Dear Elline,

I met her about 3 years ago through mutual friends at a concert. When we got introduced, she came off very cold and slightly offensive, so I initially paid no attention. Nevertheless, her attitude left me intrigued. So the next time we met, I was determined to talk to her more, and after hours went by, that’s when we realized that we clicked so well. I was enthralled, passionate and interested in the relationship. I’m the kind of person that is fully immersed and invested emotionally. It only happened twice in my life that I was actually madly in love, but this one was no exception. 

There is something genuinely special when you date someone, and you find you really connect, almost telepathically. You can say four words, and you’d understand fully what they feel. It’s that emotional connection that I haven’t had with anyone in a long time, and she was the first person that honestly spoke to me that way. I think that’s the reason I held on to that long. If you find something beyond attraction, more than just getting along, you naturally develop strong feelings. Every time I’d see her, my heart would sink into my stomach. Each day, I would fall in love with her all over again. 

There is also real truth behind the fact that in the first couple of months, or maybe the first year, we wear rose-colored glasses, and tend to overlook things that probably should have been seen as red flags. 

Within 6 months I learned that there was a lot more baggage to the equation. But we all have baggage, I thought. Yet, she never addressed hers, and it was growing and trickling through every aspect of her life, and by osmosis, into mine. During this phase of our relationship, I recognized 3 things: that I was madly in love with her, that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, and that no matter how hard she tried, or I did to help, she could not see the good in things. 

In time, I realized that was her way of being. She wouldn’t be able to talk about anything positive. I’d be a happy-go-lucky, positive person commenting on trivial things like how delicious a sandwich was, and she would just see the glass half empty in each situation, finding ways to criticize things. There were plenty of self-sabotaging moments as well. She would often tell me our relationship had an expiration date and that one day I was going to leave her. She didn’t have a lot of friends so I felt a responsibility to be the source of her happiness and stability. It was neither healthy for her nor I.

I naturally feed off of my environment. If it’s negative all the time, that’s going to weigh me down eventually. By the time all my efforts to project my own positive self onto her turned out in vain, I lost a part of who I was, and I couldn’t even lift myself up. I was becoming her, replying to my friends in the same damaging tone. That’s when it first hit me.

I’m lucky to have had my best friend and my sister to confide in, but they didn’t give me the harsh and realistic feedback I needed, they wanted to be respectful. And, honestly, I wasn’t telling them the whole story either. I was too busy trying to salvage what I had then.

Almost two years into the relationship, I had my first panic attack. Ironically who caused it was the only person in the room with me at that time, and that was her. We were watching our favorite show on TV, and the show is already intense, but that night, we also got into a fight. I remember my body getting tingly; I felt it in my neck and my chest. My body went numb. For one hour, I thought I was going to die. She was holding on to me the whole time, but she was also the one who was causing it.

I paid no mind to it at first, but I started noticing that I was destroying myself mentally. Not too long after, I had a second panic attack, and that was the final wake up call for me to step back and reassess the situation. My depression worsened, to the point where I needed to see a doctor and he delivered the news: I had developed high functioning anxiety. .

What followed was the hardest & saddest part. I stayed home alone while she went out. I thought about everything. This person who I thought I was going to spend the rest of my days with, I had to break up with and free each other of this toxic cycle.

And she could sense it. She refused to see me or talk on the phone. She just texted, asking if I was going to break up with her. I asked back if we could not to do this over text, but she just replied: “I just need to know one thing, tell me that you don’t love me anymore.” I am still angry about the way we broke up because she deserves better. That’s proof that she wasn’t in a good place, not treating herself the way she should. I couldn’t say I didn’t love her anymore. I care about her. So I just replied that I wanted to break up. And that was it. It was a bittersweet moment filled with sadness and relief.

All my friends and family started noticing how much color I was integrating back into my clothing. It was tangible evidence, a manifestation of all the happiness creeping back in, almost like I was breathing again. She didn’t like me wearing colors or patterns; she scoffed every time, and always suggested I go with an all-black ensemble. But then I just fit her aesthetic to make her happy. Now it was finally about me.

It has been the chicken soup for the soul kind of year. I took time to focus on myself, did everything I wanted to do with no hesitation. I recently started going on good dates, and I’ve kept a hold of my anxiety through meditation, channeling my experience through art, and joining a basketball team. Now can passionately decide on things and not let the next relationship become the single most important thing in my life.

The biggest takeaway for me is understanding the importance of using the honeymoon phase to explore each other’s compatibility with honesty. And knowing that you may suffer either way, but you’ll never hurt as much as you hurt in the past. Equally as valuable, I’ve learned that I am a resilient person and that my limitless capacity to care about people should extend to myself as well.

Kind thoughts,