It was in every unkind word where she never said anything back.
It was every time someone knocked her down to build themselves back up she stood firm.
It was in every moment they needed something from her and she gave herself away to appease them.
It was in every tear they ever caused and she was the one to say sorry.
It was in every unanswered text or call where she still picked up the next time.
It was in every plan she looked forward to that he didn’t care when he let her down canceling.
It was in every lie she believed undoubtedly because she was so honest.
It was in every moment she gave more than she got thinking she could teach him her ways.
It was the hope he would change if only she loved him enough.
It was every one-liner he knew would take her down and he said these things with a smile.
It was in choosing to see the good, despite being the one they took out all their bad on.
It was in every night that turned into morning and the promises uttered were drunk words to be forgotten even though she remembered everything.
It was in every tear she cried in private never letting anyone see her weak.
It was in every night she went to bed wondering why wasn’t she enough to make them commit?
It was in all the effort she put forth not playing by any rule, even though he played her like he invented the game.
It was in endings without explanations where she was the one left analyzing what went wrong.
It was in every call past midnight where she picked up every time.
It was in every excuse he could muster and she simply took it.
It was in every compliment with prior motives she learned to stop believing. Because kindness to gain something more isn’t really being nice.
It was in every insult where he pointed out her flaws that she spent hours fixating on in the mirror.
It was in every fight where he walked away and she was the one to go after him.
It was the acceptance of every apology, he’d only have to say again because he never learned.
It was settling for less than she deserved not because she didn’t respect herself enough to walk away, but she thought she saw something in him enough to tolerate these things.
But every weak girl who used to crumble answering that text she knew she shouldn’t, turned out to be strong women.
Every girl that got less than they deserved, finally stopped crying, picked themselves up, wiped their tears and looked at themselves in the mirror saying, ‘never again.’
So if every you wonder about her strength in where it comes from it was in that very same promise where she told her younger self, ‘never again.’
If ever you wonder how she handles situations with such dignity and grace, it was the promise she made to herself saying, ‘never again.’
If ever you wonder why she’s so calm in moments that would set anyone off, she thinks back to her younger self, the basket case full of tears and that promise, ‘never again.’
If you ever wonder why she’s alone, it was the promise she made to her younger self that she would never need someone but herself.
If you ever wonder about her confidence it was the moment she realized to love herself the first.
If you ever wonder about her ambition and how she takes everything she wants with a smile and bit of cockiness, it was the promise she made to herself that she wouldn’t take no for an answer and she wouldn’t believe anyone who told her she couldn’t.
If you ever wonder why she walks away the moment any guy challenges her, it’s because she promised herself long ago, she’d never get caught up in games and it was there she learned to make her own rules.
And if the thought ever crosses your mind of why she’s single and you think you know it’s out of bad luck, think again. It’s the promise she made to her younger self she’d never again settle for less than she deserved or tolerate bullshit.
And if ever you wonder why she questions you, it was in the moment she learned the only person she can trust is herself.
So the next time you see a strong woman and wonder where it all came from, it was in every person of her past that motivated her to never be weak again.
It was the promise she made to that same girl who had black tears running down her face, that she said, ‘no one will ever make us feel this way again.’ It was in that moment she never looked back.
It was in every moment after she never jumped at their texts. Because the ghosts from her past came knocking and she stopped answering.
And it was in that moment they all began to regret it because when a weak girl realizes she deserves more, she becomes a woman who never settles for less.
I don’t think I could ever have imagined myself being in a mess such as this. I don’t think I ever imagined myself to be capable of loving someone who broke me, someone who managed to destroy everything I worked so hard for. But I do.
You see, I can’t shake this feeling that I could’ve done things differently.
Maybe if I’d tried harder, maybe if I’d stayed a little bit longer, he would’ve changed. Maybe if I’d given him another chance, maybe this time it would be different. But I try to remind myself every day that I never caused any of this, so I have no power in changing it. Every time I dream of his face, I force myself to look at the scars on my arms.
Every time I dream of his lips, I remind myself of all the hateful words that passed through them. Every time I find myself missing the man I once fell in love with, I remind myself of the man that he became in the end. The man who destroyed me.
But, God forgive me, I still love him.
I can still hear him screaming after me, calling me back into the house, calling me back to him. Begging me to stay. And for so long, I wondered if I’d done the right thing.
