Brush Credit: Miss M
Back in high school, I thought Sex and the City was just a raunchy comedy. The scenarios that occurred in that show seemed too ridiculous to be true: the crazy dating life, the 10 year courtship between Carrie and Big, the men with unfathomable issues (the klepto? The mama’s boy? The guy who claimed to be straight but acted so so gay?) Seven years later, after having gone on a fair number of dates throughout college, I’ve discovered that shit crazier than that happens all the time. Lucky me. I’ll recount my dating tales in a later post as enough time has passed for me to finally be able to laugh at it all. But for now, I want to focus on one particular episode.
They’ve been playing reruns of the show on TV lately and occasionally I’ll stop and watch if there isn’t anything else on. The one on last night was the episode where Big moves to Paris and him and Carrie break up for the 2nd(?) time. For those who don’t watch the show, Carrie and Mr. Big spend the better part of 10 years dating and breaking up 4 or 5 times at least. She just wants to settle down with him and he has some serious commitment issues. Even so, time and time again she can’t resist going back to him.
What’s shocking to me now is how much I can relate to her dilemma. All the things she did that I once thought were crazy or self destructive I now understand to be the result of high emotional stress due to fear of losing the one man she really wanted to be with. For instance, in last night’s episode, their relationship seemed to be going very well for once. They were settling in to something stable. And then he drops the bomb: he was moving to Paris for work. At no time did he talk it over with her first or consider their relationship when he made the decision to go. Carrie proceeds to immediately freak out and whine to her friends about how she must be some kind of masochist for returning to him time and time again when she knows he has a tendency to bolt whenever things get serious.
You can actually see her go through a series of emotions which start with the initial angry “how can he do this to me again??” to an optimistic “it’ll be okay. We can make long distance work!” to finally acceptance that Big just wasn’t willing to commit to her.
The part that’s most painful for me to watch is when, over the course of a weekend, Carrie convinces herself that Big’s actions aren’t a clear sign of him not valuing the relationship enough to work on it. She protects her sanity by telling herself that their relationship was strong enough to survive long distance. Meanwhile, he was already set on cutting all ties and starting a new life alone in Paris.
Watching this unfold, I recognized the emotions behind her thought process because I used to delude myself in the same way. I convinced myself to not take it personally when my ex wanted more time to himself even when we only saw each other twice a week. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal that he didn’t bother to take care of me when I was sick. I reasoned it was understandable when he chose his friends over me. Every single red flag he gave me I brushed off as just being part of his personality: “He’s just a very independent person who likes his space.” “He’s just too busy with work to come take care of me.” “He really values his friendships.” Each and every time, I convinced myself that it was something other than the fact that he just didn’t love me enough to put in the extra effort. Looking back now, I can’t believe I bit my tongue and let him get away with every goddamn thing without even a fight.
I’m having one of those days. Every once in a while all my efforts at recovery seem useless and I withdraw into negative thoughts. Maybe it’s because it’s been exceedingly slow at the office since people are on vacation for the holidays and I have too much free time to think. Never a good thing for me. I used to become depressed when I remembered moments from my relationship. Now.. I just feel anger and bitterness. I’m not sure if this is necessarily an improvement as it means I’m still placing way too much emphasis on my ex. But maybe this is just something I need to do. I always held my tongue when it came to him. I’m not a particularly confrontational person so, when he did something that bothered me, I opted to pick my battles and kept things to myself. Even when we were breaking up, I remained fairly subdued and didn’t say one mean thing to him. I regret not giving him a piece of my mind that day. And I regret not punching him in the face a little too. To help ease my anger a bit, I decided to address the things I never said through a letter I will never send:
Hope you’re having fun in Hawaii. Good to know that once again you get to blindside me all the while claiming that it’s “best for both of us” and then immediately run off on an extravagant vacation paid for by your trust fund. Remember when you dumped me the first time around and then jumped on a cruise to Alaska the week after? I got to sit at home in bed for a month crying while you sent me cheerful emails from the ship detailing the fun things you were doing. Thanks for leading me on when I was at my most vulnerable and giving me that glimmer of hope to hang on to so I could never really get over you. I especially appreciated how you kept sending me friendly texts and continued to refer to me by the pet name you always called me when we were together. Seriously. Why would you ever think that would be okay? It felt like you purposefully made an effort to reach out to me just to slap me in the face.
