Heartbreak Hangover: Learning To Love Myself Again After Toxic Love

A woman is under water in Tallebudgera Creek.
Christopher Campbell / Unsplash

Being in love with you was like being drunk off wine – euphoric, weightless, like nothing could touch me. But like we all do sometimes, I drank the whole bottle, not knowing where it would lead. Being in love with you became more of a hangover – exhausting, blameful, a longing for relief. You forced me and guilted me to become best friends, a union I didn’t deserve. But I was young and blind and could never forget our promises of forever.

From the moment we met, we were infatuated with each other. You even cancelled a blind date just to spend more time with me. I was attracted to your dedication to the service, the way your blue eyes pierced through mine, how you made me laugh when I truly didn’t want to. You, drawn toward my love of words and travel, my scattered freckles, how my appetite was just as big as yours. You pinned me with cute nicknames and told me I was different, that you were blessed to have met me when you did.

n fact, you called me your angel. For a long while, I never had to doubt how much you adored me. I felt beautiful in every way possible, not an ounce of insecurity streaming through my body. It was borderline indescribable. Knowing you were proud to be with me, so much so that you were willing to shout it to the world, put me on a high I thought I’d never come down from. I was sure, so very sure, you could never hurt me.

Until you did and it was like my whole body slamming against a brick wall. The wind literally knocked from my chest, my cheeks burning red.

But I told myself that no relationship is perfect. Every couple hits that wall eventually, the “behind closed doors” moments our friends and families wouldn’t otherwise notice. I was okay with the honeymoon phase being over. So when we worked it out and found a way around the brick wall, I knew we were stronger than before. You and I, we were a team. Two best friends tackling this crazy life.

I didn’t expect it to keep happening. Happening over and over and over again. When we made plans, you abandoned them. When I needed someone to defend me, you couldn’t step up. When I was unhappy, you were quick to dispute those feelings. I was never allowed to be upset because, in case I forgot, you would remind me that your life is so much harder than I could ever imagine. There was an excuse for everything and for a long time, I accepted them. Your manipulation caused me to question my own sanity. I was the one getting hurt and yet, I was the one made to believe everything was my fault.

I was there for you, always. I was good to you. And while it would be a lie to say that support was never reciprocated, it never felt equal.

And I was drained. My body, my mind, my heart – none of them could withstand the chaos anymore. I couldn’t keep apologizing for moments that were not my fault, couldn’t feel guilt for expressing disappointment and neglect. You twisted words, warped my own memory, used silence as a cruel weapon. I bet you have no idea that for a while, I stopped eating. Once, for four days, I could not get out of bed until my best friend forced me to get ice cream with her. When I told you about this, you said, “It’s not my fault. I didn’t put you there.”

It became toxic. I couldn’t get drunkenly yelled at over the phone anymore. I couldn’t take blame for situations I didn’t cause. I was tired of making you a priority, even when I wasn’t one to you. I was a crystal ball and you were careless; you dropped me into a million irreparable pieces.          

When we finally hit a wall I knew there was no way around, when I lost a family member and you couldn’t show up on the hardest day of my life, I had to save myself.

Letting you go was my choice, one that felt like wildfire spreading in the pit of my stomach. It was not easy to walk in the other direction. It was not easy to turn you away when you tried to come back.

And it sure as hell wasn’t easy when you found your new supply, but kept telling me “I love you, I miss you, I’m sorry, I wish I was with you.” You fought for me. You still wanted a future together. And you have no idea how incredibly heart wrenching it was to plant my feet firm and tell you it wasn’t possible.

My friends often ask if I miss you. I can’t deny that in the days since our split, I haven’t longed for the moments we loved each other so fiercely that we saw only each other in a crowded room. I have missed drinking Chianti in bed you with you, our quick movements staining the white sheets purple. I have missed the way my whole body fit against your chest, my legs curled up and my face buried in the crook of your neck. The late night pizza and horror movies and every “you’re my favorite” in between. The poem you wrote me, the flowers you sent, the time we were slow dancing and you whispered, “I knew you were special the moment I met you.”

I am still struggling to cure the hangover you caused. The usual remedies won’t work on this one. To this day, I still don’t think you understand the affect your words and actions had on someone as thick-skinned as me. Even months later, I often find myself so anxious that I can’t keep food down, or that my hands are too shaky to take notes at work. I am terrified that one day I will meet a man who treats me well and, fearful of repeated history, run the other way.

All I know is this: I do deserve better. I deserve someone who will give to me what I give to them. Someone who doesn’t drop the crystal ball.

I don’t know how long it will take to fix what you broke, to reverse the emotional abuse I now know I went through. It may take longer than I’d like. I’m sure it will. This recovery will take more than a few glasses of wine and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s with my best friend, but I know I have to try. Day by day, I am learning to love myself again. I am working to win that feeling back, to alleviate this hangover until my body no longer aches, until I am ready to walk outside and find this world beautiful once again. TC mark

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