He told me he needed me, but I left him. He asked me to help him, but instead, I chose to help myself.
He begged me to stay, but I ran away. Maybe, if I had stayed, maybe if I had tried to help him, he could be better. But you see, taking care of someone cannot come at the cost of self-abandonment.
Taking care of his needs and neglecting mine is what I did the rest of our relationship, so I’m trying to remind myself every day that it wasn’t me who abandoned him.
He abandoned us the moment he raised his voice, the moment he threw me into a mirror. He abandoned us the moment he made me an object.
But, God forgive me, I still love him.
I never left because I decided I didn’t love him. I never left because his abuse washed away my love. I left because I decided that I loved myself more.
I left because I couldn’t keep hoping that he would change and keep getting my heart broken on a daily basis when I realized he wouldn’t. I left because I couldn’t keep loving for both of us, hoping that my love would change his behavior. Hoping that maybe my love was strong enough to chase away the abuser from him. But it never was.
My love, my hopes, my dreams, they were just games to him. My feelings and my body were toys to him. It had nothing to do with me, it was all about him and his needs.
But, God forgive me, I still love him.
I still love the man who made me feel like I was the luckiest woman alive.
I still love the man who would bring me coffee in bed and roses every Sunday. I still love the man who would sing me lullabies every time I was sick. I still love the man who would kiss away the tears from my face, the man who would kiss every inch of my body, making me feel like I was a goddess he was worshipping.
I still love the man I once knew, and I can still see pieces of that man in the one I left. I can still see traces of love that used to be in his eyes, and the curves of his smile on his face. I can still feel the warmth of his body against mine. I can still see the man I once loved, but I don’t think he can do the same.
I guess in the end, it’s not God whom I should ask forgiveness from. It’s the woman I used to be.
A lot of people say having your heart broken is like someone ripping your heart out of your chest. It is so much worse than that. Having your heart broken feels like someone trying to rip your heart out from wherever they can access it. They beat you in the stomach, they rip at your throat, they pound on your head, but eventually, ripping your heart straight out of your chest is the only option. So they do it. And then they squeeze your heart and they throw it around and step on it and tear it apart with dull fingernails. They rip it to shreds and just because it’s no longer in your body doesn’t mean you don’t feel all of this at full intensity.
The pain becomes overwhelming so you scream and cry at the hurt that is happening to you. Everywhere. Everything hurts. There is a physical pain: constant headache, burning eyes, an honest-to-God ache in your chest, nausea, body soreness. There is a mental pain: constant questioning of him, yourself, the situation, rethinking every nuance of every phrase said and every event passed, over thinking to the point where your mind is a constant buzz of nonstop action without any focus. You flip between hating him for hurting you and hating yourself for letting it happen.
Dealing with a broken heart is a lot like being trapped underwater. You struggle a lot at first, learning to hold your breath, often faltering and getting lungs full of water, choking until your whole body burns. You try to find the surface because you don’t want to hold your breath anymore. It’s hard and painful and you want a reprieve. But you can’t seem to find the top. And you struggle some more and your lungs cry out, you cry out, for anyone to help. But eventually you resign to the burning and the lack of oxygen and you allow yourself to just drown. When you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, suddenly you’ll start to float up. Nature takes over and you gasp a fresh breath of air right before he kicks you down again, foot to the gut, and you fall lower. You never hit rock bottom before, because this is much worse. You struggle again and it hurts more even when you thought it wasn’t possible to. I imagine this keeps happening and I’m not sure how it’ll end. I’m still drowning, occasionally resurfacing only to be pushed further into heartache. I want to stay afloat but succumbing to the water seems to be my only option now. I am lost, and there is no way I can find the surface on my own.
I loved everything about this guy. I loved him even when he built me up just to tear me down. I love him now even when it’s his foot in my gut and the burning in my lungs is pain caused by him. I knew him 3 years. Three fucking years and this is what he’s done. More than anything I want to hate him and I want him to be as heartbroken as I am. But I cannot wish this upon anyone, not someone I love nor someone I hate. All I can do is pray that one day he will let me find the surface on my own, stand on my own two feet, and move to dry land. I can only hope that one day he can allow my pain to dissipate and allow me to feel whole and normal again. The worst part about drowning is that you cannot do the saving yourself. I have given in to the fact that certain pieces of my heart were torn off and lost and I have given in to the fact that, though I love him, he is as lost to me as these pieces. But for right now, I’m still struggling to hold my breath and I’m still choking on water and I can only wonder if I’ll find the surface soon.
