Safe Travels – Part Two

You can read part one here.

The Sunday of that week, I was due to leave my mom’s place and drive almost two hours away, to the small town that I lived in with my ex-girlfriend (or fiance if you want to get technical) for almost 4 years. This place holds a lot of meaning for me. It was where I met my therapist. Little did I know that this therapist would help me find the courage to leave that toxic relationship that I should have ended three years earlier. But it would also mean that I’d have to leave her too. When she offered Skype sessions, I wanted to jump up and hug her (I was already attached by then). It was a really good call on her part. Thank you, therapist.

Sunday morning the four of us (me, my mom, her boyfriend, and my youngest sister) had planned to go for a quick morning outing before I left. When we got outside, my mom’s boyfriend’s car was gone! Stolen. My heart broke for him. He loved that car. He has such a good, kind heart, and goes above and beyond for people, and then shit like this happens. I was so pissed off! The car was ancient and falling apart, but he loved that car. I took him to the police station to give a statement, and when we got back, I thought of maybe just staying there again that evening, even though my B&B in my previous home town had already been booked and paid for. But my mom told me that there’s nothing I can do, so I should rather keep to my schedule. I knew she was right, but I was still hesitant to leave. The good news? A few hours after I got back to my mom’s place the next Tuesday, my uncle bought my mom’s boyfriend a new second-hand car! And this one was in great shape. He’s now made a plan to park this car in a safe and monitored place. It’s going to cost him every month, but it’s a small price to pay for security and piece of mind.

The drive to the town I was going to stay in for the next two nights went by so quickly. It’s usually such a boring drive of almost two hours, and seems to go on forever. But not this time. Even driving back to my mom’s place seemed to be over insanely quick, even though I was driving extra carefully (what with it being a rental car and all). Weird. Driving into the town felt like a kind of “coming home”. It was so nice seeing all those familiar places. The reason I went back there was to go pick up a box of my things that I had forgotten to take when my ex and I broke up. I also wanted to see my therapist in person again. A week before, I had asked my ex whether we could meet at a coffee shop and she could just bring the stuff, but she asked me to come to the house instead. I can’t remember the reason. I went straight to her house. I didn’t want to, because I knew I’d have to see the dogs. I didn’t want to see them ever again because I thought it would only break my heart. I didn’t know how I would feel seeing her again though.

When I got there, the dogs went crazy. They were barking and crying and jumping all over me. For the remainder of my stay, the baby sat on my lap, and the older one lay down against my leg on the couch. My ex hugged me when I got there, but I felt numb… The way I felt the whole time I was there. It was strange being there again. Everything looked different, yet the same. I don’t even know how that makes sense. The wall and frames that housed all our photo’s was still there. But all my pictures had been replaced. I was dissociating, but it’s exactly what I needed.

My ex made me coffee and we spoke a bit about life. A little while into the conversation, she asked whether I would be open to meeting her new girlfriend. I didn’t know how to answer that at first. But then she told me that she’s in the bedroom (I had no idea someone was even there), and wanted to meet me. So I agreed. The three of us spoke for a while. The two of them were very affectionate with one another during our conversation. I just remember thinking, “this is weird”. But I still wasn’t feeling any emotion. It’s as if all the feelings I logically knew were there, were lost in a deep, dark void. I told them that I need to check in at the B&B, so I’d better get going. They both hugged me goodbye, and my ex said “I thought this would be awkward, but it was actually pretty good”. Good to know.

The B&B was lovely. It was so peaceful there. My favourite part was the fountain, which was so soothing and relaxing. I can’t remember much from Sunday evening. All those feelings that I had shut down? They erupted the very next morning. The jealousy, the anger, the sadness. It just hurt. I was emotional the whole of Monday. I think the lack of sleep had also finally caught up to me. I had a session with my therapist later that afternoon, which was the highlight of my entire trip. But I’ll write more about that next time, as it deserves a post of its own, and ties in nicely with a topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now.

On Monday evening I was in a very dark space. I didn’t want to be alive. But I wasn’t suicidal either. I think this place of being is worse than when I’m in the idealization or even the active “planning and preparing” suicidal state. Having a plan and preparing to act on it, brings a sense of peace, even with the intense pain, because you know it will all be over soon. But this weird in-between place is extremely frustrating. The kind of frustration that makes you want to peel your skin off, and scream. But as most of you know, I can’t scream out loud. That in itself is frustrating. I had been feeling suicidal that morning, and even during some of therapy, but it went away after that.

