It’s taken me a while to write this post. I’ve kept putting it off every time I’ve come to write it, and I’m now writing it just a few days before it will be posted. I’ve found this one the hardest to write for different reasons to the others. With the others, I’ve been apprehensive about opening myself up in a way that leaves me vulnerable and open to judgement. But this one’s different. I’m nervous to write this one because some of the things I felt are still pretty raw. But I said from the start that I wanted to be honest as much as I could be, so here it is.
Heartbreak really is a truly awful thing. I’ve experienced heartbreak before. When my first relationship ended. When my grandparents passed away. When my friendship ended with my best friend. Multiple times. More times than I wish I had. And yet, it’s never gotten easier. I’ll experience heartbreak again, I’m not naive enough to think that I won’t. But I won’t be ready for it, because you never really are, are you? Especially not when it comes completely out of the blue. Especially not when you think things are good, but get the rug pulled from under your feet. That’s been the worst kind of heartbreak for me, the one I never saw coming.
By Christmas, I’d ‘officially’ been with my boyfriend since October, with a few extra months added on for dating and all that stuff. So the relationship was still relatively new. But because we’d already known each other for a few years, and had some history, feelings progressed a bit quicker (or they did on my part, I’m not here to put words in anyone else’s mouth). The relationship had been good. He made me happy and it was all going fairly well. But then Christmas happened. Or more specifically, the sexual assault happened. The first few weeks after are still a bit of a blur. I know he was there for me, a lot. And he was very supportive not just for me, but for my parents too. He constantly reassured me that we’d get through it, and that we’d get through it together because we were “a team”. I felt extremely lucky that everything that was going on wasn’t coming between us, because I know that some people aren’t so fortunate.
So as I said, the first few weeks are still a blur. But we got through it. We saw each other a lot, but it took a bit of time before we were spending the night together again. We both knew that things were tough for each other, and neither of us wanted to rush anything. For a while, we were just taking things day by day, that’s all we could do. As much as things were affecting me, I knew they were affecting him too, and some days were a lot harder than others emotionally. There were days when all I wanted to do was be around him, and days when all I wanted to do was be alone. And I’m sure he felt the same way at times too. But eventually, things started getting back to some kind of ‘normal’. And by normal, I mean as normal as things could be when the topic of everything going on takes over almost every conversation. Not necessarily just between ourselves, but with friends too. We had a great support network, both together and separately, and I’ll always be very grateful for that, but it could sometimes feel like I couldn’t avoid the topic. But in the end, that just became our new normal, just as everything in my life started to become a ‘new normal’, and we managed to work through it to get back to what seemed like a happy, relatively normal relationship.
Because the relationship was still fairly new, we were having to learn a lot about each other in a very short space of time. We’d never been through anything in the relationship which caused such heightened emotions, bad days and mental health issues before. It was new for both of us, and some days we didn’t always get it right. We were having to learn to notice when the other was having a bad day or was feeling low, and we were having to try and know how to deal with that as well as our own feelings. It was tough, and it was a situation which I think we underestimated. But we both knew that what had happened wasn’t going to be something that caused the end of us, we were determined that we wouldn’t let that happen, so we worked through it.
I’ve mentioned in one of my last posts that the relationship post sexual assault didn’t come without its difficulties. The main issue being that I was struggling pretty badly with anxiety and depression, and linked to this meant that I had a lot of issues with myself. Low self esteem, lack of confidence and feeling insecure to name a few. And these issues had a knock on effect on how I felt been in a relationship. I constantly felt like I wasn’t good enough for my boyfriend. I constantly felt like he could do better, and in my head I convinced myself that he wanted better. I wasn’t always good at articulating all of these feelings, which sometimes meant that they came out in the wrong way. Sometimes quite abruptly, or sometimes in an argumentative way if he said or did something that upset me and triggered one of those emotions. I was taking things to heart a lot, and sometimes taking things out of context. Things I used to be able to take as a joke were now bothering me, and I know that caused us issues at times. I’d always had quite a jokey relationship with my boyfriend, but because of how I was feeling, jokes became digs. I saw banter as the truth. And I just couldn’t brush things off, or banter back like I used to. Some days I could and some days I couldn’t, which meant my boyfriend would try to joke with me, and have no idea how it would be received or how I’d react. And sometimes I’d take his jokes really personally. Going to counselling was really helping me at this time. Stacey explained to me the process in which our brain deals with logical and irrational thoughts. And even though I knew some of the things I was worrying about in my relationship were irrational, I was still struggling to think about them logically. In time though, I was able to put into practice what Stacey was teaching me, and although it didn’t make things great all of the time, it did really help me a lot.
