Let me start by saying this post has been a long time coming. Like, at least a year, probably more.
And really, a lot has happened to me over the past year or – if I’m really honest – two. And really a lot of it wasn’t nice at all. And somewhere along the way, I kind of just disappeared. And even though I’ve felt better for a while now, it’s still somehow only just now that I’m really starting to come back from wherever I was.
It’s funny how when things are happening to you time just runs away until you don’t realise that it’s almost too late.
No one ever tells you that – how sometimes when something breaks inside of you it can take this long to fix yourself. That it can literally mean you spending years putting the pieces back together. That you won’t even realise how long it takes or how broken you were until you’re coming out of it and you can look back and see it for what it really was.
I’m not sure if I can even explain the place that I was in or how I got there. I think all I can really say with certainty is that, looking at it now, I was not okay for a long time.
My relationship that ended at the end of 2017 (yup, really, that long ago) was the start of it. If I’m honest, it was such a mess that I still don’t properly understand it even now. It was emotionally and psychologically abusive for one thing, which makes it difficult still for me to figure out what was wrong and right in my head, even now. My ex had anger issues, mental health issues, family issues, alcoholism issues…and I got stuck in an endless cycle of manipulation, fighting, depression, over-drinking, and denial.
I’m still finding it difficult to explain even as I write, because I was made to feel for so long that what I thought and felt was wrong, or crazy, or just…invalid, that writing it now I worry that I am just making things up or making a big deal out of nothing and it was actually all my fault. Basically, how I was made to feel about everything during the relationship. But I guess that’s what happens with mental abuse (and that’s yet another blog post I’ve been trying to write for the past year).
I can’t say for sure if that was the cause of everything else, or if it was a run of bad luck, but to be honest the way that I felt from that relationship – the insecurity and under-confidence, the emotional drainage, the anxiety – it made me into a completely different person who was unable to manage most other things in my life.
They say your external world is a reflection of your internal state, and my internal state was so f*cked up it’s no wonder that everything in my life started to turn that way too.
I got stuck in a “victim” mentality for a long time after it was over and I don’t want to appear that way now. I hate looking back on this and seeing myself as a weak person who just had these things “happen” to her and allowed herself to be treated in such a way. Of course I had a choice in all of these things and I have to accept that my allowing of the situation to happen was my fault, but I was so broken down at the time that I felt trapped and like I had no choice. Or didn’t have the strength to do anything about it.
One of the things that made it take so goddam long to let go of was that I was so angry with myself that I had allowed this to happen to me – that’s what made me realise that I wasn’t who I’d thought I was any more, that I’d lost that girl. Because it had been a cycle of abuse slowly creeping up that I didn’t realise that little by little I was accepting things as normal that weren’t okay at all – that the girl I’d been before would never have accepted if she’d seen them for what they were. I was that frog in a pot of water, slowly heating up without even realising anything was happening until it was at boiling point and it was too late.
It spilled over into all other areas of my life. I took a job that also felt abusive and oppressive which only ended up making my mental state even worse – I’m not sure now if my inability to handle it was because of the way I was being treated in my relationship (and the way my ex would react to me working hard and not spending time with him) or because it was just actually a really bad job. I’m pretty sure it was mostly just a really bad job!
When I left the job, it was almost harder because I was working for myself setting up a business and the emotional swings that my relationship was putting me through were devastating to my ability to work – but I only had myself to rely on. I’d be at home all day trying to focus while still getting abusive argumentative messages over the phone or reeling from the mornings’ fight.
I grew apart from my family and friends, maybe because I wasn’t really there mentally, maybe because I was just so not myself I was scared to let anyone close to me see what was happening, maybe because I had come to rely on an abusive partner so much that I spent less time with anyone else. In classic abusive-relationship style, my ex would constantly tell me how bad my friends were for me and that I shouldn’t spend time with them.
It’s funny because some amazing things happened to me in that year too – after the breakup I started travelling and went to Bali. I think partly as a way to run away from what had happened and give myself a bit of a time-out from the “real world” to stick myself back together.
But inside I was still broken up, still healing from everything that had happened, really still unable to cope. I ended up losing all my money on a bad business deal with a client that went bankrupt, I was lonely, hurting, making bad life choices and love choices left right and centre to try and act like I was okay.
I look back at the girl I was back then and I feel so sad for her, because she thought she was okay, and it’s only now when I am actually okay that I can see just how small and crushed and really not okay she was.
I can’t tell you how many half-written drafts of posts I have on wordpress, camera reels full of photos I took during that time that I never used because I felt so sh*t about myself, things I wanted to say but couldn’t get out, couldn’t work out how to express.
It feels like my words have been stuck in my throat for a long time, aching to be spoken but somehow never finding the right moment.
And now that I’m finally ready, now that I’ve finally stopped regretting and blaming, now that I know who I am again, my final step is to live as that: to finally open my mouth and speak the truth, my truth. So that I can live unburdened, unstuck, uninhibited: free of what’s been holding me down for so long.
