How do I start? I mean, when your world has just been blown into tiny bits and your heart has been ripped from your chest, how do you keep going? How do you stop the ever flowing acidic tears? How do you stop feeling your heart being ripped out over and over? How do you keep living?
The night my husband of five years, partner and support system for eight, walked out on me, these questions played in my mind. As I sat in the shower, water so hot my skin was blister red, I asked myself how? I faced the water and let it burn my face so I couldn't feel the tears run down. After all, if you can't feel them are you really crying?
Finally I couldn’t keep the words in, and screamed them out into the universe. How can I go on? How could he leave me? What am I supposed to do now? I screamed and cried until the water was cold and no longer hid the burn of my tears.
I stepped out of the shower, the first one I'd taken alone in years, and I’m sure the first of many more to come, into the cold of our bedroom. Well, now it was MY bedroom. I looked around. Everything seemed to still be there, to still be normal. Except it felt so empty; in less than 4 hours all the love and warmth was sucked out.
I trudged, still dripping wet, with my bath towel around me to the bed and climbed in. I grabbed his pillow, burying my face into it and cried. Taking in his smell, I cried harder. In between fits of crying and rage, I punched his pillow as if it were his face, cursing him for destroying me, our family, our life. Then I screamed just to scream because I felt like I might explode from all of the pain and emotion that I did not know how to process.
As I lay there that night, I just wanted to be left alone, but I also wanted someone to comfort me. Not a friend or comfort from a relative, but I wanted the comfort of the very one who was causing all of my pain. Isn't it funny? How the heart and the mind can be so out of tune with each other? You can make your mind change its way of thinking and even look at things rationally, but oh the heart! It's not so easy to make the heart forget, make it realize it is broken. Because it still yearns for what is familiar, and what it knows. Re-training the heart to a new normal is hard and for most of us, extremely time-consuming. Resetting the heart is like resetting a bone, you have to break it to make it better and stronger.
At some point that night, it was actually closer to morning, after a couple of bottles of wine, I realized I had some preparations to do. I knew from past breakups and divorces that I would have dreams and wake up in full-blown panic attacks, uncontrollably crying not-able-to-breathe hysterical panic attacks.
The dreams always go one of two ways:
One, I would dream about us. I would dream of something we did together, a trip we went on or maybe something even more emotional. As soon as my eyes open and I know it was just a dream and realize he's really gone, the crying and hysterics would start
Or two, inevitably I'll dream I come face-to-face with him and another woman. Those are the ones were the attack starts in the dream so once I wake up there's no talking myself out of it. Once I’m awake it gets worse because that small part of my subconscious mind tries to tell me it's all just a dream and none of it happened. But then I realize he's gone and one day that dream will be very real and will happen. That’s the worst dream because by the time I wake up, my pillow is already soaked with tears and my heart is broken again.
So I knew the first thing on my to-do list, in order to keep my sanity and survive, was to call to my doctor to get something to help. There is no shame in needing medication or therapy or a combination of both to get through hard times in your life. Especially something as emotionally charged as the loss of a loved one. Whether it's a breakup, a divorce, or even the death of a loved one. Do not be ashamed to seek help from a mental health counselor or your doctor.
The other thing I realized, was the fact that I have vices that I always fall back on. It's funny how when things go south we immediately know what those are, and even though they may not be healthy or rational, we know we will turn to those old healing habits. I knew, in the heart of my heart, that my worst vice is the comfort of another. I didn't want to fall back on that, but I know my history. I always seek the comfort of another warm body. I even begged my ex-husband not to leave me, not to put me through this, not to make me become that person again. Because for 9 years I had not been that person. And at the time, I perceived that person as weak and attention-seeking but as you will find out later, that's really not what it was about at all.
It is natural to want physical comfort. It's one of the basic needs and is prominent in psychology and outlined in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. One of the basic needs for survival as a human is touch. We feel safe when we're touched by another person, as a baby when we are held we feel safe and we don't cry. As adults, we feel safe in the comfort of other people and groups and in intimate settings with our partners. So it makes sense that when we feel threatened or scared, we seek out another person to comfort us. We want that hug, touch, or kiss that is so familiar it calms and soothes any fear or any danger we may face. Whatever it is that makes us feel safe again, we seek it out.
Normally we would turn to our partners for that comfort. But when that partner is no longer there, or they withhold that comfort we seek, or they are the cause of whatever makes us feel unsafe, then it is natural to look for substitute or another warm body to give us the comfort we need. One of my favorite songs has a line that says, “Oh the things lovers do when it's over. We’ll find a cool bottle or warm shoulder…” And that is so true for most of us. This is not a place to argue morals or ethics. But for most of us, we fall into one of those two categories. All I'm saying is that it's totally normal to have those thoughts and needs. It doesn't mean you don't love your partner. I know you still do. I still loved my husband even after he left, four months after, I loved him. But when my love for him wasn't being returned, I needed to feel loved and wanted.
I was begging him not to shut me out, to agree to work on things, to work on us. As long as I knew we had a chance, I could resist the urge to indulge in my vice of a warm, warm body. I have always been a faithful and respectable wife, and in my mind I was one that my husband was proud of. As long as I was in the mindset that he would come back to me, I did not want to do anything that would change his view of me. Or at least the view that I thought he had of me.
Doesn't that sound crazy?
I was worried about what he would think even after he said to me, “I don't care what you do, do whatever you think you need to.” Why do we do that to ourselves? Men and women, why do we continue to try to remain the person we were, try to still please the one who no longer matters and no longer cares? Why do we fight becoming our own person and doing what matters to us and what pleases us?
The moment your partner walks out of your door, out of your life, is the moment you take a hard left at the fork in that road and begin a new journey. The only person who matters at that point is you and those who love you. You have to do what you need to do to survive. It will be hard at first, but you will learn to navigate this new path. You will eventually discover a new life, a new you, and a new way of doing it.
If you're reading this blog now, you're on this journey of self-discovery with me. And it will be a long one, with twists and turns, dead ends and crashes. So let's take this journey together because when you get to your destination, to a new and better you, it will be the best trip ever.
I invite you to join me on my journey of self-discovery and encourage you to start your own journey of self-discovery. Share your stories, your thoughts your feelings with me and let us fuel each other along the way.
Until next time