You know what I think it is? You cannot stand having anyone dislike you. Everyone has to not only like you, but also respect your opinions because your opinions are the only correct ones. Ease up you pretentious dick. I have a right to hate you. Stop acting like we’re best friends with no history. Stop telling me how this is just as hard for you as it is for me. It’s not. You had a choice, I didn’t. And for the love of god, stop trying to describe how you see the situation through ridiculous metaphors. Remember when you were dumping me and you explained that our relationship was like a “buoy bobbing in the ocean that was spending more and more time being pulled under water?” Just so you know, that sounded insane. I literally stopped being sad for a moment because I was trying to figure out what the fuck you were saying. That was also humiliating. It was like you were trying to explain the break up to an 8 year old by providing simplified visuals. Actually made an already uncomfortable situation 10x worse. Good going.
Also, stop thinking you’re better than everyone else. I get it, you read nonfiction. You don’t watch TV. You’re a a strict atheist. You think anyone that doesn’t think and live like you do is an idiot and that society is crumbling yadda yadda yadda… You’re completely inflexible in your beliefs. Thanks for making me feel like I was ridiculous whenever I dared to disagree with you. You really showed how much respect you had for me when you gleefully tried to rip holes through any of my arguments. But I guess I shouldn’t even take that personally since you take pleasure in doing the same to anyone and everyone who gets into a conversation with you. Seriously, give it a fucking rest. It’s not as fun as you think it is for me to sit at dinner parties listening to you aggressively try to convince religious folk that their beliefs are flawed. I’m an atheist too. But guess what? I don’t bring it up with acquaintances at casual events and demand that they explain their faith. Show some social decorum.
Finally, you’re 26 years old for christ’s sake. Be a fucking grown up. Your mother still makes dentist and eye doctor appointments for you. She still takes shit to the dry cleaners for you. You live in a condo your trust fund paid for and you dare brag that you “handle your own bills.” Well yeah, you’re right. Technically you do pay for everything yourself.. with free money given to you for no reason other than the fact that you hit the genetic jackpot. Congrats to your grandfather for making a killing in the market 40 years ago. Congrats to the rest of your family too for being able to live in luxury for the rest of their lives even though none of them have actual jobs. Hope you’re real proud of all that you’ve accomplished.
By the way, how is it that at 26 years old I’m the only real relationship you’ve ever had? The only other girlfriend you’ve had.. that was long distance. She was in rehab half the time and cheated on you throughout. You only called her once a day and saw her twice a year. I’m amazed you even count her. But I suppose that’s actually the perfect relationship for you. Being separated by the pacific ocean probably made it real easy for you to live your life exactly the way you wanted without having to have the inconvenience of fitting another human being into your rigid schedule. God forbid you dedicate some time to meeting another person’s needs.
Maybe I am being harsh. But I’ve kept my mouth shut for our entire relationship. Oh and finally, your best friend is a bitch who shot me judgmental looks every chance she got. I never said anything because I didn’t want to fuck up your relationship with her.
Have a great life. Good luck finding a girl that doesn’t mind being low on your list of priorities and agrees with everything you say.
I don’t like dwelling on this residual bitterness, but that felt good. There were just some things I needed to say, even if it is only to anonymous people on the internet.