You’re going to meet someone in the most unexpected time of your life. You’re going to believe it’s destiny: the universe bringing two people together at the same place and at the same time.
Sooner or later, you’re going to fall in love, whether you like it or not. You’re going to realize that love is one thing in this world you can’t resist. It smacks you right in the chest, and all you can do is let go and go with the flow.
You’re going to finally experience what it’s like to be asked on a date. You’re going to kick your guard down and share details of yourself that other people don’t know. You’re going to have your phone be unusually bombarded with messages and calls.
And you’re going to be so happy.
You’re going to smile at the world and know that it’s on your side. You’re going to feel like everything is just right. All the crappy days that you had in the past are going to be irrelevant because having someone who loves you, surpasses all your horrible experiences in life.
But one day, you’re going to learn that not all good things are meant to last.
You’re going to end your relationship with someone, and it is going to hurt so badly. It is going to make you cry and you’re going to lie when someone asks you about the dark circles under your eyes. You’re going to hate the universe for being unfair and for giving you something that’s short-lived.
You’re going to hate yourself too, for allowing love to take control of you. You’re going to spend many days feeling lost, feeling empty, feeling worthless. You’re going to ask yourself a hundred times if you will ever move on.
You’re going to have your heart ripped into pieces and it is going to be the worst feeling in the world. You’re going to push people away and refuse to receive any help. Life is going to suck. And living every day is going to seem like a chore.
But heartbreak actually teaches you one important lesson: Your heart always has a way of recovering no matter what.
It might seem like the pain you’re experiencing is endless, but eventually it’s going to fade away. Time is going to help bring your heart back to its normal beat again.
Life is going to look better. You’re going to be tired of feeling sorry for yourself and try to piece your heart back together. You’re going to learn that we all go through different phases and heartbreak is one of them.
Heartbreak is universal. And you’re not the only one who suffers because of it.
You’re going forgive the world, forgive yourself, and forgive the person who’s responsible for your broken heart. Because hating isn’t going to help you move forward in your life. Hate is only going to bring you down and drag you back in the past.
You’re going to find yourself again without needing another person, without needing some other things. You’re going to search for your purpose and re-define your happiness. You’re going to make a list of things you want to accomplish, because there’s more to life than falling in love and falling out of love.
And you’re going to be okay.
Your heartache isn’t going to stay permanently with you. You’re going to open another chapter of your story, and know how wonderful it is to feel absolutely brand new.
It’s as if all the horrific worst-case scenarios flashing through your brain were actually happening.
“Picture a place where you felt safe and secure.”
I sat on the small couch across from my therapist, hands clenched in my lap, feet rocking.
It wasn’t meant to be a challenge. It wasn’t supposed to be difficult. She was merely trying to walk me through a visualization exercise, teaching me a tool to help me calm my anxious thoughts the next time they began to spiral.
But at those words, I felt a sense of panic rising. I searched my mind; my thoughts began to race. Tears stung my eyes as I stared down at my whitening knuckles.
I couldn’t think of a single place. Not one.
Let me say this: In my rational thoughts, I know that I have been safe and secure for the vast majority of my days. I have lived a privileged life.
Knowing that rationally does not change the fact that my anxiety disorders have manifested in ways that have infected every moment I can remember, every thought in my mind.
I could not think of a single place or time when I felt safe and secure. At the forefront of every memory of all my favorite places was the worry and fear attached to it.
I can recall more clearly how I felt and what I was worried about in a moment than I can the actual event.
My childhood home? Overwhelming fear of abandonment in every way imaginable.
The peaceful balcony room on the beach in Tulum? Racing thoughts of all the ways I wouldn’t make it home.
My own comfortable bed now? Constant fears that my husband might stop breathing in the night, that someone might break in, that the house will catch fire, that my husband will leave me, that I’ll get sick again.
