The Price I Paid to Turn My Life Around in Less than A Year

I went through a deeply traumatising break-up two years ago. It was the reason I went to therapy and transformed myself completely. My life was never the same again afterward — I’m deeply grateful.

But, you know, unlike all other break-ups I’d had, I never wrote about this one.

I was so distressed that I made every effort to erase it from my memory. No chat history, no photos, no emotional articles. Nothing. I said “fuck you” to closure and focused on moving on instead. It worked.

During the year I crawled out of the traumas, I hid my vulnerability from the world and embraced it quietly in the therapist’s office. I learned to keep my pain to myself. Even when I emailed my future self, my voice was tough — I wasted no time. There were no public articles of me cutting my heart open. No trace of that experience anywhere I could access again now.

Undeniably, the emotions that consumed me then were incredibly raw and powerful — so much that I was afraid of reminding myself of their existence. I was at my most vulnerable. It was the clearest window into who I was. But, unfortunately, I have no such windows now.

It’s very strange to scroll up chats with close friends to see how light-hearted I seemed to everyone during that period even though I was going through what I’d call the most important breakthrough of my early twenties. No one knew a thing. I didn’t let one single person in. I was breaking apart inside, but I tried so hard to be rational.

Now that I’m secure and stable, I sometimes have flashbacks of my old life and those emotions I could only feel in private then — I feel intrigued and compelled to explore them from my current point of view.

But writing about them now is not the same. It’s not even appropriate. It’d merely be a therapeutic experience and an exercise to untangle any remaining mental knots, but I doubt that would work.

The thing is, I’m not the girl I used to be anymore.

Even if I decide to write about the past, I’m not the person who experienced that past anymore. I can’t just write my way back into it as the person I am now. She’s forever a mystery to me, which I’m not sure is good or bad.

I wish I had journaled through that heartbreak or written articles talking about it in detail — situation, people, who did what, and so on. I wish the experience wasn’t so painful that I had to hurriedly bury it in the loss of time.

What I’ve learned is this: Tough advice can be given anytime, but vulnerability can only be captured when it happens. Vulnerability doesn’t have an ego or fear. It doesn’t care about logic or self-empowerment. It only has the desire to be acknowledged.

See, when you read a vulnerable piece of writing, you don’t care about being right or giving advice. You want to offer your vulnerability and compassion. You become present with the writer. Then you’re both blessed with the magic of healing.

I suppose this feeling of alienation is the price I had to pay for turning my life around so quickly.

I couldn’t have changed that dramatically had I indulged myself in my emotions and dissected my broken soul for the world to see.

Truth be told, writing about heartbreak used to be my vice. It was satisfying and addictive. After all, it was in my rights — the only thing I could claim mine when I was the one hung out to dry.

But it could be a hindrance to moving on because, by writing, I’d have to acknowledge the full extent of what happened. I’d form a narrative of the traumas before I could decide whether that narrative would benefit me in the long run or not.

It’d take too long for me to soothe the wounded parts that way. I might even feel too comfortable musing on the pain that I’d forget I needed to not only heal but also move on.

On the other hand, by not dwelling on self-pity and self-blame, I was able to prioritise my future before my past. I worked my way through the emotions by progressing my life in real-time — picking up new hobbies, meeting new people, or changing jobs.

Thus, the deep-cutting shame and pain I felt only lingered as long as my memories of the experience lasted — no written words or saved photos to revive them. As for the people of the past, I made it a hard rule to be dead to them.

It’s true — the old me is dead. The new me doesn’t know those people and has no interest in knowing them.

Well, internally, it was a work in progress. For a while, whatever was silenced in my waking hours haunted me in my dreams instead. They were vivid. But, eventually, the memories faded away. My blissful present overrode them.

I’m fine now. I’m still grieving over my old self and my old life. I still wish that I could be there with her and hold her hand through all our transformative experiences. I still admire her strength for holding it all in and fighting so hard to move forward — I know how hard it was.

The pandemic has put a pause on having novel experiences and so it has given me lots of time to reflect on the past. But, I know, soon, life will become normal and I can go out there and dive myself into the physical world again. I’ll take on a new identity while the past will become even more insignificant.

What I did was probably not the most intuitive way to pick up the broken pieces, but it was the best I knew how. You might think I was extreme, but it was a survival instinct. It was my best option. Sometimes we just have to do the uncomfortable, unnatural things if we want real changes.

It was worth it.

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