A few caveats before we go into this:
1) I’m fine. I’m not writing this from a place of current pain. It’s just something I’ve wanted to put on ‘paper’ for a while.
2) To the person who was involved, we are absolutely good. Life is an amazing teacher and I’m grateful for all of it.
My mom says there have been two times in my life when she wasn’t sure I was going to make it.
The first was my type 1 diabetes diagnosis at 10. After being inexplicably ill for months, I almost slipped into a coma and spent several days in the intensive care unit being stabilized, an IV inserted into my jugular because the rest of my veins would collapse with any attempt to place a needle.
The second was the summer of 2015 when my entire being broke in a way I didn’t know was possible.
Every morning, for six and a half weeks, I opened my eyes feeling like I never slept. Without respite, the memory of why crashed over me. Unwillingly, tears started sliding down the side of my face as I pushed myself out of bed. Waves of grief hit me in the shower; in their most overwhelming I curled up in the bottom of the tub, water washing over my body.
I tried to eat, an exercise that would leave me pushing green beans across my plate in an effort to trick my brain into thinking I made any impact on their pile. Protein shakes became my sustenance – the most basic nutrition that I forced myself to eat knowing without it I would slip away. I wasn’t ready to let go like that yet.
The emotional pain permeated my body. My muscles ached. In random moments throughout the day I stood, staring without seeing, when my knees buckled, requiring me to slowly lower myself to the floor because I felt like I no longer had the strength to keep myself upright.
I went through cycles of grief, then confusion, then self-doubt, then despair. I never hit anger. That came much later.
The breakup hadn’t been my choice, but in retrospect, we had been on a path toward it for a while. Hindsight and rebuilding our friendship allows us to now understand what we were missing, but at the time I thought we were good. I trusted we would always be good. When all of a sudden we weren’t, I wasn’t prepared for it. I was sideswiped and completely ill-equipped to right myself.
Throughout the relationship I had forgotten to stay me, with my own interests and my own hobbies. Much of who I knew myself to be was built upon him. Because of that, my sense of loss was beyond just that of a partner.
Our lives were intricately wrapped together – we had lived with each other for almost three years, been together almost four, moved to a new state for his career. Our parents thought engagement was looming. In my mind, he was my person for the rest of my life.
But the world we existed in was more his than mine. I just occupied it. When he said he no longer wanted this, everything I leaned on and felt safe within imploded. There would be no going back to this cocoon I fabricated around myself because I didn’t own the pieces I had used to build it. I was being asked to leave the relationship, acutely aware that it meant striking out completely on my own, even though I left the tools to do so behind long before.
The most important part in my recovery – because it was definitely a recovery process and one I put myself through like a combination of rehab and bootcamp – was to let myself feel the pain. All of it. Meditate with it. Write about it. Sit with it in sunrises and yoga classes. Every ugly and confusing part.
There was no getting over, only going through. I had to allow myself to feel the full depth and width of the pain so that it wouldn’t become baggage and interrupt my life later. Leaning into the pain was the only way I could piece out each part of what I felt so that I could work through it and unpack it. I wouldn’t have been able to grow without that step. I wouldn’t have been able to let go without that step. I had to let myself experience the torment, even when it felt like it would end me.
The pain stretched my strength. It pushed its elbows into the space of how much I could feel, forcing itself into corners and crevices I didn’t think it could go.
But one day, suddenly and without warning, the pain was gone. It had vacated and left the capacity for an odd sort of magic – a space for other emotions to be felt with the same intensity.
Happiness so overwhelming that I end up with giddy tears streaming out of my eyes.
Gratitude so permeating that I can’t breathe for the ferocity of it.
Excitement so intense that I feel like my body is vibrating and I have to put my hands on the earth to try to ground my energy.
Connection to the world around me so intricate that it simultaneously doesn’t feel real and feels like the most honest experience I will ever know.
I don’t understand how I survived the pain. There were times I felt I wouldn’t. But how beautiful it is that we can feel such utter despair. How uniquely human that is. And look at what it has led to.