from a rope over the edge of a horribly rocky cliff with an abyss of who knows what below. You think that the rope is keeping you alive. The effort to hang on is awful, but surely letting go is worse. Except that as you struggle about, trying to maneuver around and do everything just right so that you can continue to hang on and save yourself, you don't realize that you're slowly, unintentionally, wrapping the rope around your own neck and it's strangling you. Soon, you aren't able to utilize your full strength to cling to the rope, nor can you creatively figure out an actual solution because it's cutting off your oxygen supply and making it tough to think.
When you get to this point you have only one option. One that seems completely counterintuitive. You make one last great maneuver to unwrap the rope from around your neck so that you do not, in fact, strangle yourself in the process. You'll have to move in the exact oposite direction than you've been going to undue the damage. Then, you let go. And when you do, guess what you find out - you weren't hanging over a horrible abyss. You were maybe five feet off the ground the whole time. You were just so scared you never bothered to actually look down. It might not be a pleasant landing, and you'll be sore if you land badly, but you'll live. Because in reality, the trouble with holding on is that it is, in fact, the holding on that's slowing tearing you up, not the letting go.