My ex got engaged. This is the last axe that needed to fall to sever all attachment. It’s strange, because he has been in my dreams lately, which I know signifies a release or letting go of attachment. I must have felt this coming, so I was already in a state of release when this news hit.
Some people might say, “It’s been six years, how are you still not over this.” But that is the thing with emotions and relationships, you don’t just “get over them.” Sometimes emotions coming flooding back unexpectedly, and you need to process them, otherwise there is no release and they will lie in the shadows waiting to strike at any time. There is no statute of limitations on how long it take to process emotion. You just have to let it run its course.
I read the news on Facebook last night and it struck me. It took a while to process what I was feeling. I went into shock. I felt numb and electric all at the same time. My first response was to email my therapist. I needed to be witnessed in this. It was late and I knew she wouldn’t receive it until the morning, but I needed to send out a white flag – I need extra support and my therapist tends to be my first responder.
It was hard to get to sleep after that. All the feelings of the break-up and being made to feel unworthy came flooding over me. The betrayal I felt from friends after we split. The loneliness. The abandonment. I let the feelings consume me and bawled on and off for the better part of an hour.
I also cut all the remaining ties to that part of my life. (Aka, a cleansing of Facebook friends.) Not that I don’t still care for those people, but because I need a clean break. I need to not be reminded of that part of my life for a while. It no longer serves me. For some people it was hard. I love them personally, but I need to step away and make room for those who play for Team AJ.
By the time I woke, I had forgotten the entire situation (Bless Sleep!). It wasn’t until I saw an email from my therapist that I remembered. Well, the moment of respite was wonderful, but back to mourning. I sat for a bit and cried. I called a couple friends. First, one of my best girlfriends, who knew my ex and I and who had gone through a similar split, so she could understand the lingering emotions of the end of an important relationship. Then, a friend who helped me work through much of my emotions regarding my ex. Then a little more crying and some cuddles with the cat.
Now, I’m writing. The thing I am most happy about in this entire situation is how well I am able to process the emotions. While chatting with friends today, I described it as sailing. I know how to captain my own ship now. I can ride the waves of emotion and chart a course that will get me to safe harbours during a storm. I no longer get overcome and drown in the emotion, struggling to keep my head above water. I’m not adrift at sea, waiting to be rescued. I have a boat and I know how to sail.
After being away from therapy for a while and facing some major emotional challenges, I have been thinking that I am reaching a point where I don’t need regular therapy any more. I am okay. I have the tools I need to ask for the support I need and capability to receive it. I won’t shrink and hide any longer. I can also name and understand the emotions I am feeling and navigate them accordingly without denying or repressing them. I may be ready to be therapy-free, which is ultimately the goal!
Despite the emotions I’m experiencing, it is quite rewarding. Even through the mourning, I can’t help but feel proud of myself for dealing with it so well. For taking care of my needs and not denying my emotions by thinking “get over it already” or “you should be past this by now.’’ By exercising self-care and compassion. For showing myself the love I give to others.
Too often, we bully ourselves into thinking our feelings are wrong, so we push them aside and don’t address them. That’s when they are left to grow into neuroses. We become accustom to ignoring them, so we don’t see when those past hurts that we left unresolved start directing our actions. As a society, we have put expectations on “sucking it up” and “bouncing back.” We don’t have the tools to allow for the appropriate time to grieve. We try to “fix” the issue, when some things just can’t be fixed. We become uncomfortable “sitting in the shit.” We want to clean it up and make it better.
That doesn’t solve anything. Your feelings need to take up the space they take for as long as it takes for you to work through and heal. We need to start viewing emotional wounds as we do physical. If someone breaks their arm, you don’t complain that the person is still wearing a cast two weeks later. The bone takes the time it take to heal and if you rush it, it just makes the injury worse. Emotional trauma is the same. If you have been badly hurt, it will take a long time to get back to normal, and even then, things may not fully heal and you may have to deal with residual effects of the damage.
There have been many days that I have wished for the last of this attachment to die away, but it wasn’t time yet. Then, one night, after a lovely thanksgiving dinner, you are sitting in your bed, stuffing and pie swirling in your belly, a contented grin on your face, and it hits you: the time is now. Here are all the remaining things you’ve been clinging to and it is time to let them go. You don’t want to at first. It hurts as one by one, you release, but at the end of the next day, you are calm. There is a new peace; you feel free. You still feel a little raw from the gaping hole that is left behind the exodus, but the scar tissue that forms is clean and strong, and in time, it will fade to nothing.