It’s safe to say that 2015 was the worst year of my life. Melodramatic, I know – but when you’re living it, it feels like your whole world is crashing down around you. In fact, it’s comparable to that really bad morning you once had. You know, when you stubbed your little toe on the corner of the coffee table. It’s no wonder that little piggy cried all the way home. It doesn’t end there though. Just as you think the pain is dissipating, you realise that you spilled your tea all over your new dress and damn it burns. And now you’re now running late for work, fantastic!
When will you catch a break?
Unfortunately, I found myself asking this question for the entirety of a year. My trials weren’t secluded to just a bad morning, although I wish they had been. The reason I wanted to tell my story which may sound trivial to some, is because no matter what we as human beings are going through, whether it be a bad morning, a bad week, a bad few months or a horrendous few years – it’s how we deal with what the universe has planned for us which will determine whether our lives will follow a positive or negative path. Although some problems may come across as more severe than others, there’s no telling how each individual will be able to deal with the issue at hand as everyone’s psyche is unique. As are some souls more evolved than others, thus allowing them to perhaps be better equipped to deal with certain tribulations where others may struggle.
My hope is that for anyone going through a tough time who reads my story, you will be able to gain some insight into what helped me get through the tunnel to which I saw no light at the end. I’m not going to tell you that you will be okay. In fact, you’re going to hurt like hell, and you might not be okay. Just know that what you’re feeling is normal, and you are certainly not alone.
A Friday afternoon in April
We had been together for three years, two months and sixteen days. Like any relationship we had our ups and downs, but fundamentally, we loved each other. The last six months however were telling that times were changing. I could feel him withdraw, his priorities quickly changed and I unfortunately wasn’t on that list anymore. This, coupled with his constant mood swings made certain for a roller coaster ride of emotions on my part. I questioned my self-worth and when I finally had built enough courage to speak up in an attempt to make him realise that I wanted this to work – that changes would need to be made regarding effort on both our parts, he decided to take the easy way out over a fifteen minute phone conversation while I was at work.
Under normal circumstances, break ups are never easy, but try going through a break up when you suffer from anxiety.
I had suffered from social anxiety ever since I was a child. Going out to parties, shopping centres and various functions made me nervous. As I got older, I was able to deal with the anxiety a little better – so much so, I actually loved socialising, going out and meeting new people. Weird right? I never understood it either, and the nervousness was something I never was able to fully control. It was my relationship with him however that really helped me manage it. I felt at home with him. He loved me for who I was, I felt protected and for the most part – I didn’t feel ashamed of my anxiety anymore.
Understandably the break up caused my anxiety to spiral out of control. I instantly started having panic attacks again. I couldn’t sleep. And the scariest part? I could not physically eat anything. Not only could I not keep anything down, my body had become so anxious that I physically couldn’t swallow any food and the smell of food put me off even further. As you can see, this had the potential to become quite dangerous very quickly, especially for a petite framed girl such as myself. I definitely couldn’t afford to lose any more weight.
To make things worse, my sister ended up breaking her wrist the night following the break up and ended up in hospital, requiring surgery. My poor mum now had one daughter with a fractured wrist and another at home with a broken heart. It certainly didn’t help my nervous state and finally my body couldn’t take it any longer. Hyperventilating and fainting in my bathroom, my dad called the ambulance in fear for my life.
My blood sugar levels had dropped so low that my body completely shut itself down. I commend paramedics for what they do, however their main aim is to fix the physical issue at hand, not focus on the mental aspect. They forced me to eat toast with jam, and skittles and drink some juice until my levels returned to normal. As soon as they left, the food uncontrollably came back up.
It wasn’t until I was out of it I had realised I had become so dependent on the relationship that it was almost like the oxygen mask had been ripped away from my face. The essence of what was keeping me alive was no longer there. How would I survive without him in my life? I was told that it wasn’t the end of the world and that I had my whole life ahead of me, but you can’t say that to someone who thought of him as their world.
As you can imagine, I became a shell of who I once was. In fact, I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I didn’t want to go out, I was too nervous to leave the house and I remember going to the shops on a once-off occasion which resulted in me breaking down in tears and needing to immediately leave.