There are times when I idealize my ex. He was a “good on paper” guy. He was smart, funny, rich, responsible, tall. He had a steady job and showed social responsibility. And, while those are good qualities, they do not fully define him. There were contradictory sides to him. He could be generous while also selfish. He would encourage communication, while still keeping me in the dark. He would want a steady relationship, though not want to dedicate any time to it. Luckily, now I have hindsight. And that’s a pretty powerful tool for ripping through the persona he put out to really dig into his flaws. I’ve actually been looking forward to writing this post.
A few days after the break up, I got together with a friend from college who had been through a devastating break up of her own a year before. She told me how her ex never got a job after college so he moved in with her. She let him live there for free, paid for his food, and never complained when he refused to introduce her to any of his friends. At times, he would disappear for a couple of days to party with friends and then come back and live with her again. For months, she didn’t see anything exceedingly wrong with this arrangement even though he was the poster boy for deadbeats. So I started thinking… what blatantly wrong things did my ex do that I let slide because I was delusional about the relationship? In an effort see him more accurately, and not as an idealized “good on paper” boyfriend, I decided to compile a list of cons about my ex:
He was an unreasonable germaphobe but couldn’t be bothered to sort out the piles and piles of crap all over his apartment.
My ex carried hand sanitizer with him at all times. He bathed twice a day. He washed his hair twice a day also and refused to get into bed without being freshly cleaned. He also freaked out if any visitors sat on his bed. Now here’s where it gets weird(er): my ex didn’t want his feet to touch the ground before climbing into bed so he wore socks. He would take the socks off if he needed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, then pull them on again before getting back under the covers. Really dude? In addition to that, he hated dogs because he thought they were dirty. His apartment building was full of dog owners and, of course, I’d always go up and say hi because I love pets. If I pet a dog, he would refuse to touch me afterwards until I had washed and sanitized my hands. But despite all this OCD cleanness, he left piles of crap all over his place. There were clothes spread out over every sofa and chair. There were beard shavings all over his bathroom counter. There were dishes piled in the sink. What the fuck?
He kept a routine more consistent than most 80 year olds.
Every Sunday, my ex would go grocery shopping and purchase the exact same items. Every Monday he met the same people for dinner. Every tuesday he ordered take out from the same restaurant. Every Thursday he went to the same restaurant in Chinatown and requested the same waiter. Every night he was in bed by 10:30. You get the idea. He loved his routine and he refused to deviate. If I wanted to spend time with him, I had to adhere to his schedule. Despite the fact that we lived 20 minutes from each other, I only saw him on weekends. His weekday routine was already set, and there was no place for me in it. And, even though we were practically in a long distance relationship while in the same city, he still requested more time to himself. Oh, and also he would only call me twice a week- once on Tuesday and once on Thursday – because that was part of his routine also.
He prided himself on being the dependable friend that was there everyone – except me.
My ex saw himself as a good listener. Friends would call him up when they were having problems and he would go talk them through it. It seemed so important to him that he be there to support the people that needed him. So, why couldn’t he do that for me? I remember when he was sick with pneumonia for 2 weeks. I would drive to his place straight after work, during LA rush hour, to take care of him. I brought him dinner, picked up groceries and meds for him, entertained him so he wouldn’t become depressed from being cooped up so long. You know what he did when I got sick for a week? Nothing. I got a phone call.
Laying out his flaws like this makes him seem like a terrible human being. He’s not really. I’m not doing this to be vindictive or to seem like the victim in this mess. I just want to be able to see him as he actually is without the delusion of our relationship.
I admit I’m a fairly stubborn person. I hate being wrong and I hate losing. When my ex broke up with me, I realized I had 3 choices: I could succumb to depression, lying in bed crying all day while not eating for a couple of weeks, I could grow resentful and angry and think of manipulative ways to screw with his life, or, I could better myself until I was too good for him.
