I needed chaos and drama. But being still healed me.
Do you know people who run around like chickens (or chooks if you’re an Aussie) with their heads cut off? The woman who volunteers for everything and acts like a martyr about it? The workaholic bloke who never gets to tuck his kids in and if he does take time off, he’s on the phone the whole time? I used to be a bit like that. Always doing something, always surrounded by people. Busy, busy, busy. I was never still.
I was also great in a crisis. I thrived in one. Perhaps that was why being a news reporter and later, a Foreign Correspondent was so appealing to me.
When I met my Ex he was perfect. But not in the way I thought. Yes, he was charismatic. Our first meeting, the chemistry was intense. But we were the perfect fit in quite an invisible way. One that took me many years to see.
Our relationship was a rollercoaster. The highs were high, the lows low until one day they scraped the bottom when he almost killed me. You can’t get much lower than that!
But even after that I went back to him. He ‘needed me’ I thought. In my mind, all I needed to do was love him more. To fix his damaged soul and show him I could be the one to turn him into the man I believed him to be deep down inside.
My focus was on him, on his issues, the ones I thought I could fix. Most of my sentences started with ‘You this…’ (to him) or ‘He that….’ (to friends). I had all the answers.
I put him and his wellbeing above my own. I denied my fears, suppressed all my emotions. I was too busy to feel anything anyway. When he was remorseful I was in rescue mode. Trying to fix him into the man I thought he could be (or if I am honest, the one I had projected onto him). And I was trying to prove I was worthy of him. That I wouldn’t let him down by all those so-called others before had done. I’d be the perfect wife.
It was exhausting. The chaos and drama wore me down. Little by little my self-esteem dissolved until I was a helpless mess. Nothing I did worked. I couldn’t fix him, I couldn’t save our relationship.
My loving him had become an unhealthy obsession. An addiction for me. I was in a futile search for that first high I’d felt and he’d reward me with, between the bad times.
I also thought I could control the chaos. If only I do X, then he’ll be change. If I do Y, then he’ll be happy, I thought. I could make the bad go away and we’d live that dream life I envisioned. It was an addiction that could have killed me.
I didn’t know then how much I needed that chaos and drama. When I found the courage to leave it was the opposite. I was still for the first time in years. That led to the most painful withdrawal and a volcanic surge of emotions: anger, loneliness, fear, guilt. You name it. I sobbed until there were no tears left some days.
Being still also meant I had to face myself. For the first time. I’d spent years going from one boyfriend to the other. By the time one dumped me I’d already lined up his replacement. I was never alone. The new boyfriend therapy was the best antidote to a broken heart.
It was great for my self-esteem too, always having a gorgeous man on my arm and happy in a relationship. I was friends with a gorgeous model at the time. She was one of the leads in Mad Max 2. Even she told me she was jealous of me, that the nice guys were too scared to approach her. She was tall, stunning and a lovely girl. She, jealous of me! What a boost that was!
But this never being alone. Never being still was also an anaesthetic. Masking my own deep-seated issues. Once I was away from the chaos and drama, I had nowhere to hide. I had to face me.
I had to ask myself the painful question: why had I stayed after violence, when others wouldn’t have? That opened up a Pandora’s box of pain.
I didn’t like the person I saw. I always thought I was the confident one. Ask any of my school friends, they’d say the same. ‘Outgoing, confident’ is how I am sure they’d describe me.
Instead, I found this frightened little insecure girl. One whose fear of abandonment was coming to the fore. No wonder when I first met my ex it had felt so right. Why I thought he was The One. Our baggage matched in a weird way.
Whilst he was the ‘damaged’ one. Whilst my focus was on fixing him, I could deny I needed fixing myself. My need to be needed was a great way to numb my insecurities. He ‘needed me’ to save him, nothing wrong with me! It made me feel good. It filled the void inside.
It was a void of shame. That I wasn’t good enough. If I was in a relationship with a man who needed me, was more damaged than me, he’d never leave me or so I thought! My fear of abandonment: alleviated.
But this is not the basis for a long-term healthy relationship. Bandaids (or Plasters for those in the UK!) never last. They fall off after a while. When mine did I saw the rot inside. But, as painful as it was, it was also liberating. I realised:
I couldn’t control the uncontrollable, but I could change me. So I took my focus off him and placed it back where it needed to be. On me.
That was when I began to START WITH ME. That was how I started to heal.
Originally published at www.beingunbeatable.com