On Tuesday I overslept. So it was a mad rush to get ready and pack up in order to check out in time. That didn’t happen. I only managed to check out about 30 minutes after. Thankfully, the owner was very nice about it. I got myself a cup of coffee for the long drive ahead, and drove back to my mom’s place. I spent the night there, and this time my youngest sister wasn’t with us, so I slept a little better. I had to get up early in order to not miss my morning flight. The next morning, my mom’s boyfriend and I went to go get my car, which was parked a few streets away (the secure place). Since he didn’t have that new car yet at that point, we had to walk. Walking in that city at 06:30 in the morning is not wise. He wanted to go alone, but I didn’t want him to drive the rental car, so I went with him. We took our “weapons” with, and left all valuables at home. It was freezing, but I was warm by the time we got there. That was a fun little walk. I actually really enjoyed it. I felt so sad saying goodbye to my mom. I wish I could have taken her with me.

I had a few misadventures dropping the rental car off, and in the airport itself, but survived. Things that kept going wrong, and silly things I did (or didn’t do). I don’t know where my mind was that day. It up and left. The flight was really good again. Now I’m back home.

Up until Sunday morning, I had felt stuck in between two worlds. Like I wasn’t really here. But I wasn’t back there either. It’s a very confusing space to be in. It’s as if I needed to adapt to being back. But I don’t understand why that would be the case, because even when flying back from Sweden and Mauritius, I hadn’t had that experience. Maybe it has to do with having seen my ex again. Because since that Monday I’ve been dealing with a lot of feelings regarding her and the life we shared. Memories. Seeing her happy with someone else. Seeing how happy she is without me. I’m glad that she’s happy, I really am. But there’s also an element of pain inside.

It’s been so hard. And it still is. It feels like she’s haunting me. On Sunday afternoon I got a text from her, asking whether I was okay because it looked like I had lost a lot of weight since she last saw me (even my mom, aunt and sisters said the same thing- I hate it). I wanted to reply and say “so what, it’s not your concern anymore”, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to hurt her. She also apologized for “throwing *me* in with Girlfriend” and “but I know you still care, because you sucked it up. Thank you for being you”. I didn’t know what to say. She was being nice, and she apologized. So I forgave her for that little incident and thought it would be over now. So I just replied and told her that I’m glad she’s happy and has found love again. I wanted to close the book again with that final message. But then she just flung that door wide open. Telling me that she really believes this girl is “the one” (which she said about me as well), and that she hadn’t thought she could feel so much more for someone than she did for me. That “God” told her that this was the right girl. And for once in her life she felt sure about someone. My thoughts: “Well, did he also tell you not to throw things like that in your ex’s face?” There were smiley faces all over the messages. I had already been struggling after having seen her that Sunday, so these messages shattered me.

I’m feeling even worse than I did when I finally left the relationship early last year. I also keep seeing the last moment I saw her on that day. Our sad, last weekend together where we both knew what was coming, but tried to enjoy the remaining days together. She had broken up with me so many times in the last two years of our relationship, but the next day, she’d be all loving and sweet again, as if nothing had happened. It always confused me. Are we broken up? What’s happening? So I knew that if I didn’t end this relationship, we’d keep going around in circles.

I feel so abandoned by her. But I shouldn’t right? I’m the one who left her! But that’s the way I’m feeling, even if it doesn’t make logical sense. Maybe, without being consciously aware of it, I had held onto the sense of security that maybe I could go back if I wanted to. But seeing her again, so happy and content, ended that. She doesn’t need me anymore. All those times she was in pain and I held her. Those times where she was sick, and I looked after her. Now she has someone else to do that for her. To be there for her. That house that I’m so familiar with, now has someone else filling it with her presence. The dogs, one of them mine (but I didn’t want to split them up- and I couldn’t bring him with me anyway). “Someone else is sleeping in the bed that used to be mine. Doing everything that I used to do in my house”. Even though it was never mine. I had no idea I would feel this way. I go through so many different emotions. Back and forth.

I haven’t wanted to talk to anyone about this. About how I’m feeling. I feel this is something I need to deal with on my own. Like I always used to do. The difference this time is that I’m being gentle and compassionate with myself. A good blogger friend of mine recently wrote a beautiful post on empathy and validation. I really connected with it. Extending empathy and validation to ourselves. It’s easy to give that to others, but when it comes to myself, I treat myself really badly. So I’m trying to change that.

I keep reminding myself that it won’t hurt forever. That it’s going to fade again. But for now, I just need to deal with it as best I can, and be kind to myself.

My therapist asked me on Monday whether there was any unfinished business with my ex and I said no. But now? I don’t know what this is.

Safe Travels – Part One

On Wednesday I got back from my week-long trip to see my mom and sisters. Annoyingly, I’m still recuperating from it.