I had already gone the depression route the first time he broke up with me (because I let him do this to me twice). I stayed in bed watching reruns of The Simpsons and Friends, refused to eat anything but ice cream, and cried every single night for months. I dropped 10 pounds in 2 weeks. I started forcing myself to eat again after I hit 100 pounds. It was the only time in my life I ever felt I would really not make it through. I decided I couldn’t do that again this time around. I have a real job now. This isn’t college anymore where I can skip classes when I don’t feel up to it. I’m a semi-adult and that requires an ability to maintain some sort of stability.
Conspiring to secretly screw with his life was tempting for a while. Unfortunately I’m not vindictive enough to come up a worthwhile plan. And, being a longterm planner, I couldn’t see a positive ending to that scenario. I didn’t want to do anything which would result in my ex seeing me in an unflattering light. Acting out in a stupid and rash manner would only lead to him feeling justified in breaking up with me. I would be the crazy ex who couldn’t handle her shit. I would be the story he’d tell all future girlfriends and they would sympathize with him while judging me. I’m too proud for that.
That left me with the final option: bettering myself. Being a competitive person, I was determined this time to come out better than him in some way. I wanted to be happier, more successful, more fulfilled. I needed to prove to myself that he wasn’t the sole source of happiness in my life. Being a nurturer, I had naturally put my ex first. I caved to him, sacrificing my needs in order to fulfill his. But I couldn’t fulfill his needs. And he certainly wasn’t even trying to fulfill mine. I gave up time with my friends until I barely had contact with them. I gave up hobbies I once enjoyed. I gave up weekends to run errands with him or help him out in some way. When he was sick or having a rough day, I dropped my plans to go take care of him. All the while, I knew on some level that he would not have done the same for me. He was a selfish boy disguised as a nice guy.
I couldn’t stand the idea of sitting around wallowing over him. I knew I needed to get back on my feet as soon as possible. The first few days after the break up I took walks. My roommate and I walked around the neighborhood, to the local park, up the street to pick up dinner, etc. We talked about ways to better fill my free time and brainstormed how I could find hobbies that were more meaningful. The first week after the break up, I started hitting the gym – a lot. I needed to keep busy somehow and it made me feel a little more energized. The second week after the break up, I found a therapist. I had never been much of a believer in therapy before. I had tried going before but wasn’t able to find a good fit. In an effort to do anything I could to move on, I started attending therapy once a week. Three weeks after the break up, I submitted a volunteer application at an LA animal shelter. Tomorrow I have my first training session.
I actually feel okay right now. Maybe I’m moving forward out of sheer stubbornness.
Every once in a while when I’m spending time with friends or doing something new and exciting I feel really good about being single. Granted this feeling doesn’t last nearly long enough and it requires constant effort to train my brain to think this way but it’s an improvement. The break up motivated me into taking a lot of positive actions. My desperation in not wanting to wallow and desire to “win the break up” forced me out of my comfort zone and into situations that I think will improve me in the long run. I realize there is no real winning a break up as anything I accomplish he won’t know about anyway but I figure my competitive drive is put to good use in this case.
In an effort to remember the positives, I started putting together a mental list of the good things that have happened post break up:
2. I look a lot better than I feel. I’ve upped my gym days to keep myself busy and to get those endorphins going. This might actually be a little offset by the increase in junk food I’ve been eating as I’ve been craving french fries like crazy lately. Plus, in my obsession with making everything new, I’ve revamped my beauty routine and splurged on skin products. My roommate randomly complimented me on my skin recently and that’s when I noticed that the new cleanser, softener, and creams actually seem to be working. I also bought clothes to go out in for the first time in years so I’ve prepared for my Vegas trip (though the December weather might pose a problem).
3. I actually have downtime. I woke up this past Saturday, laid in bed for a bit watching Netflix, then got up and walked down the street to the little coffee shop on the corner and got a latte. It was nice taking a little walk by myself in the morning. It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve really done anything by myself.
