Managing Heartbreak

My ex-boyfriend and I officially broke up on July 6th, 9 days before my 30th birthday, and 10 weeks after I flew back East on an $800.00 flight in a last ditch effort to try and salvage the relationship. In that span of time, we spent all of those ten weeks on the phone trying to avoid the inevitable and repair what couldn’t be fixed. Or, rather I tried to do that, and he humored me until I was ready to finally let go. He knew it was officially over long before I was ready to admit it.

On that final morning, he said to me, “I want you to live your life.” Just like that. He didn’t yell or scream. It wasn’t some backhanded remark or passive aggressive statement. It was a fact. He really did want me to just go live my life. He said it three times. Each time quiet and steady. I knew he meant it. I knew it was over.

I hung up and I slowly inched my way to the floor. I was silently for a while. I stared at the wall. I think I was in shock. I had a million thoughts and no thoughts all at the same time. I tried to manage the mix of emotions I couldn’t quite comprehend. I was in disbelief. I was sad. I was fearful of what was to become of me in the future. I even felt a small sense of relief that the torture was all over. The decision had been made. It wasn’t what I wanted, but at least it was final. I had an answer now.

Then, all of sudden I let out this loud noise I had never heard myself make and hope I never make again. And, then I started to sob. I had no control over how hard I cried. I had a panic attack. I couldn’t breath. I lay on my floor face down hugging my knees and rocking back and forth like a lunatic at the local nuthouse.

We had 2 conversations over the course of those 10 weeks where we agreed to take a break and try to give each other space. As soon as I hung up the phone on both occasions, I immediately called my mom in uncontrollable sobs. It was the kind of crying that racks your whole body, and shakes you to the core. The type of crying that is so exhausting, it eventually slaps you in the face and makes you pass out.

On both occasions, I hung up the phone with my mom and immediately called him back. The feeling of pain was so overwhelming I couldn’t help myself. In this moment, I had no pride. I wasn’t trying to save face. I wasn’t playing games. I wasn’t trying to be dignified or pretend I was some empowered woman. My feelings were genuine and real and very raw, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was powerless to my urges to call and try to make it work. I said everything I could think to say. I did everything I could think to do. None of it worked. He was completely beaten down. He knew he wanted to leave, but it was too painful for him to disappoint me in such an enormous, earth shattering way.

Breaking up is perhaps the one occasion outside of dealing with a death that offers such a roller coaster of emotions that come and go without much warning. I have never quite experienced the rush of emotions that change from highs to lows with little warning. One minute, you feel like you’ve been given this amazing opportunity to start over again, to re-evaluate your path, and to choose differently this time. You feel empowered and invigorated. You know you’re alone, but you don’t feel lonely. And, then just as quickly, you’re doubled over in tears about your loss. It’s a constant battle between your brain and your heart, and it can be an awful, debilitating experience. It sneaks up at times and in places where you least expect it. You could be laughing over a glass of wine, and all of sudden you’re crying in your pasta.

It’s these moments after a break up when you realize who your true friends are. Because it’s in these moments, when you are completely unhinged, vulnerable, and presumably pretty f***ing annoying to be around. Thankfully, I had true friends who walked with me down this torturous path and assured me that I would eventually find the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, there I was. On the floor for 2 whole days crying and struggling to catch my breath. At one point, I called my dad and begged him to help, “Dad, I just need something to stop the pain. Give me percoset, Xanax, I don’t care, anything, please. Please get it here.” I don’t really know how I expected him to do that, but I begged him to nonetheless. My poor Italian father was probably getting stomach ulcers just listening to his inconsolable daughter 3,000 miles away. He was helpless to do anything but sit on the other end of the phone.

I think back on it now, and I can remember that awful day of finality like it happened yesterday. I had never been heart broken before. I had made up my mind early in life that I would only truly fall in love once. I didn’t want to be one of those women that fell in and out of love with people. I wanted to date people, love them for the people they were, learn from them, and move on. I intended to find one person who I would fall for, commit my life to, and in that case, I would never have to deal with being heart broken because we would be together for life.

How naïve I was. I suppose this desire in me to fall in love only once was more based on fear than romance. I never wanted to go through heartbreak. I didn’t think I was strong enough to recover. Turns out I am. We all are. It’s a part of life. It’s something you can’t easily avoid experiencing unless you want to miss out on a lot of other great things.

I don’t regret falling in love at all. I just have to come to terms with the fact that my perception of what my life was going to be like is completely different now.

In just a few weeks, my world and my entire understanding of what I was doing and where I was headed was completely shattered. I finally understood the phrase, “Your entire life can change in a second.”

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