I had been looking forward to this trip since it was booked. I was counting down the days. Sometimes even the hours. Last Tuesday, after coming back from group, I started to feel unsettled. “Tomorrow is the day”. I don’t know why I had shifted into that almost panicked mode.

Packing for a vacation always overwhelms me for some reason. That Tuesday, it seemed even worse. I was so anxious, and even emotional. I cried through most of it. What was going on? I had no idea why I was feeling the way I was. In our session on Monday my therapist told me that she’ll let her other clients get away with “I don’t know”, but not me. Apparently I’m insightful. But sometimes I really don’t know. And this was one of those times. Maybe it will come to me at some point. That happens quite often, so maybe I can’t get away with “I don’t know” after all.

I hate airports. I despise them. Even more than I do crowded shopping malls (I try to go during the week when most people are at work). Those are places where I’m most likely to get panic attacks (lasting either from a few minutes to over 20 minutes sometimes). So, in preparation, I took one of my magic anxiety killing pills, and after that, I felt so much better. I had used some mindfulness and breathing exercises before taking it though, hoping that it would be enough. But it wasn’t. I lasted 20 minutes with that. But at least I tried. I got through the whole airport and flying thing pretty smoothly. I used to love flying. But when I got into a relationship with my ex, I started becoming as anxious and paranoid as she was every time we had to step foot on a plane. But this time, and alone, my old love of flying was back! My favourite part is the take off and landing. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush.

On my way from the airport to my mom’s place, I had to go pick up my youngest half-sister, who lives quite a while away from my mom. She was going to be spending a few days with us. I also popped in to see my eldest younger half-sister, who was at work, so I couldn’t spend much time with her. To me they’re just my sisters (there’s no half in there for me). By the time I got to my mom’s place, I was exhausted. As I walked through the door, my mom was busy with something. She looked up and saw me, and her eyes just lit up. She also seemed to do a double take, not sure whether I was real. I hugged her tighter than I ever had before. She looked so happy!

Throughout my stay there, I slept on a small blow up mattress, and my youngest sister slept on the couch. Sleeping in the same room with any one of my sisters is a crazy experience. My mom’s place only has one bedroom, so we slept in the lounge. I didn’t get much sleep while I was there. I struggle to sleep in a new environment, and add to that a young sister who doesn’t get the value of sleep. I’m a very light sleeper. After having her try to keep me awake as long as possible, I would finally go to sleep. But she’s so noisy, and every time she moved, the couch creaked way too loud, in my opinion. The curtains also couldn’t close, so it was too bright in there with all the street lights. Not a very good environment for inducing sleep. But I survived. Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, I like waking up to peace and quiet in the mornings, while I drink my coffee. There was no chance of that happening here. Imagine being semi-asleep and having your mom and sister yelling at one another before you can even get your eyes open. Those two can’t be together for more than a day, or they’re at each other’s throats. They know exactly how to push one another’s buttons. Now here I was, stuck with this for four days. Burying my head under the pillow never sounded (and felt) so good.

A lot happened during the time with my mom. The unfortunate thing is that I barely got one moment alone with her. Both my mom and sister vying for my attention. I didn’t know which way to go. Which way is up? It was exhausting. My mom’s 23-year-old boyfriend (I called him daddy, that had him laughing for a while), was there in the evenings and the weekend, so we were never entirely alone. The only uninterrupted time my mom and I had was an hour before I went to bed on my last night there. I had taken my youngest sister home by that time. I adore my sisters, but the youngest one is a handful! We had our own “salon day” at my mom’s place though. She coloured and styled my hair, and we even played around with make-up. That was a nice bonding experience.

It was a busy week. Driving back and forth to go see my eldest younger sister, and a bunch of other outings that made me so sick of driving. But I don’t see my family every day, and it was nice to be able to do those things for, and with, them, so it was worth it. I struggled a lot that week with disconnection though. I “felt” numb quite often.

On the Saturday evening, we went out for dinner with my aunt (my mother’s sister) and uncle. He’s Greek, she’s Portuguese. They’re constantly fighting, and it’s fascinating (and extremely funny) listening to them, as they switch between English and each of their languages! It makes my head spin just thinking about it. It’s always fun spending time with them though. Oh, and they took me to a bookstore, and bought me two new books! I’m obsessed with books. I got “Into the Heart of Mindfulness” and “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion”. The first one was recommended to me by my former OT, so when I saw it I just knew I had to get it.

