One of the most profound realisations of growing up is that our lives very rarely unfold the way we’d have thought they would and adversity is the only constant. Especially, us millennials — we’re a bunch of broken and wounded people who patch up bullet holes with band-aids and keep going on and about with our regular lives as if nothing’s happened.
We bottle up our emotions, drown ourselves in distractions and convince ourselves that we’re ‘fine’. But being convinced that we’ve healed and healing are two very different things, wouldn’t you agree?
In case you don’t, I would like to tell you exactly why I said that.
Pain Demands to Be Felt, No Matter How Much You Try To Bury It
Dealing with a brutal breakup, while living in an already turbulent household, for two months amidst the lockdown almost killed me. But four months later, I was sure that I was all whole and healed. Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement but I was doing a lot better.
I tried to seek closure, put in my hours with the therapist, annoyed every friend to death and started seeing new people. I held my head high and ensured I don’t spare one minute of my day to these emotions from the past. Until one day, I woke up with that knot in my stomach springing to life again.
All the pain that I had fought and buried, crept up without a warning.
On a dark, gloomy afternoon, there I was, crying my eyes out and smoking one cigarette after another until my throat was choked and wondered ‘how did I get back here when I had gotten past it?’ After a while, I calmed myself and picked up the phone to fix my face.
I froze as the date caught my eye. It was the day that would’ve been my one year anniversary. I didn’t remember because we always referred to the month and never to the actual date while we were together. But my heart remembered. It knew. Or maybe my mind did. I don’t know. Somehow, my body knew. While I don’t believe in theatrics at the least, when such things happen to you, your entire worldview can change in a blink.
For weeks afterwards, I refused to acknowledge those feelings. Every time the grief tried to resurface, I found a new distraction. “It’s been six months, you’re over it. Just stop focusing on it” I would tell myself. Thereby letting myself believe the illusion that I was creating for everyone else.
Until it happened again, in the week that I had tagged as the ‘golden week’ of my life, a year ago. It was a week I had spent with my ex only to realise that we were not just dating, I was madly in love with him. I packed it with dates, work and activities so I don’t obsess over my ex when it arrives, this year.
That week I learnt, the body does not function like that.
Eventually, one night I had to shut my door and face the elephant in the room. I let myself break and cry. But I didn’t stop. Even in my sleep, I couldn’t find peace. I woke up around eight times in a span of ten hours and every single time I slept, I dreamt of him. To the extent that ‘awake’ me could feel his presence and his smell. I could picture his smile and hear his voice. It took every fibre of my being to stop myself from reaching out to him.
It takes a lot of courage to admit you love someone. But to admit that you love someone who left you in ruins and moved on with someone else, that needs a certain kind of courage, shamelessness and lack of self-worth that I do not think I have. I may be in love and heartbroken but I still value myself enough to draw a line where it needs to be drawn, however hard doing that may be.
So I pushed myself to sleep and stayed away from all mediums of contacting him. When I woke up, I felt just as devastated as I had the previous night and cried for hours again until I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
Letting go is easy but truly moving on is harder than you’d assume
I knew I needed help but I didn’t want to admit it. Not to myself and especially not to anyone else. I was tired of playing like a broken record. I was terrified that my friends and family will look at me as an idiot still lamenting over a guy who replaced me within weeks and never looked back.
I also have one hell of an ego which was causing my blinding rage. But the crying and bleeding, those were more a crisis of the self. When you are blindsided by someone you loved; when you’re left hurt and betrayed, you question every little thing about your entire existence.
Was I a stupid girl who fell for the wrong guy? Well, I am (definitely) not stupid and he wasn’t the wrong guy. He was simply wonderful until he wasn’t.
So I was a selfish idiot who did not care about my partner’s needs? I believe I am a good person, a giver, I pay attention to details, so probably no to this too.
Was I that unlovable and so easy to replace? I may not know what went down with him but I do know ‘unlovable’ isn’t a thing and replacing people is always hard. For everyone, no exceptions. But the heart doesn’t accept logical thinking.
The pain, the doubt, stems from our sense of self left rattled by the trauma we suffered and the only way we can get better is by facing it in all its entirety.
Healing is not linear. Some days will be harder than others and that’s okay.
Anyone who has known real pain will understand when I say that pain manifests itself in the body. It makes your head feel heavy, you lose appetite and sleep, you feel like every artery and vein in your chest has entwined into a knot that’s crushing you from the inside.
Ever wondered what it means in Netflix lingo when they talk about the Void or hitting rock bottom? Trauma is the speediest ticket to that land.
And yes, I’m calling it trauma. Because contrary to popular belief, anything that affects your heart and mind deeply can leave just as much of an impact as a traumatic physical injury would. One of my friends was kind enough to tell me that abandonment issues are very real and that I wasn’t the total wreck I was assuming I was.
Having majored in psychology, she pointed out that I was experiencing symptoms of PTRS, a form of PTSD. It makes your recovery a nightmare and according to Psychology Today, left untreated it can jeopardise your future relationships as well.
Pent up emotions tend to catch us by surprise when we are confident that we’ve healed. Most days, you will wake up feeling okay but some days you feel yourself breaking apart and you will have no idea how to make it stop. Do not let that intimidate you because healing is never linear.
The first step to healing is accepting that you’re wounded. The next step is assessing just how much damage has been done.
People may show you silver linings and offer lessons or they may comfort you with “It could’ve been worse. This is still okay. You can get through this.”
Sure, you will. But pain isn’t comparative. Pain is pain. It hurts and bleeds the same, no matter the cause of it. Don’t ever think that you are overreacting. You aren’t. You are being brave and you are accepting things with honesty. You can fight the enemy only when you know exactly how strong they are.
We are a generation of intense, obsessive and passionate people. We get into the dating scene at a very young age and by the time we ‘grow up’, we have a closet full of lost loves, almost relationships and quite often, abusive partners that leave us with repressed emotions and suppressed anger. The trauma of it all leaves us scarred and broken in places we didn’t even know could hurt.
You can’t slap on a band-aid on a bullet hole and expect the wounds to close. If you downplay or underestimate the amount of pain you feel, you’re never going to truly heal. I learnt it the hard way. I am now done with my step one and two. I shall seek the help I need to unearth the layers of pain I have been burying so I can figure out ways to actually heal.
If you’ve been handed such fate, I hope you too gather the strength to do so.