One of the other things I began struggling with around this time was the start of an eating disorder. It was in no means linked directly to my relationship, or due to how he was making me feel, it was because of how I felt within myself. I’d lost count of how many days I’d sat in front of a mirror and cried at what I saw. I hated my body, from the inside out. I hated what I saw looking back at me. I’d sit and criticise every single thing about me, from my hair colour to my weight. And some part of me felt like changing the way I looked would solve so many of my problems. Of course I was wrong, but I was thinking irrationally. And so it started that I was making myself sick. It wasn’t every day, but when it did happen it could be once or twice in a night, at its worst it could be 5 times in the space of a few hours. And in all honesty, at no point did it ever really make me feel better. At no point did I ever love myself any more than I did before being sick. It was all in my head. It got to a point where I didn’t want to do it anymore, I knew it was wrong but I didn’t really know how to stop. Eventually I told my parents what I was doing, and although they didn’t understand it they were very supportive. I then spoke to my counsellor about it, and in time I realised not only how silly I was being for thinking it would solve anything, but how dangerous it was! I’m extremely lucky that I was able to talk about what I was doing whilst it was in its early stages, so that I could get help and stop it before it became something that controlled me. Eating disorders can be so dangerous and can have long lasting effects on the body. And I’m so grateful that I never got to that stage.
In order to be as honest as I want to be, that means talking about the down side to situations. However, in between the difficult times were a lot of good times in the relationship too. I don’t want it to seem like everyday was hell because it wasn’t. We had plenty of good days together and talked about things which we wanted to do in the future. Yes, there were bad days. Yes, some days were more intense than others. Yes, we had some arguments. But show me a relationship which is perfect and happy every single day. At no point would I ever have said that we had a bad relationship.
After I’d overcome the eating disorder, aired a lot of my issues at counselling, started looking to get back into work and felt all round slightly better in myself, I thought things were on the up. Things had gotten better with my boyfriend, with the exception of a few arguments which we spoke about and I thought we’d moved on from, and we’d decided to book a holiday. We were having a lot more good days than bad and I really did feel like finally, things were starting to get better and we could all begin to move forward. But one Saturday I met up with my boyfriend to go for a walk, and within 5 minutes of getting there he’d ended the relationship. My heart sank. I didn’t know what to say. I just cried. This had come completely out of the blue for me. I don’t know how long he’d been thinking about it, but there’d been no warning. No conversation of it been a possibility. No chance of us trying to work through it. Nothing. All that kept playing over in my head was how many times I was told that we were a team, but now all of a sudden we weren’t. And once again that overwhelming feeling of been alone hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t think I really said much back, I had no idea what to say. I was actually just in shock. I knew he must have had his reasons for doing it but I thought things were going well. Just 2 weeks before we’d booked a holiday together. That means at some point in those 2 weeks he’d decided that he didn’t want me anymore. And to me that meant that 2 weeks or less was all it took to decide to throw me away. We sat in silence for a while. My mum even text me saying “have a nice day xx” – that’s how unexpected the whole thing was. I thought we were just going to have a nice walk, not going to end the relationship. I went back home and cried, a lot. I tucked myself up in bed, wrapped myself as tightly as possible in my quilt, and I cried myself to sleep.
I’ve decided to split this into two parts, a then and now. So this was my journey up until the end of my relationship, and the next part will follow on with my journey after.