My mom was emotional and cried a lot during my stay. Sometimes over small things (sound familiar?). As far as I can remember, I’ve only seen her cry twice in my life. And now suddenly it’s almost a daily thing. Apparently it’s been like this for months already, so I’m worried about her. I wanted to hug or hold her during those times, but it’s like there’s an invisible wall between us, and I can’t get myself to do that. The most I could do was put my hand on her shoulder or back for a few seconds, and even that felt awkward. I can’t remember her ever holding me either. Of course hugging her hello and goodbye is easy. But other than those times, that’s not the case. It’s still a great source of sadness for me. I don’t know why it’s so hard with her, when I find it so easy to be that shoulder when someone else needs it, including my sisters.

I still have more to write about this trip, but I’ll rather split it up into two parts. I don’t want to write anymore tonight. Writing has been hard for me lately. Wanting to write, but not able to start. An internal battle of sorts. But now it seems like I’ve broken through that wall.

Life & Road Trips

Being in a contemplative mood tonight, I want to write a post regarding a few things from my recent experience, as I wrote about in my first post Goodbye’s.

I was going to be driving approximately 1321 km (820 mi) over the course of 3 days. No one thought my car would be able to make it over 2 days. I’m certainly glad I didn’t attempt to. I had a few problems and had to stop at each and every gas station, but nothing major. The car wasn’t the problem.

Instead of taking the usual highway, I was advised to take a back road instead. I have Google Maps, so we were sure it wouldn’t be a problem.

Oh, but it was.

That first day driving, I spent the majority of the trip crying like a starving baby, and wondering what the hell I was doing. So it certainly didn’t help matters much when my maps app decided to play games with me.

“Turn left.” Okay. “Take slight right”. No problem. “In 300m you will have reached your destination on your left.” Wait… what?! There’s nothing here! It’s a dead end! And in the middle of nowhere! A group of guys were sitting around a fire. Fear started to settle over me. They all stared as I attempted to turn my car around. Relief flooded through me as I drove away.

Damn you, Google Maps.

Unfortunately, our misadventure together didn’t end there.

A short while after that. “Turn left”. Okay. You better not mess me around this time. I took the turn, and a short while in, the ground turned into a thick muddy mess. Again, nothing around me, but the ‘road’ going on as far as I can see. My car struggling. The wheels spinning. Panic setting in. I phone my now ex and scream and swear at Google, tears blinding me. Yes, I know she’s not the app. But she’s used to me expressing my rage and panic in her presence over things that have nothing to do with her. Surprisingly, she’s calm and gentle with me and I find myself instantly starting to calm down. There. Now I can think a little clearer again. I have a choice to make. Continue on, and risk getting stuck and the road being like this for too far a distance, or turn around and go back. But that’s a risk too. I could get stuck doing that. Well, I’d rather get stuck closer to a main road than going on to God knows where.

Eventually though, I got to where I needed to be.

Thank you, Google Maps.

Some parts of the trip went by so quickly. An hour seemed like 5 minutes. Other parts seemed to be go on for an eternity (we all exaggerate).

Whereas the first day was filled with tears, on the second, I was an empty shell. I never know what’s worse. The flood, or the drought?

Settling into the guest house on that second evening, my usual clumsiness caused me to knock the coffee plunger/press off the counter onto the tiles. Glass shattering. Damn. What now? And what the hell was the universe trying to tell me with all that glass scattered across the floor anyway? It was tempting. Oh so tempting. But then the tears started. That’s great. Crying over a broken object. Only, I knew that wasn’t the real reason. I cleaned everything up and decided to rather go to bed. The next day would be the final leg of the trip and I wanted to leave early and just get it over with.

I arrived safe and sound at the place I will be calling ‘home’ for the next few months.

Life is much the same way. We’re on a constant road trip. It will take us down unfamiliar paths, some beautiful and exciting. Others terrifying and ugly. If it was beautiful all the way, would we still see the beauty? It’s the bad, the horrible, that allows us to continue admiring and appreciating all the good. We might make choices that lead us down dead ends or dangerous paths. But there are always ways to correct our course. We end up where we’re meant to be. The journey never ends. At least not until we take our final breath.

A few days ago, I wrote this:

The only purpose life serves is to test your limits and break your heart a thousand different ways.

I still get my moments where that feels true. But once I see clearly again, I realize that life is an adventure. Yes, it may test our limits sometimes, but it shows us how strong we really are. How much we can overcome. That we can overcome. And yes, it may break our heart, but it heals again. Today is the first day in weeks, or rather, months, that I haven’t hated life. That I actually want to live. And it feels so good. It know it might not last, but I’m going to take full advantage of this moment and not think of that.

Right now, I’m excited (even if somewhat terrified) to find out where life will take me next.

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Enjoy the ride!