For a long time, I just labeled myself as a “worrier” and I downplayed how much of an impact these thoughts had on me. In a “suck it up” culture, I felt that acknowledging — admitting — that these thoughts were disrupting my life — that they prevented me from enjoying the moment, that they obscured my memories — meant nothing more than I needed to “toughen up,” that I needed to stop “making mountains out of molehills,” that it was all my fault.
On top of that, I have a deep-rooted need to make sure I am not a burden to everyone around me. A need that, no doubt, grew into what is now the social anxiety disorder in my cocktail of anxiety disorders.
As a result, I became very good at masking my anxiety in front of others, of always appearing to hold the belief that everything was “no big deal.”
I function by performing a role, putting on a mask of a me that handles everything well. But, there is a cost — nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, incredibly tense and painful muscles, headaches, insomnia, and spiraling thoughts for days. When I can’t maintain a performance, I slip into a panic attack — heart palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, numbness and tingling in my hands, arms, and face, muscle weakness.
Up until I started therapy, I still believed that I had no reason to feel the way I felt. I never recognized a single experience in my life , which included great losses and instability in my formative year. Even now, I still feel like I am being overly dramatic to call these traumas. Others have it so much worse. Why am I making such a big deal out of everything?
It was a tremendous help when my current therapist explained, in one of our first sessions, that our brains do not do well with distinguishing different types of traumas — traumatic experiences of varying magnitudes can have similar effects. At her words, I felt I had been granted permission to feel what I have been feeling for years.
I, of course, turned to the internet, searching for further validation. I came across an article by Elyssa Barbash Ph.D. and read these words:
“Small ‘t’ traumas tend to be overlooked by the individual who has experienced the difficulty. This is sometimes due to the tendency to rationalize the experience as common and therefore cognitively shame oneself for any reaction that could be construed as an over-reaction or being ‘dramatic.’
“Avoidance is also engaged so as not to reveal any ‘weaknesses’ or difficulty to others… While the individual’s efforts are intentional with the hope of reducing their psychological distress and not creating concern on the part of others, the literature has made clear that avoidance is the most significant developing and maintaining factor for trauma responses. So ‘tough,’ perhaps yes, but effective, no.”
Validation. Permission to accept that I have experienced traumas. And the knowledge that not properly processing these events — avoiding and concealing how much they truly affected me — only allowed them to be compounded into my varied escalating anxiety disorders.
l, I feel terribly misunderstood, and I struggle with “suck it up” culture. I know there are people who hear the term “anxiety disorder” and roll their eyes. To them, I am a whiner, a complainer, weak. I simply need to toughen up. I need to stop being such a sensitive little snowflake. After all, everyone has anxiety.
Here’s the thing: yes, everyone experiences anxiety. Anxiety is a normal, healthy emotion. People without any mental health concerns will feel anxious about certain situations. That can make it hard for those people to understand why others struggle so much with anxiety. And it can make those of us struggling question ourselves as well.
I recently tried to explain the difference between feeling natural anxiety and having an anxiety disorder to an empathetic friend.
It had started snowing and my anxiety about driving home was building. Now, it is reasonable for anyone to feel a bit anxious about driving in the snow — to think about how they’ll need to drive more carefully, how travel will take longer and they need to plan accordingly, maybe even think about the possibility of accidents or getting stranded.
For me, I have all those worries and more on a perfectly clear day of driving. Every car I pass, every turn I make, my mind visualizes the accident that could result. I see in gruesome detail that I won’t make that upcoming turn and I’ll plow into that tree, my body slamming against an undeployed airbag upon impact. Thirty seconds after I survive the turn, I see that the oncoming truck will veer into my lane and my body will be thrown from the car lying lifeless on the pavement. Less than a minute later, I worry that I won’t see the car in my blind spot as I switch lanes and we will spin out, flip, and end up in a ditch. Several times over the course of an hour on the highway, I clearly see in my mind that we’ve been in an accident, my husband and I are bloodied and mangled, and I live my worst nightmare by surviving without him.
This part of my anxiety disorders is called catastrophizing. I cannot emphasize enough that this happens entirely involuntarily. It is my default. Believe me, if I could simply stop worrying about these things, I would. If it was as easy as deciding to think happy thoughts, don’t you think I’d do that?
