One year later: why my breakup was the best thing that ever happened to me

Today marks 365 days.

365 days since I had the crushing realisation that neither of us were happy. 365 days since we sat in his parked car in the rain and he told me that he thought it was best that we went our separate ways. 365 days since he watched me pack up my things and leave what was supposed to be our home for the last time. 365 days since everything that I knew and loved and wanted disappeared before my eyes. 365 days since my life changed forever.

I'd be lying if I said that the last year has been easy. It hasn't. I've cried until I've had no tears left, screamed until I've had no voice left, and curled up into a ball and sobbed myself to sleep more times than I can count. I've cried at work, in the car, on the train, in the shower, during yoga classes, and even when walking round supermarkets.

I've been consumed with guilt, fraught with anxiety, wracked with regret and overwhelmed with grief. I've had panic attacks and episodes of depression so severe that I've felt like I might not recover. I've spent hours frantically pacing and aimlessly driving, feeling like I'm spiralling out of control, my thoughts so intrusive and relentless that I've worried that I might be losing my mind. I've shut myself away for days at a time, my heart heavy and my soul desperate, praying for the pain to stop.

I've picked myself up only to fall back down time and time again. I've taken one step forwards and two steps back. I've made progress and ruined it. I've started to feel better and then found myself back at square one.

But I'm not telling you this because I want to alarm you, or make you feel worse about your breakup. I'm telling you this because I want you to feel less alone. Every tear, every heartbreak, every sleepless night, every seemingly endless and empty day - I've been there. Everything that you're going through, I've been through too. I've felt broken, just like you.

I'm not telling you this because I want you to feel hopeless. In fact, it's the opposite. I'm telling you this because I want you to feel hopeful.

I've loathed and resented and seethed and blamed and cursed. I've obsessed and ruminated and dwelled and stewed and speculated. I've begged and pleaded and prayed and repented. But I've also fought and clawed and persisted and endured. I've forgiven and surrendered and flourished and grown. I've healed.

My breakup was the single most traumatic, devastating and life-altering thing that ever happened to me. But it was also absolutely necessary. It didn’t just change my relationship status. It changed me. I'm not the same person anymore. I'm stronger, happier, kinder, wiser and more positive. And not only am I grateful to have met my ex, but I’m grateful that he broke my heart.

Because when my entire life fell apart, I had no choice but to rebuild it. And when I no longer knew who I was, I had no choice but to rediscover myself. 

When we’re heartbroken, often we'll grasp for anything to fill that ex-shaped void. But what are we hoping to find at the bottom of that bottle or that tub of ice-cream? What are we searching for inside that screen or that stranger's bed? After all, there’s no escaping negative feelings. They're a part of life. And life isn't supposed to be good all of the time. It can be beautiful and amazing, it can be dull and unremarkable, or it can be scary and downright difficult. But we can't experience fulfilment without also experiencing disappointment. We can't experience joy without also experiencing suffering. And we can't experience love without also experiencing loss.

If you’re reading this, you probably also had someone in your life who you loved more than anything, and now they’re gone too. This is not something that you can just ‘get over.’ But just because this experience feels negative, doesn't mean that it is. Your breakup has the power to transform you.

And as long as you're trying to forget about it, ignore it, or pretend it didn't happen, you're never going to learn what it's trying to teach you. 

If you told me 365 days ago that I would end up happier than I ever was with my ex, I wouldn't have believed you. But I am. My breakup was the wakeup call that I needed to turn my life around.

Before, I was too focussed on being what other people wanted me to be, instead of being myself. Now, I no longer settle for jobs that don’t align with my dreams, relationships that don’t align with my needs, or a lifestyle that doesn’t align with my values. I’ve stopped choosing money over meaning, chemistry over connection, and validation over truth. I've let go of always trying to please people, of making people like me, of worrying about what they think. I now know that I'm not going to be everyone's best friend, and that's okay. Because the only people that matter are those who love me exactly the way I am. And gone is the crippling insecurity and nagging self-doubt. Gone is the paralysing fear of being found out. Gone are the long-familiar feelings of being a fraud and an imposter. Instead, they've been replaced with feelings of aliveness, freedom and belonging. For the first time in my life, I'm unapologetically me. And it feels great.

Before, I was too focussed on what other people could give to me, instead of what I could give to myself. Now, I no longer look to others for reassurance or fulfilment. I've stopped blaming people for my problems, creating unnecessary drama, and making excuses for my lack of ambition. I take ownership of my emotions and I give myself what I need. I'm getting to know myself, learning how to feel complete on my own, and becoming comfortable in my own skin. Being alone doesn't scare me anymore. I fill my time with things that I enjoy and I've created a life that I'm excited to live. Sure, a relationship would be a nice addition - but it's no longer an essential.

Before, I was too focussed on what I could have, instead of what I already had. Now, I've let go of my ideas about what my life 'should' be like. I've stopped comparing myself to other people. I've put an end to my relentless search for more - more pleasure, more time, more attention, more money, more stuff, more excitement. I'm no longer waiting around for the next achievement/relationship/pay-rise. I might not have a high-flying career, a fancy house or a good-looking guy, but I know that my life is enough. I am enough.

Before, I was too focussed on changing my external circumstances, instead of changing my internal state of mind. Now, I no longer attempt to control things that are outside of my influence. I'm learning how to be comfortable with uncertainty, how to embrace change, how to adapt to difficult situations, and how to make peace with things as they are. I'm able to let go of resentment quickly and stay grounded when faced with criticism. I meet my negative emotions with compassion and curiosity and I view challenges as opportunities to grow.

Before, I was too focussed on chasing the highs, instead of appreciating the ordinary moments in between. Now, I no longer mistake happiness for the butterflies I felt in my stomach when I was with my ex, for the way my heart skipped a beat when he looked at me, for the excitement I felt when I was about to see him. I've learned that real happiness is going about my uneventful, mundane, everyday life, yet being able to appreciate every little thing that is happening to me, right then in the moment. It’s being connected to myself, to others, and to the world around me. Real happiness is being fully present - because after all, the present moment is all we ever really have.

We might not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it. And my breakup has made me a better person in every way. Instead of letting it break me, I let it improve me. Instead of running from the pain, I used it as an opportunity to take back responsibility for my life. You can too.

"Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light." - Brené Brown

Sending you so much love x

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