This may seem strange but every once in a while I forget the break up actually happened. I’ll be going about my business, watching TV, cleaning my apartment, running errands etc, and I’ll actually forget that I’m sad. It’s as if going through all the motions of a normal life is actually fooling me into thinking everything is business as usual. Then something pops up that surprises me and brings back all the memories. I was picking out jewelry to wear the other morning and grabbed a gold locket I’ve had for years. There was nothing sentimental about it. It was merely a fashion piece I bought for myself in college. I absentmindedly opened the locket as I was trying it on with my outfit and there he was. Early on in our relationship, my ex jokingly drew a little doodle of himself on a scrap of paper and secretly put it in my locket for me to find. I had thought it was adorable at the time and left that scrap of paper in there. I completely forgot about it until that morning. I felt my heart rate accelerate. As calmly as I could, I pulled the paper out, crumpled it up and threw it away.
I still have the bag of my things that he gave back to me. I haven’t had the heart to look through it yet so I pushed it to the back of my closet and blocked it from view with my spare comforter. This is actually a little impractical as I know all my extra toiletries I had kept at his place are in that bag. I’m running out of shampoo and there’s a full bottle in there. All I need to do is suck it up and go through that shit but I can’t bring myself to do it. I know if I open the bag I’m going to find all the lingerie I bought for him for various special occasions as well as the t-shirts he didn’t want anymore that he gave to me to wear as PJs. I have no idea why he would think I’d want his old t-shirts to keep following the demise of the relationship. Seriously, did he think I’d still wear them? Does he consider his unwanted shirts a gift to me to serve as a keepsake from this train wreck? In the days immediately following the break up I considered passive aggressively shipping all the clothing and gifts he’s given me back to him. This would serve no real purpose other than to remind him of his guilt. I decided it wasn’t worth the shipping fee.
Systematically removing all reminders of him from my life is infinitely more difficult when I can’t remember where all these things are.
I had a awkward moment at work today. One of my bosses came up and asked me if there was something wrong. I’ve been more quiet and mellow lately and I guess it has become somewhat apparent. It was nice of him to ask though I wasn’t sure what to say. He asked if it had something to do with things at the office and I told him no, it was personal. The fact that he cared enough to ask though made me tear up a little and I had to suck it up.
I’m not sure how to stop dwelling on the negative. This past weekend was nice at times. On Wednesday, I went to a mini rave at a club downtown. It wasn’t my scene necessarily but I’m still trying the “Yes Man” thing and agreed to go. While I enjoyed myself during parts of the night, there were still a lot of moments when I went to negative thoughts. We got home at around 4 AM, which is the latest I’ve stayed up in over a year. I still woke up early and my body felt like it was on the verge of collapse all day, but I helped cook Thanksgiving dinner and spent the day in pajamas and watching football.
Friday I had half a day of work. That night I was dragged karaoke, which isn’t my favorite thing. I drank a little, which turned out to be a terrible idea. I was sitting there in a room full of happy drunk people and I couldn’t stop thinking about the break up. I started tearing up and had to excuse myself to the restroom a few times to calm myself. I felt completely panicked and wanted to get away. But since I came with other people I didn’t want to make them leave early when they were having fun.
The following days were better. Saturday I spent shopping on Melrose. My body still felt very drained from lack of sleep. We got back and rested watching the USC vs UCLA football game. I decided I couldn’t handle another night out that week and stayed home with one of my roommates watching Blade Runner. We got in a McDonalds run for dinner. It was a nice night. It was relaxing and helped me recover. After Blade Runner he insisted on watching Transcendent Man, which was also interesting. Ended up staying up till 2 AM and felt content.
I think I need to really focus on these positive moments. The photo below is from a hike I took with my roommates soon after the break up. It was nice of them to try and cheer me up. There are good people in my life. I need to concentrate on that.
I think I’m okay today. I learned I can’t drink as it just makes me panic and become very depressed. On Friday I went to Karaoke with my roommate and some of her friends and sipped a rum and coke. Twenty minutes in I felt red in a face and warm. My heart was pounding and all I could think about was Bryan. I wanted to talk to him so badly that I started texting other people in order to prevent myself from texting him. I started thinking about the break up and began tearing up. I had to excuse myself to the bathroom to compose myself.