I don’t think the worst thing is the time it has taken to feel myself again, the worst thing is realising that even when you feel like your entire world has fallen apart, the rest of the world doesn’t stop.
The earth keeps turning, you have to keep going, you still have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep making ends meet, carry on with the day-to-day things in whatever way you can to keep functioning, working, surviving. And all the while putting on enough of a face to convince people that you can carry on doing whatever it is they’re expecting you to do.
The worst thing is, that while you’re forced to carry on as best you can holding things together, all you can do is watch as other things fall away.
The world doesn’t stop when you stop being able to cope with it. It carries on, and spins away without you, taking your opportunities, dreams, plans, with it.
And that’s what happened to me – I let the other things in my life slide away. I just about kept my business functioning, kept a roof over my head, kept seeing my friends and putting on a brave face and posting on instagram. But everything was the bare minimum, I lived on a just-enough-ness that would get me through but nothing more.
And even though I’ve let go of most of the other hurt from the whole situation, that’s the thing that still hurts me now – thinking about what I lost while I was desperately trying to find myself.
I stopped writing, stopped working on my own projects, let my instagram slowly decline, fell out of touch with people, missed business opportunities, lost contacts. All the things that I had worked so hard to build slowly fell apart. And I just watched.
The worst thing about being in that kind of situation, probably any drawn-out breakup situation where your mental state is affected, is the way that it also infects the rest of your life. I know that I could have been more successful, done more, in this time if I hadn’t been stuck going through that. And that is almost even harder to come to terms with than the breakup itself.
The life you lost that you could-have-might-have-had if it hadn’t happened.
I was so vulnerable that it seemed like a deluge of bad things were happening to me – ‘friends’ stealing my business ideas, losing clients, having not just one but three contracts fall through and lose me a lot of money. When you’re so reliant on yourself for every aspect of your life – especially work – your mental state is everything. You can’t just go into an office, sit at your desk and hope that no one notices you’re only functioning at 40%, or cuts you slack if they do notice.
Everything felt overwhelming, unachievable, when my mind was in that state. I felt so unsure of myself that it’s honestly taken me this long to even be able to start putting myself out there again – emotionally, professionally, creatively – it’s taken this long to start believing that I am good enough again. That the things that happened to me weren’t because I was a bad person, or a failure.
I had to take the time to build myself back up. To fix the parts of me that needed fixing, address the part of myself that had led me here, that had allowed myself to get into this situation.
And I guess that’s another reason I disappeared. Because I was forced to take a long look at myself and my life, and basically change everything. That’s another thing they don’t tell you, how hard you have to work on yourself to get through and let go of these things.
It’s taken a long time, and it’s taken even longer to feel like I’m ready to fully come back and share my thoughts the way they are now. I say ‘ready’, but I’m still not. I’ve been writing and re-writing this post for months, hesitant to press that ‘publish’ button, scared to show myself to the world.
It’s harder to share something that’s true than the sugar-coated, manipulated, manicured version of ourselves we’re all so used to sharing on the internet. It’s easy to hide behind a filter, short captions that give nothing away. But even though I don’t know where it’s going or why, even though it’s scary, I feel like there’s a need in me that is telling me to share the truth of who I have been and who I am now, that it’s time to live authentically as myself, on and offline.
To be honest, I’m not really sure why I’m writing this. Partly because I want to explain. I hate that I disappeared from doing something I loved for so long, I’m gutted that my mental health meant that I let so much slide. That I let a bad time in my life stop me from doing so many of the things I wanted to achieve.
I’m sad that I slipped out of an industry that I wanted to be a part of, and I kind of want to justify why so that anyone who is still reading my story might understand.
Maybe it’s to put my story out into the world, to explain myself a little bit more. To give some context to the way I have been, to show what’s actually behind the things that you might have seen of me on the internet.
Because the strange thing is, you can be completely broken up inside and still look like a normal person. Even a great one.
And feeling like everyone expects you to be fine and no one understands what you’re actually going through inside just adds to the hurt.
Maybe it’s just cathartic. Maybe I have to put it all into words before I can move on and fully become myself again, because I’ve still felt held back from the weight of the words unsaid.
It’s taken a hell of a lot of healing. I’ve had to be really, deeply honest with myself about the things that I’m responsible for that led me into that place. The disrespect I treated myself with. My weaknesses, my shortcomings.
To be completely honest, it’s still a journey that I’m on. There are still places that feel bruised, there are still triggers that flare up when certain things happen, or when I try to open up to other relationships. There are ghosts, flickers of recognition, reminders that I see in other people, other situations, that show me I’m still learning, still healing. That the patterns I followed into that place are still there, under the surface. That I’m still working on changing them.
The parts of me that were broken might have grown back but they’re still new, still not as strong as they were. But I’m hoping they will grow back stronger this time. I’m hoping that sharing my story and being honest about who I am and how I got here will help me to take the next step forward into the next place in my life. Hopefully a much healthier, happier one.