Writing by Atlanta Blount
“How the fuck am I back here again? I’m the therapist, I should know better. I am too much for people. I pushed him too far. How am I 37 and single? What is wrong with me? I should have let the lying go and not reacted. How was I completely blindsided again? I have lost my chance to have a family. I am a fucking loser.”
This was the unrelenting negative rumination and shame inducing spiral that brought me to my knees, as I rocked myself and pressed my forehead to the floor. Unending cascades of tears and the most intensely painful ache emanated from my heart. This ache tore through every inch of my physical body and crushed every inch of my soul.
I slid into a depressive state of stuckness, helplessness, fear and grief. I desperately clung to this disempowered narrative that further reinforced my victimhood and complete lack of control over my life. The emotional and psychological wounds of abandonment, rejection and fear of loss were gaping wide open. I felt defeated.
After what felt like an eternity – microseconds, seconds, minutes, hours, days and nights – I was truly entrenched in a narrative of victim versus villain. No amount of intellectual processing helped to calm my nervous system. The cortisol hurtling through my body was like a race car driver with a death wish. There was a cavernous divide between my mind and my heart. I was hell bent on watering a plant with no soil, on comprehending a book with no words or illustrations. Add to that the flames of guilt igniting in response to my intense trauma reaction following a breakup, as a privileged white woman living in Melbourne.
I recognised the story I was indulging in was feeding my forever hungry depressive state. Despite the physical distance from my ex, I was subconsciously imposing continued control and power over me, and he continued to take up space psychologically and emotionally. My story trapped me in an ankle length, high neck, rock star fur coat (or maybe heavy leather?) thick with uncertainty. My story forced me to see the world through bug-eye sunglasses, focused on a tunnel vision of lack of control, easily blanking out a broader perspective far greater than what I was going through.
To move forwards and relieve this stuckness, I needed to change the meaning attached to my story. A situation in and of itself, is meaningless. My perspective of what occurred, was based on the meaning I attributed to it. We are responsible for the meaning we assign to anything, and this meaning has a huge influence. Like, really huge. Meaning is primarily influenced by our beliefs, values, experiences, and the expectations we develop over the course of our life. My expectation was causing chaos in my body, as it reprimanded me for not being married with kids by the geriatric age of 37, constantly instilling a fear inducing scarcity mindset. This rigid expectation is now in the bin as it (unsurprisingly) doesn’t serve me right now. Importantly, I recognised I had control over what my story meant to me, and I had two choices. The first option was to continue convincing myself of the disempowering narrative that rendered me a shell of my former self. The second option was to identify a different, empowering meaning that transcended the relationship itself.
Through personal reflection, the purpose of this experience became evident. The universe and my body were giving me signs and overt physiological signals (jaw clenching, headaches, frequent illness and insomnia) to shake shit up and take a deep dive into factors contributing to my unhappiness. I needed to be curious and uncover the underlying human needs that remained unfulfilled and masked within the relationship. I had quite literally climbed mountains (Annapurna and Everest base camps) the year before, providing brief periods of incredulity and awe. However, this didn’t sustain me longer term. Chronic burnout, a sense of meaninglessness and putting too much pressure on a relationship to provide happiness, were some of the answers I was confronted with. This motivated me to create a new path of personal development that I felt stimulated and energised about. Certainty put me in the driver’s seat of my life again and hit me with a decent (and much needed) blast of dopamine.
The path to realisation was not linear. I liken it to a roller coaster with only a couple of wheels desperately gripping to the track at times, that manages to defy gravity and just keep on rolling. The main difference being that getting on a roller coaster (in real life) is a choice. We cannot control what other people do, only how we respond. Understanding the empowering meaning and purpose of your story is not about passivity, blame (yourself or your ex), invalidating your emotional response, or accepting responsibility for others’ behaviour. It is about forgiveness, the process of releasing resentment and unsticking yourself to move forward with your life gracefully. I used to get stuck on forgiveness, until I appreciated it is more about myself than the other person. Practicing forgiveness, hand in hand with a renewed meaning and powerful purpose, has freed me from my own perceived subjugation. I have unlocked a sense of freedom, certainty, direction and energy that I am frothing on. Choose you.