It’s easier during the day when I’m kept busy. I go shopping and out to dinners with friends. I watch movies and talk with my roommates. I can get through the days okay and function normally. I feel slightly off but am more or less fine.
I feel so defeated and I can’t understand why I couldn’t maintain a functional relationship. I feel like a failure. I keep trying to blame him but can’t seem to ignore that I don’t think he’s really a bad person. It would be so much easier if he was an asshole. I don’t think he is, though he handled the break up and a strange and kind of asshole way.
Everything feels a little empty now. I’m unmotivated. I don’t particularly look forward to anything. I’m not sure how to change my thought process and think more positively. I feel as if I might not be utilizing therapy as effectively as I could. I’m not sure how it’s supposed to work and I’m not quite sure how much I’m spending on it. I’m not sure how much longer I can stand this state of unease.
I never really believed in therapy before. Possibly it’s a cultural thing. Asian cultures don’t really like to discuss mental health issues or feelings at all for that matter. I had tried it previous after my first major break up and couldn’t find a good fit. The first woman I went to seemed insincere. Possibly she simply thought I was a teenager that just needed to get over it. She had the vibe of a sorority girl- excessively bubbly for no good reason. I couldn’t connect with that, especially at my lowest point. I wasn’t very comforted and didn’t gain anything from that experience except a stronger skepticism about therapy.
The second therapist I tried seemed disinterested. It felt awkward talking to her and I didn’t like how she ran her practice out of guest house behind her home. I can’t remember a single thing she said let alone a “aha” moment. Maybe I was just expecting too much from therapy. I was severely depressed at the time and desperate for some sort of comfort. I tired therapy because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Maybe I was hoping for a magic cure. Regardless, I stopped going and got through it on my own somehow. It took a long time and I still flinched a little every time I saw a mention of him on Facebook. I’m afraid that feeling might never go away. He will always be the one who hurt me first… and then again a few years after. It’s almost humiliating to admit that I let him do this to me twice. The only way for me to keep rational and unemotional at this point is refuse to think of him and pretend as if he doesn’t exist. Though, I saw him on Facebook chat earlier and it felt like a shot through the heart. I quickly exited the side panel so I would grow weak and want to speak to him.
The current therapist I’m seeing seems a little better. She appears empathetic and relates back what I say to show she understands. She asks questions when I pause to get me to talk more. I’m not sure how much this will really help but I have to try at least.
There are moments during the day when I just feel an overwhelming sense of panic. Usually this occurs at work, as I often have downtime to think dark thoughts. I think about my ex and keep replaying in my head the moment we broke up. I start to tear up a little and have to slip to the bathroom to take a couple of deep breathes and retain my composure. I had to tell a couple of my coworkers today that we broke up because they mentioned something about him. It was awkward and I didn’t really know what to say.
There is a silver lining in all this I suppose. In order to subdue my panic, I’ve tried to fill every moment with an activity. I haven’t let myself be alone except when I’m sleeping. I’m seen more friends in this past week and a half than I had this whole past 6 months. It’s nice feeling as if I’m reentering the world. I’ve met new people. Reconnected with old friends. The only problem is, I can’t seem to picture a future. I’ve become completely unmotivated. I hate my job but can’t bring myself to hunt for a new one. I put a hold on my Gmat studying cause I can’t bring myself to focus on it. Also, I can’t seclude myself in order to study because being alone always brings on the panicky feelings. It’s almost as if time has stopped. I can carry on day to day activities. I can plan maybe the upcoming weekend. But, I can’t see a future. I don’t have a plan anymore regarding where I will be in a few years. It was easier when I thought I’d have someone by my side then to lend support.
I don’t know how I’m going to prevent this panic from interfering with life moving forward.