"How did you do it?"
So many people have asked me this question, even those who didn’t know what happened. I don't understand why they think I'm the right person to give them an answer. I still wonder sometimes if I really did what people think I did.
Being known as the girl in the long relationship was an image I secretly took pride in. I mean, how many people could honestly say that they were still with their high school sweethearts 10 years later? I counted that relationship as one of my great accomplishments. But now, it seems that my greater achievement was getting over it.
So, how did I get over it? After oceans of sweat, blood, and especially tears, I made a choice – I chose myself.
Getting out of a decade-long relationship was not something I was prepared for, not that anyone would ever be. The problem with having your reputation precede you is that people often don’t (or refuse to) see the struggle you endure getting from point A to point B. When I lost my relationship status, my sense of identity went along with it and for the first time, I realized that the basis of my first rep was the fact that my life had revolved around someone else. And with that someone gone, I had too much idleness that I cared to admit. I found myself completely and utterly lost. I suddenly had too much of time on my hands. Time spent feeling so much pain and so much loss, second-guessing my decisions, wondering how he is, wanting him back. Time spent convincing myself I shouldn’t reach out to him, that I deserved better, just like I told him. Time spent willing myself to stop crying because this was all my idea. Eventually, I spent my time learning from my mistakes, growing up, removing negativity, and attaining closure, discovering happiness, finding what I wanted and what I needed. My time finally spent on me.
But just when I thought I was going to be okay, the worst part of it all came – the bad dreams. The first one came without warning and terrified me so much that I tried my best not to fall asleep the following eve. The next few nights were spent sobbing uncontrollably until I passed out. And when the tears ran dry, I’d stay up for as long as I could in hopes that the nightmares, at least, wouldn’t last very long.
No, no one saw the process. All they see is the girl who survived the breakup, and after only a little over a year. All they know is that I pulled myself out of the gutter and got my life back together, on my own. They see a girl who is finally opening her heart out to someone new. They would comment on how happier I seem to be, how I’m in a much better place, and what a strong woman I have become when in truth, I am still a work in progress. That in spite my best efforts, I cannot stop the bad dreams from happening. Just that now, the bad dreams no longer keep me from being happy.
P.S. So, the best advice I can give you is stop forcing yourself to forget; it will never happen that way. God knows I have not forgotten. You can move on and get over it but forgetting is next to impossible. So, give yourself time to break and then put yourself back together. The time will come and you’ll realize the switch just flicked and you’re finally okay.
Submitted and authored by Cheri Chua. If you have thoughts you can't help but express out loud, send them over to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll publish them under our Thinking Out Loud series.
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