I know this is all sorts of taboo. It’s been two years now since the end of my last long term relationship. In our society and culture, there is this pressure to get over things, move on, leave them in the past.
But the truth is, I still think about that relationship a lot. As I dive deeper into self work, and get to understand myself, my patterns and my behaviors, it is inevitable that I start to look at my past – past significant moments and especially past relationships – to see how my wounds (i.e., trauma) have showed up and influenced my life.
I have been very reluctant to write about this relationship again, in part because of the taboo around it; I fear I will come across as a crazy person who is stuck in the past and just can’t move on. “Get over it, already”, I have been telling myself for the past two years. But like any loss, I really do believe that the hurt never leaves; it just lessens, and we get used to it. I also think that until we truly process our emotions around difficult events and loss, they will continue to come up in unexpected (and often unwelcomed) ways.
I am reminded of this quote:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”Carl Jung
The other reason I have been reluctant is because I really do want to respect my ex, his privacy and his need to leave this in the past. I know he has been in a relationship with someone for some time, and I worry that this will upset him/them, to unearth things from the past.
What I know now is that this is not about him, nor about the need to correct or justify the way the relationship was, and then wasn’t.
The reason I feel called to share is because this has been a huge struggle for me. In all aspects of my healing, it has been inevitable that I look back at that relationship to better understand myself. Unfortunately, it has been something I have struggled with behind closed doors. Something I have even been scared to bring up in therapy, for fear of sounding like a broken record.
What I know from my past sharing is that the most transformative and helpful posts (both for myself and for others), have been the ones about my deepest and darkest shame-filled struggles.
If you haven’t known or read me long enough to know what relationship I am referring to, you can read about it in my original post here.
What I would like to share today is how much my perspective and understanding of that relationship (and mostly, how I showed up in it) has changed in the last two years, but especially in the last few months.
As I learn more about things like our autonomic nervous system, the polyvagal theory, trauma and trauma informed care, mind-body medicine and internal family systems, I am starting to have a new way of looking at my past struggles with emotions, mood and my general state of health.
I honestly even struggle to use the term “mental health” anymore because I now understand that my “symptoms” of depression, anxiety and panic, have actually just been that – symptoms.
And no, not symptoms of a disease or a pathology, as I have so long believed. But rather, symptoms of my trauma. Symptoms of my dysregulation. Symptoms of my deep suffering.
So, when I look back at the relationship with my ex, unlike I wrote in the first blog, I no longer think that “my struggles with my mental health” drove us apart.
Instead, I recognize that, because of my sensitivity, my childhood, epigenetics, trauma, dysregulation and brilliant (yet unconscious) protective mechanisms, I was not able to safely and securely attach to my ex. At least, not all the time.
Despite how much I loved him, how much we got along great, how supportive he was, and how much I tried to feel connected and stay connected to him, there were many unconscious forces at play, signaling me to “get the fuck out”.
That’s where things were immensely confusing for me at the time – and continue to be – as I try to understand what happened for me.
I wrote about it in the first post – that moment where I broke down crying, telling him I couldn’t do it anymore, and he pulled up a chair in front of me, sitting down as in to talk it all out, fight for the relationship. In that moment, I remember feeling absolutely crazy. I was so sad and unhappy, but I had no rational explanation as to why. He asked me what was wrong? What could we do? And I could not come up with anything.
That has bothered me ever since. What the fuck was wrong with me that I could spend three years with someone, and at times feel completely in love, genuinely planning a future, and the next feeling terribly lonely, sad and annoyed.
My conclusion had been that I was messed up, and whatever was wrong with me, my ex did not deserve to be treated the way I treated him. He deserved to be with someone who loved him and was sure about the relationship. Someone who was not crazy, not broken. Someone who was not me.
I cry as I write this.
I am honestly angry. I am filled with fucking anger at the fact that my struggles have been presented to me as a pathology, as a disease, as my inherent wrongness.
I am also deeply sad. I am filled with grief for the things I have lost because I did not previously have the understanding, the support and the tools I have so desperately needed to understand myself, to accept myself and to be myself.
This grief runs deep, as I start to gain awareness of how much I have rejected, depressed and hated myself over the years. I am only now truly becoming aware of it. I think it’s pretty evident when you read the above – very harsh words to be speaking to oneself. Sigh.
I am so sad for myself. Yet I know now that I have acted in those ways out of pure survival. My nervous system and my young brain developed these habits as a way to protect me, as a way to stay connected to others and to feel loved – things that we literally need to survive as humans.
I don’t blame any one person. I have been truly blessed with loving parents, family and friends who have done the best they possibly could to support me and communicate their love for me. I have been helped by professionals who said and acted in the ways they had been taught to by our medical and social care system.
But unfortunately, our current understanding of “mental health” is truly lacking, at best. At worst, it reduces peoples’ experience of “mental illness” to an individual problem. When in reality, our “mental illness” is itself a symptom of a deeply complex interplay of biological, psychological, relational and environmental factors.
All that to say that, no, I am not “over” my ex.
And you kwow what, I don’t want to be.
At least, not until I am ready to be. I refuse to think that the best way to live my life is to dissociate from my past and repress the emotions that come up as my body and mind remember these past experiences. Because clearly, I still have some processing to do, there is still something to learn. And that’s okay.
For now, I choose to embrace my past and to lovingly explore these difficult emotions. For as long as I can remember, I have depressed and rejected my Self for all of my deep and intense emotions. But it seems this [unconscious] approach has not served me well. May these big emotions be my guide as I continue on this journey back to my True Self.