Ashley Hopkins, Staff Writer |
I felt like I died. Do you know that drop you get in your stomach when something bad happens? When your breath gets ripped out of your chest? Your head starts pounding because it can’t comprehend what’s happening to you? That’s what I felt. I thought it would never go away.
Almost a year ago, I went through my first serious breakup. It was gut-wrenching. If I went an hour without crying it was a miracle. For ten months I was on autopilot. All I remember was going to the gym, not being able to eat, crying to my sad playlist on the car rides home, and torturing myself by watching “The Bachelor” with my family.
At first, it was so easy. The best way to describe it was awkward. I felt like an awkward baby deer stumbling around in this new field of singleness. I’ve never been single. What do single people do? I didn’t know who I was when I wasn’t attached at the hip to someone else. I quickly realized that this was a huge problem. How can I be with someone else if I don’t even know myself? My likes, what pisses me off, what makes me cry, what I do when no one is watching, what I do by myself to make ME happy. How can I expect for someone to make me happy when I don’t even know how to do those things for myself?
Everyone says the same thing: “Use this time to find yourself!” I’ll be the one to say it: what the heck does that even mean? I had no idea who Ashley was outside of the two-year relationship that I was ripped out of.
The first few months were the WORST. Coincidentally, I had gotten dumped just a month after being sent home from school because of COVID. Everyone that I knew from home was away. I had no one. I would learn that this was the thing that I feared the most.
I kind of always suspected that I had a fear of being alone or a fear of abandonment. I was always that girl who had a boyfriend, whether they lasted two weeks, two months, or two years. I hated doing things by myself. I always had to be talking to someone on the phone if I ever had a spare moment. Now, I had no choice but to scrap all those habits.
It was super awkward. Going to the mall alone was a huge benchmark. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, or where to look, and I felt like everyone was watching me. But I do remember getting back into my car and smirking to myself. I did that. It was a small step, but a step in the right direction.
I used a lot of this time to reconnect with my friends and family. Many can attest to unintentionally shutting out friends and family when you’re in a relationship. I watched movies with my family, ran errands with my mom (yes, even the grocery store), played games with my brother, and just simply attended family gatherings. As for friends, I made plans and actually held myself accountable to stick to them. I didn’t have to work around a significant other’s schedule to make sure I would have time to see them. Having no obligations and being able to reconnect and rebuild those relationships is something that I am so glad I had the opportunity to do. I also promised myself that in my next relationship, that kind of isolation would definitely be something I would be conscious of.
Aside from running errands, or going to the mall, or hanging with friends, what do you do when you’re by yourself? I’m still figuring that out. What you don’t want to do is lay in your bed scrolling through social media the whole day. All it’s going to do is lead to insecurities and inevitable social-media stalking.
I sat down and really thought about all the things I always said “later” to. I went to the craft store and bought paint supplies to paint. I went on walks around town. I experimented with new beauty products. I scrolled through my multiple Pinterest boards of food and finally made all those recipes. Overall, I made sure that I was just getting up. Eventually, I would just do all the things I would normally do with someone else, but by myself. I made a brand-new routine that got me excited for every day. I threw myself into my schoolwork and got a new job. Keeping myself busy and off my phone was one of the most important parts of my healing process.
Sometimes I just sat there. How often are we able to just sit with ourselves and breathe? I thought about everything that I did have instead of everything that I lost. I thought about all of the beautiful things I had planned and all of the people who loved me. I got to refamiliarize myself with what I liked, and more importantly, what I didn’t like. I was able to re-evaluate what was important to me, the things that I loved to do and what I wanted to make part of my daily routine.
I allowed myself to be sad. If I really wanted to cry but couldn’t get the tears to come out (please tell me we’ve all been there) I would pull out the old pictures and the texts and play my sad music. However, I also allowed myself to be happy. I rewatched movies and videos that made me laugh. I made sure to at least try and pull myself out of misery and be in the moment. I deserved to be happy, and I knew that while I might not be totally okay, one day I would be.
Most of all, I was able to reflect on who I am. I realized that throughout that part of my life, I wasn’t me. That was a version made up of all of the things they wanted me to be. I missed my old self so deeply. But I know that I will never be that girl again, and I don’t want to. That girl couldn’t go five minutes without talking to someone, was terrified of going anywhere by herself and most of all was unimaginably petrified of being alone.
I am not that girl. I’m not saying I have it all figured out and I’m a completely new woman. I get lonely and sad often. But every day is a step in the right direction, and every day I’m becoming more and more okay just being with me.
I’m okay. And I promise you that if you’re going through something similar, you will be, too. Working on the relationship that you have with yourself is the most important thing in the world. At the end of the day, you only have you; you know yourself better than anyone else ever will. You are the only one who hears every thought, sees all of your experiences, knows everything you’ve heard. You’re stuck with yourself, whether you like it or not. Life will be a lot easier the more comfortable you are with yourself. I don’t know if I ever would have gone through this journey of getting to where I am in this relationship with myself if I wasn’t dumped. A year after my breakup, I can say that I am incredibly grateful.