It takes a great deal of effort to stop and redirect these anxious thoughts. A task that becomes even more difficult when I am trying to navigate while driving. Yet, I am able to manage. I still drive (though I do avoid it often and almost never drive with my whole family in the car, anymore). For some, this becomes so overwhelming that they can no longer bring themselves to get behind the wheel.
Now, think about the type of normal anxiety everyone experiences in a multitude of situations and multiply it accordingly for someone with an anxiety disorder. This is not only about driving.
In every situation, nearly every day, my mind feeds me a vivid reel of all the worst things that can go wrong, of every worst-case scenario — people I love getting hurt, sick, dying, saying they don’t love me, they never actually liked me, friends only tolerate me, I am annoying, editors don’t like working with me, I have nothing good to offer, everyone is going to leave me, I’ll get sick again, I am a burden.
It is exhausting.
I knew my anxiety disorders were affecting my daily life. I knew they began long before I recognized them for what they were. I knew they had grown severe enough that I could no longer manage them on my own — even my unhealthy coping mechanisms were no longer effective. That is why I sought the help of a therapist.
“Picture a place where you felt safe and secure.”
But it wasn’t until I struggled with this simple request to think of a place where I felt safe and secure that I realized what, exactly, my anxiety disorders had done. They had me living every single day of my life as if I were in actual danger, as if all these horrific worst-case scenarios flashing through my brain were actually happening.
Though I rationally and logically knew these things were not likely to happen, my body was reacting to the anxiety so much so that it is etched into every single memory I can recall.
I will be continuing therapy in hopes of reclaiming some of these memories and with the desire to better manage my anxieties going forward. It wasn’t always this bad; so I have hope that it can get better.
If you find that you would also have a hard time thinking of a time and place where you felt safe and secure, I urge you to please consider seeing a therapist.
Some of us might not feel it at all, but this emotion can get the best of us in the worst of times. That feeling is often called “worthlessness.” It’s such an ugly word and seems to closely resemble a parasite. It invades your mind and lurks there almost undetected until a moment of weakness welcomes its appearance. You tell yourself that you can get over it, but it quietly remains in the deepest parts of your thoughts. Slowly, it creeps in closer until it consumes you and becomes a constant, everyday idea of how you perceive yourself and life. On the outside you’re smiling, but on the inside, that smile hides what you really feel. Worthless.
I’m being completely honest when I say that I’ve struggled with feeling worth something for quite some time. While growing up I wasn’t the coolest or most sociable person to be around, so I usually kept to myself. Sure, I had a circle of friends, but most of the time I delved deep into my own world. Due to the fact that I felt so comfortable in it, I decided to stay there. In not venturing out of my own world, though, my attitude towards the world grew angry and bitter as trials and tribulations rocked my world one blow after another.
In this I grew to hate the real world because I thought it hated me, too. Of course, friends and family offered a helping hand, but I just put on a smile and said that I was fine. I wasn’t. I felt alone because I pushed everyone else away to protect myself. In doing so, however, my feeling of worthlessness developed. It kept me awake at night and feeling lost. I let it eat away at me for the longest time after that, but it seemed to recede the more I came out of my shell in high school. For the first time in a while, I felt like my smile could finally mean something. I wanted others to feel the same, too, so I decided I wanted to be happy. And so I was.
This long journey has made me realize that it’s okay to feel worthless, sad, alone, lost etc. Don’t hide it. Recognize it. Wallow in it for a certain period of time. It’s okay to feel emotions because it’s what makes us human. In doing so, you’ll discover parts about yourself that you didn’t even know existed. Seeing that I felt worthless gave me a new perspective on life. Sometimes it can even get the best of me, but your demons create you into the person that you are right now. That’s why they shouldn’t be ignored.
Instead of letting whatever is bothering you consume you whole, notice what it is and make a difference. I found my light through the world and people in it. Find what makes you happy, what makes you smile, or makes you feel like dancing. You owe yourself that because you deserve it. You’re a beautiful person with an awesome life ahead of you. You should live it to your fullest potential because you only have one life to live. Follow your own path and see where it takes you. And if you get lost along the way, that’s okay, too. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
In the words of Captain Silver from Treasure Planet:
“You got the makings of greatness in ya. But you gotta take the helm and chart your own course. Stick to it, no matter the squalls. And when the time comes you get to really test the cut of your sails and show them what you’re made of… I hope I’m there, catching some of the light coming off of you that day.”