With an impending Europe trip around the corner which had been booked months prior with friends, I was very worried about being well enough to go away. Little did I know my first overseas trip would be my saviour, but more on that later.
Learning to live again after a break up is like learning to walk as a baby. The process is slow and frustrating, but with every fall, you get back up again. You’ll cry and you’ll laugh. You’ll try, and try and try again until you learn to stand on your own two feet. They are your first steps into independence and your first steps into freedom.
For me, I felt as though the universe kept pushing me down by sending reminders of the relationship I once had. I kept running into him at the station after work and I kept running into his friends. I’m a big believer of universal symbolism, in the form of reoccurring numbers, animals, songs and names. Sure enough, these things kept arising and I found myself asking when the hell I’d catch a break?
First and foremost I needed to seek help. My mind was all sorts of messed up so I finally started seeing a psychologist and jumped on anti-depressants to assist with my inflated anxiety. I must stress that I did not want to find a quick-fix in the form of medication, nor did I want to be on the meds for the rest of my life. I was assured by my GP that the medication would help me get through this difficult time at which point she would help me wean off them. A part of me felt embarrassed to jump on this medication and the irony lay in that a big issue in my past relationship was his severe mood swings and undiagnosed depressive state. Yet here I was, jumping on anti-depressants, but hey, this was the first step in getting me back to good health.
My psychologist is my saving grace. She normalised the way I was feeling, comparing the grieving process to a traumatic event, similar to the death of someone close to you. She introduced helpful breathing and meditative techniques into my life to also help with the anxiety. She set a task for me to create a self-care manual in the event I found myself in this position again. I filled my manual with all the things I love to do that keep me calm and relaxed. I suggest if you are going through a difficult time, to do the same. It is a beautiful reminder to take care of yourself in times of crisis. She also encouraged me to be a little more selfish than so selfless all the time. There’s a fine line, but all you emotional rescuers out there would know that once you start to always put the needs of others before your own, it’s a quick slope to supressed feelings and detriment. I started to invest in new clothes, make up and adopted my therapist’s ‘red lippy’ theory, in which she encourages you to wear bright lippy on the days you wake up feeling down. When you look good, you tend to feel good so no matter how shit you feel, get up, wash your face and pucker up.
Work was also a fantastic distraction. I threw myself wholeheartedly into my work and my colleagues banded around me and cared for me in a way I will always be thankful for. When you see these people on a daily basis, they really do become like a second family and I am grateful to have been lucky enough to work with such understanding people.
I should also mention at this point that a big part of regaining my independence was that I needed to get my licence. This was a major step in my developmental process. Being almost 23 and unlicensed isn’t something to brag about and the guilt of having to depend on others for lifts was really weighing me down emotionally. I thankfully got my act together and was able to pass my test shortly before leaving for my European adventure. As you can see, these were all baby steps necessary in helping me stand alone on my own two feet – without having to be dependent on others and without having to depend on him.
I have always been quite spiritual but I hadn’t delved so deep into spirituality until this year. It’s true that in times of crisis we as humans look for answers, typically within a universal power or higher being. I’m not going to bang on about God or what I believe to be right or wrong, but I do believe it is integral to have some sort of belief system, even if that belief is within ourselves. I discovered the power of crystals and their potential to help the healing process. I continued with meditation and had intentions to get back into yoga upon my return from my trip. I began to read books written by John Edward, Anthony Strano and Jenny Smedley. I tapped into the spiritual benefits of meditation, positive affirmations and recognising universal signs and symbolism. Now before I get too airy fairy on you, my point in short is that these were all tools I found useful when dealing with my healing process. I found comfort in these things and I encourage you to find what you best find solace in, and stick to it. Whether it be writing, sport, reading or photography, do it and do it with passion and your whole being. You’ll be amazed at the benefits of finding your belief system, even if it is within a hobby or physical task.
Day by day, step by step I was slowly getting better. It was my trip however that helped me along in leaps and bounds. Never having travelled overseas before, or been away from my family for that long a period of time – this would be major test for my independence.
