Yesterday was bittersweet for me. It was my ex-husband’s birthday. I paused for a moment because you know that feeling where someone was once important to you is now a stranger? I’m not sure I ever knew him. It’s made me acutely aware of things in my life. Over the last decade, I’ve gotten to know me. I no longer recognize the woman I was when I was with him. I’ve grown and evolved. My heart has expanded by leaps and bounds. And the best part is I’ve learned how capable I am by investing in myself.
One of the most challenging lessons we face is learning who we are and not allowing ourselves to create an identity based solely on our partner. This lesson was difficult for me to understand. For the longest time, I conformed to what I thought he wanted me to be. I lost myself in that relationship. I didn’t have the strength or backbone to fight back. In my defense, he had an uncontrollable temper. One minute he would be fine, and the next, he would turn into a Jekyll and Hyde. After doing extensive research into his symptoms, I’m confident that he has Borderline Personality Disorder. He would get so angry over the littlest things and storm out of a room. Five minutes later, he’d come back calm as a cucumber. That behavior led to a vicious mental cycle. He never hit me. Let me be clear about that issue. But his demeanor made things complex. I always felt that I had to walk on eggshells in conversations with him for fear of triggering an episode. I think, in many ways, I loved him more than I loved myself. That’s a difficult statement to convey. If you were to ask him, he’d tell you he never abused me. Physically that would be correct. Emotionally, he left scars that will never completely heal. The behaviors that he inflicted made it challenging to trust again. I trust others also, but it took a long time to understand my role in his life.
When you are a victim in a relationship, one of the most challenging tasks you will undertake is learning to forgive yourself. It takes two for a connection to flourish and fall apart. It took me a long time to understand this concept. Couples fight with each other, and it’s healthy as long as it’s healthy. Fists don’t need to fly when fighting with a loved one. Fighting exposes arguments to issues that are bothering each person. When one party stops fighting, it doesn’t mean they resolved the issues. It just means that person is tired of the fights and drama that gets nowhere.
Learning who I am has helped me in relationships and my career. I’ve learned that I limited myself when I was too afraid to get out of my comfort zone. Now I challenge myself daily. Whether it’s trying a new dish, exercise, or learning a new word, I take the responsibility of seeing that I can achieve things I never dreamt of possible. I was lost and confused, heartbroken, and betrayed. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my experience with my ex, it’s that trust has to exist in a relationship to thrive. Respect is critical between partners. If those ingredients aren’t in the mix, the relationship won’t work in the long run. It took a long time for me to forgive him, but before I could forgive his actions, I had to forgive myself for my role. I succumbed to fear. I didn’t fight healthily. I confided in people that I shouldn’t have and didn’t learn for a long time that the same people I was confiding in were betraying me.
For the record, a part of me will always love and care for him. But I’m not in love with him, and I wish him well with his new wife and daughter. Do I have days I struggle? Sure. But I also love who I am now. I love that I can do things with the people I love most and not feel guilty for spending time with them. I love meeting new people and exchanging ideas and stories about how to make things better.
Fortunately, I learned that true love exists. It’s not easy, and it requires patience and determination. We have to be willing to fight for true love when we find it. Otherwise, it slips through our fingers, and we live with regret. For those that have found their soulmate, hold onto it. Life isn’t easy, but true love makes this world a better place.
Loving a person with mental illnesses can be challenging but not impossible. If you find yourself dealing with a volatile relationship and present yourself with whiplash, I implore you to seek professional help. You may need help sorting out the decisions you need to have a healthier relationship and life. COVID hasn’t helped matters.
Remember, you are a person of worth, and no one has the right to make you question if you are unique or not. There is only one you. Give yourself the gift of knowing yourself well enough to know that you can stand on your two feet. Believe it or not, when you can stand on your feet in this world without support, that’s when you are the best version of yourself. Because that’s when you finally see that you believe in yourself, and with that belief comes the ability to share your life with others. That is a beautiful feeling. Enjoy your day, everyone.