The initial stage is denial.
That first week, I would wake up every morning – 8 a.m. on the dot – shaken from a nightmare, dripping in sweat. I would think frantically, “What am I doing? I need to call him right now and make this right!”
And I would cry.
Because my heart was shattered, but my brain was not. And it was telling me exactly what I didn’t want to hear – that you shouldn’t chase after something you don’t want to catch.
And that was the beginning of my slow, slow path to recovery.
At first, I was angry, convinced our relationship was just one big lie. This threw me into self-destruction mode; leaving my friends to clean up the mess I left behind – fits of tears, vomit…whatever it may be.
And my brain began to churn out a steady playback of all the things that had ever gone wrong between us – every fight, every breakdown, every dig and blow to the ego. And my brain persuaded me to believe that our relationship had been merely a game. My brain persuaded me to believe we were just lone pieces of a battle that could never be won.
I cursed myself for having so many thoughts…for even caring, actually. Questioning myself. Always questioning myself.
But all along there was something else happening. I was learning. I didn’t realize it then because I was so stuck in my own mind…but I was doing this thing called self-actualizing.
Instead of shrugging it off as “just another breakup,” I questioned the shit out of it. I questioned why the relationship began; I questioned why I let it continue. I questioned what I liked about him, and what I think he liked about me. I questioned my constant need for attention, my random crying fits, the passive-aggressive ways I tried to manipulate our relationship. And yes, questioning these things hurt.
Because it meant I hadn’t always been right.
It would have been so much easier to deny everything, blame him for the demise of our relationship. And trust me, I wanted to. I wanted to be the most immature ex you had ever met. I visualized it, sometimes.
But these rage-y thoughts lasted mere seconds before I was calming myself down, tossing that ego back into its’ confines.
“You’ve been so mature throughout this, Meg,” friends would say to me.
“Thanks,” I would say through a cracked smile, my mind flitting back to just nights before when I ripped out eight shots of Jäger and let my Instagram story do the rest of the talking.
It was an ego thing. I wanted to look like I was better off without him. Like I had my shit together (though I realize now that Jäger -filled frenzies are not the answer,) and not just that, but I wanted my shit to be together 10 million times better than his shit. Ridiculous, I know.
My ego had become my worst enemy, and my biggest supporter.
Strangely, the thing I questioned the most was her – and after all that questioning I realized something as disheartening as it was surprising.
I hadn’t been falling in love.
I had been falling in need.
That damn ego. Always looking for attention. Validation. Distraction. Love.
I used my relationship as a void to fill those needs.
And man did this destroy me. Because I had this answer and no idea what the solution was. Unless self-acceptance was the solution, in which case, wouldn’t that take years?
I have come to find out that the answer is, “no.” Self-acceptance isn’t a destination. Because we’re always changing, aren’t we? Always questioning, adapting, making mistakes…and then repeating the process. It’s a constant loop.
It took me months – pushing past the denial, anger, and issues of self-worth– to finally understand this breakup. To understand that a bad relationship can be turned into a positive experience. I’m thankful I was forced to question myself. Because suddenly now I’m more in tune with my emotions. I appreciate myself just a little bit more, explain myself a little bit less. I’m making efforts to drop the ego and just be.
And I’m beginning to care without expectation.