I always found it surprising that after the breakdown of a long-term relationship, I felt OK.
Don’t get me wrong, though, it did hurt.
Even today, I remember the good days and pondering what could have been. Considering my sensitivity and emotional levels, I was still surprised by my calm reaction.
Friends theorised that it probably was because I already processed the end before the end. I believed this for a while, proudly holding my head high with an “I’m fully over it” attitude.
But I was lying to myself.
I hate to admit it, but the day we called it quits, I wasn’t over it as much as I externally expressed.
I recently returned to the city where we had spent our post-university days together; I hadn’t said “goodbye” to the city and our wonderful time there so this felt like a good release. As I walked my version of Cornelia Street again, I realised that healing from this love would take a while. Five years is a long time, after all.
Shortly after that trip, I was broken up again, accidentally coming across love letters in Tagalog he had once written for me during a decluttering session. Although he had left me better than when he found me, I was also bruised in ways I chose to ignore.
Ignoring this showed up in ugly ways.
I saw the remnants of unhealed parts of myself as I entered new relationships with others. It showed up the most in my reactions when deeply triggered where the monsters brought out the worst of me: a version that was always on the edge, angry and ready to blame anyone but myself.
On my nomad journey, I’ve been fortunate to meet so many people from all over the world. Unexpectedly, I met this particular person whom I connected with on another level that I never thought would be possible ever again. For the first time in a long time, I was optimistic about love again .
They’ve inspired much of my writing in the last 12 months, both privately and publicly. I’ve loved every second of time that I got to spend with them.
Over the summer, I found myself in what I can only describe as moments of pure madness.
There is one moment in particular that is fresh in my mind.
After spending a pleasant evening vacationing on an island together, I was triggered by an insecurity (and what I now realise is a fear of abandonment), which led me to scream at this person for actively looking for a woman he flirted with at a wine restaurant we once visited.
Rage filled me, I yelled, and we fought on the busy streets. During a heated discussion, concerned tourists asked if we were okay.
How was I supposed to tell them that this guy I liked so much had wandering eyes that made me feel like I was not enough? I said we were fighting, it’s okay and they walked away with worried eyes.
This story probably makes me sound like I lost my cool for no reason.
To him, maybe it was no reason.
But to me, as I’ve communicated many times, it was built-up resentment over months of flaky behaviour that finally released. The resentment not only released that night but every single night in different ways over the summer.
He had crossed lines and pushed my buttons that would send me to insanity, and I got back at him by screaming that he had ruined my life, caused me to be the most insecure I’ve ever been and destroyed my mental health.
Although there were some truths about his effect on me especially as I had an expectation that a grown man years older than me would know better.
Deep down, I knew that this was my issue. Why were we hitting heads all the time? He said stupid things; he did stupid things.
But he wasn’t the only one to blame.
I recognised that I raised my expectations too high after being burned by not having any standards in previous relationships. I was still badly hurt over unsaid words and pent-up frustration from all my intimate relationships, and this all showed up in an ugly form that consumed me all summer.
My first full summer in Greece was something I was looking forward to, especially as it is still a place I would call a second home. I was excited for the days by the beach, swimming in the Aegean Sea and trying out new experiences like καλαματιανός (side note: I did one night in Crete ☺️)
Unfortunately my summer wasn’t as I hoped for. As the weeks of that hot summer went by, I was losing myself more and more. There were multiple evenings I was in an intense argument, begging for some understanding and reassurance or on the floor of my apartment at 3 AM, crying about something he had said that triggered my open wounds.
One consistent thing over three months was that I cried every single day without fail.
If that wasn’t already enough for my heart, everything just collapsed on my way back to London as we had another misunderstanding on the status of our relationship.
When I try to recall exactly what happened that day to cause me to miss my flight, I fail to remember the details. This is maybe my brain trying to protect me from reliving the pain again, which I’m thankful for.
What I do remember is a feeling of abandonment and insecurity washed over me as I looked over conversations from the night before on the subway to Athens airport. I remember trying to call anyone who would pick up as the panic took over my body.
The next thing I knew, I was a humiliating mess outside the airport, wishing I had anybody there to soothe me. That was impossible as I was in a foreign country alone, which also happened to be the week the locals I did know were out of the city.
It was a shitty experience, but one that was a real wake-up call: I was losing myself.
This isn’t the Pauline I want to become.
It felt like several steps backwards from the Pauline I was at 25.
This wasn’t me.
I didn’t want it to be me.
I’m writing this at my family’s home whilst watching the sunset on a surprisingly lovely weekend when the British summer has finally started (in September – better late than never! 🤷♀️)
I’ve been home for a few weeks now, where I’ve been proactively hitting the factory reset button every day. Reset my thoughts, reset my brain, reset the chaos that seems to follow me right now.
Although I’m feeling better compared to the summer months, I’m the most broken I’ve ever felt: fearful of intimacy more than ever, with my anxious attachment flaring up and all my insecurities locking in on me even when my eyes are shut.
I started this post sharing how I lost myself, mostly by being triggered by someone I gave multiple chances to, even though they chipped away at my sanity. It’s important to note, though, how much I let them, and that in itself is a real takeaway.
Now, as I reach the end of this post, it may be a comedic realisation or maybe some level of delusion that I’ve actually not lost myself but finally finding out who I am.
In that case, was I really lost?