I have fallen in love again.
I know, shocking.
The girl who decided that a heartbreak was one too many already.
The girl who promised her future self that she would never be this vulnerable again.
The girl who kissed feelings goodbye like she didn’t have a care in the world.
Spoiler alert: she did care.
Long story short, every emotion that girl went through at the time was valid. It’s true that she only spoke out of anger and grief, disarray and disappointment, fear of abandonment and a strong sense of self-preservation. Her answer to sorrow might not have been ideal, but the stony attitude she adopted to protect herself wasn’t unreasonable either. In fact, if you’d asked her, that girl would’ve told you she was fine about the whole thing over and over. And, technically, she wasn’t lying. She did face life on her own rather well, all things considered. But a huge part of her never stopped wishing that, someday, she would love and be loved again.
Well, that day has come, so I guess she wasn’t such a robot after all.
I mean, I’m not such a robot. I am she, she is me – you got the idea.
To tell you the truth, falling in love wasn’t the struggle. Don’t get me wrong, it was a bit of a shock. It took years for my heart to take a leap of faith and, when it did, it almost felt like an out of body experience. As if my heart had finally decided to run solo and take the matter into its own hands because it knew I would find all the reasons not to make that jump myself.
Like any other freefall, this one was both exhilarating and effortless – or so I would assume, as I’ve never actually jumped from anything. At first, I was reluctant to go near the edge of wherever I was standing, a part of me knowing that if I fell, there would be no coming back. When it happened, I had just gone from emotional turmoil to emotional relief all within a span of twenty-four hours. I realised then that I kept pushing away or, at least, kept at safe distance anyone who was good to me. Therefore I made a new pact with myself. I was committed to work on that and slowly start reaching out to people again. I think my heart acted solely on that promise and the universe gave the final nudge, as it gently pushed me towards the unknown.
Friends tell you to be patient, that it will happen when the right person comes along. There is a chance that might be true. I don’t know if the universe has a plan set out for all of us. Maybe crossing his path was pure luck. But, somehow, my heart recognised that if there ever was a right person to fall head over heels for again, it was him.
It just made sense.
It’s everything else that’s confusing.
Retrospectively, being single was straightforward. Any feeling that needed processing, I could process at my own pace, in my own time. I was a mess (still am), but it only affected me. Sure, all the shit going on in my mind was heavy to carry by myself, and I longed for someone who could bring some extra support. However, I also grew stronger because of it, and I didn’t want to be a burden for anyone anyway. Managing my thoughts and dealing with mental illness or trauma on my own meant that I always knew what to expect. There was no element of surprise.
Being in a romantic relationship with a messy brain and a damaged heart is a whole other story. When our connection shifted and I realised I was crazy about him, it wasn’t so much a “getting back on a bike after 5 years and being confident that I can totally do this” moment, but more of a “wondering if I can keep myself balanced so I don’t crash both of us to the ground” type of situation. Even after a few months, I could still do with stabiliser wheels.
I may have been in a relationship before, but this feels like uncharted territory. I’m like a child who can’t predict or control the most basic of reactions. I feel more fragile, more hesitant. I reckon that other people use their previous experiences not to repeat the same mistakes, but it’s like I can’t use any of mine because everything I might have done wrong is a result of who I am and the torments I’ve been through.
And if I am the problem, then nothing’s going to change. I am always going to be me – a somewhat improved version of myself, yes, but deep down I will always be the same person. So, I don’t know how to act, I don’t know how to feel, I don’t know how to believe, I don’t know how to trust, I just don’t know. The same doubts play repeatedly in my head, and I’m freaking out because of it. Thing is, I’ve always been anxious and I’ve always been insecure. And, at the time of my first relationship, I didn’t know half the things I know now about people, about life, about overcoming loss and obstacles. So, why am I so clueless all of a sudden? Why am I so overly afraid now?
Because the voices in my head are restless. Which technically isn’t anything new, but it hits different this time. Not only do I have to manage my own cruel thoughts, I now constantly wonder what the other thinks as well. On the good days, I’m happy to believe he feels the same way about me as I do about him. The problem is the bad days. When I’m at my darkest, I can’t make sense of his feelings for me, and so I feel that he has ulterior motives for being with me. You see, the person I fell for is easy to love. I am not. I am just not easy to love. So, falling in love was one thing, but the odds of him falling in love with me too were not in my favour.
These crippling doubts lead me to that famous quote which says, “you’ve got to love yourself before you love anyone else…” We all know where this sentence is heading, yet I can’t bear to hear it. I don’t want to hear that relationships are doomed if you don’t love yourself. That’s just too pessimistic, even for me. Still, if I’m being completely honest, a similar idea is continuously on my mind and terrifies me: having no sense of self-worth and being dependent on someone’s love to feel valuable in some way to the point where it feels like our existence doesn’t matter anymore when they leave. That’s the sad truth of what I experienced when my first long-term relationship ended, and I simply cannot go through that again. Granted, I lacked awareness of it at the time which, hopefully, makes all the difference between then and now.
It’s funny because I don’t even hate myself that much as an individual. I’m not my biggest fan, that’s for sure, but I swear I enjoy my own company most days (well, as long as I drown it with music and tv shows that is). However, I find it impossible that anyone would think “this girl? oh yes please, I’d like to get to know her”. Or, even more absurd, “I’m in love with this woman, I want a future with her.” Like, I’m sorry what? Have you lost your mind mate? (btw, I sound very cool in my head when I say this – you just have to work a tiny bit on your imagination to hear it).
As a result, I regularly offer him a way out, which is stupid because I don’t want him to go anywhere. But, also, I don’t want to be responsible for hurting him, because the bad days turn me into a whole other woman who is triggered by the littlest things and cannot rationalise her feelings. At my best, I “only” need reassurance and know how to ask for it even though rejection petrifies me. At my worst, I’m fickle and struggle to express myself. The few instants where I opted for words on a divisive topic or at a peak of anxiety just made things worse. So, more often than not, I end up choosing silence instead, which isn’t a healthy solution either.
So, where does that leave me? I look back at the girl who seemed to have pretty solid arguments about keeping her heart away from harm, and others away from her. I get where she’s coming from. I remember her pain through all the losses, through all the self-loathing, and I know how hard she’s worked on recovery and healing. So, of course, I feel very protective of her.
But, at the same time, I can never truly move forward if all I do is wait for the ghost of this fearful girl to take a chance. She’ll always be a part of me, but we’ve fed into each other’s fears long enough now. I’m tired of letting the demons win. Since I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am today, I want to focus on the progress I’ve made rather than the bit where I’m not a functioning human being yet and, therefore, might not deserve all the nice things.
Me, my anxiety and my self-sabotage tendencies will have to find a way to cope with it all, because I have fallen in love again and I can’t let my insecurities be the reason it doesn’t work out. My past needs to stay where it belongs: in the last decade. Yes, I’m worried that I might never love him the right way, and I’m annoyed that I might never fully trust him to love me at all. But no matter how terrified I am of losing him because of who I am, I am learning through it all and I can only hope it will be enough.
To be continued…