I’m glad to say that I didn’t get too home sick (sorry mum and dad) but I believe it was the right time for me to get away and experience life in a new light. Seeing the sights of the world really brought things into perspective for me. How trivial and insignificant my issues were within my little bubble when compared to the vast array of opportunities the world had to offer. It finally clicked, that yes – it wasn’t the end of the world for me, it was only the beginning and I was able to experience it in all of its glory.
I wish I could say that’s all it took to make me better and I was completely healed at this point, but anyone who has been through a loss of any kind knows you will always have your good and your bad days. Don’t get me wrong, I had the time of my life, but there were days I cried wishing I could call him to tell him about all the things I had witnessed from across the globe.
I remember standing atop the cliffs of Oia in Santorini. I liken the healing process to the climb to the top of these cliffs. Damn it’s hard and strenuous. At times you question when you’ll see the light again. The climb isn’t easy and in the words of Miley Cyrus, ‘it’s always going to be an uphill battle’ but when you get to the top, it’s bloody beautiful and I guarantee you will never experience anything like it. Sometimes we have to go through shitty and painful times to appreciate the beautiful sunset waiting for us at the top of the mountain.
One more blow
The second last night of the trip was spent in Berlin. My friends and I decided to do a pub crawl to end the trip on a high note. After a long night of dancing… and perhaps a few drinks later, we decided to head back to the hotel. As I turned to say something to my best friend, I felt my knee pop out of place, causing me to fall to the ground. I was unable to stand and my knee was still dislocated. Lying on the cobblestone road, an ambulance was called, while a half-naked British man offered his shirt to me as a pillow (see, it’s not all so bad – positive thinking does wonders).
I was taken to hospital where x-rays were performed, confirming that I had dislocated my patella. The paramedics had popped it back into place prior to me getting to hospital however I still couldn’t bend my leg and the swelling was severely apparent. I left with a leg brace and some crutches but my independence was again lost on the cobblestone road in front of the bar.
I realised very quickly I was unable to go to the bathroom on my own, or get myself in and out of bed. It’s safe to say, the flight home was quite a task for everyone involved. Needing to get wheeled around in a wheelchair was also an eye opening experience. People look at you like you’re dying and sympathy was the last thing I wanted.
I will never forget getting wheeled off the Qantas plane. Mum took one look at me and burst into tears. The hardest part of this blow was losing my independence all over again, I had just taken all the steps necessary to recovery and here I was, unable to walk, climb my stairs in my double-story home or even shower by myself. After bathing me one day my mum was unable to get me out of the bathtub, she called my dad and he helped to lift me out, trying to not cause any more damage to my knee. I remember standing there with a towel wrapped around me freezing and crying, yelling at my mum to find a loose top for me to chuck on. Hesitant she gave me a top that used to belong to him – the only thing that was clean since returning from my holiday. I burst into tears as she helped me put it on, and I vowed from that moment that I needed to get rid of everything he had ever given me once I was well enough.
And this is exactly what I did. I had to attend weekly physio to strengthen my muscles surrounding my knee. Being so petite, and having done so much walking throughout the trip, it caused my muscles to give out, ultimately allowing the knee to slide out of place. I had intentions to get stronger after the break up. To attend yoga again and to go to the gym, but I am still recovering and unable to train as I would have hoped just yet.
Three months after the dislocation I was able-bodied enough to drop all the cards, clothes, jewellery and toys he had ever given me at his door step. I couldn’t bring myself to throw these things away, nor did I want to sell them. I wanted him to do as he pleases with them. I had consulted a few of my friends about doing so and had mixed responses. At the end of the day, closure was never something I received from this ending, so this was me attempting to create my own form of closure, and regain a sense of power I had once lost to him. It felt exhilarating to be able to let these things go and I truly feel I can now continue to move on and heal the best way I know how.
A new chapter
I guess you could say my story is a bit like a modern-day Eat, Pray, Love scenario. I’m still healing, still learning and still trying to move on with my life. I don’t know what the future holds, but what I do know is that I don’t have to go through this journey alone. For anyone going through a hard time right now, I want you to know that sometimes you won’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but you will see glimpses. And there will be times you’ll find yourself in darkness once again, but you have to light your own torch to lead the way. Lead the way to positivity and self-nurturing, rather than self-destruction and chaos.
Follow me on my journey discovering self-love and healing for the mind, body and spirit.