dating

'I fell madly in love with a man. Then he told me his girlfriend was 6 months pregnant.'

This post deals with mental health and suicide and might be triggering for some readers.

New Year’s Day, 2018, I woke up to a text from my friend Ben*. Which was strange since we hadn’t spoken in months.

Our daily, almost obsessive conversations had whittled down into nothing. Until I got that text.

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He had broken up with his girlfriend and was wondering if I’d like to go for drinks. Drinks. ‘What are “drinks”? Is it a date? Does he want to catch up as friends? Or does he mean “drinks”?’ I wondered, trying to remain calm as the sirens went off in my head.

It had been years since I had last hoped this day would come, and it was finally happening.

Apparently, the first time we met was in high school. He was two grades ahead of me. He recalls one time we interacted but I do not. I’d like to think I would have remembered meeting him. No, I know I would have.

A year after I completed university, I was scrolling on Facebook when I came across his profile. I think it was his eyes that got me. A crystal, cool, light blue. Those combined with his dark, black hair and piercings — it is safe to say, I was hooked.

He reminded me of the boys I wrote stories about when I was younger. I noticed we had more than a few mutual friends, and I wondered why we’d never met? So added him. To my surprise, he accepted the request soon after.

We didn’t get to taking right away but very soon we ended up liking and responding to each other’s comments. Turned out we both had many mutual, weird interests, like anime. We shared many of the same articles and shared many of the same viewpoints.

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One day, he posted something about the TV documentary series Making a Murderer, so I watched it and slid into his DMs with purpose and intent. Turns out we also had a shared interest for healthy debates. It was innocent flirty fun, and I remember thinking he was perfect.

He didn’t mention he had a girlfriend straight away. Nor was it public knowledge on his socials. He told me one evening after months of daily chitchat. Just dropped it into the conversation as if it was nothing.

“Yeah, she’s six months pregnant also.” But it was earth-shattering to me. I remember feeling angry. Had I misread the signs? Had I made the past couple of months up? I had checked with friends and I was sure there was something there but maybe there was not.

It turns out I had not made things up. We met up as friends to check out an anime bookstore and the whole thing ended with us having sex in a Costa Coffee House bathroom. Romantic, I know.

But at least it proved that there was a connection between us. From then we would meet up and talk whenever our paths crossed. Each interaction reinforced the idea that he would leave his pregnant girlfriend for me.

He had to. We were perfect for each other. Not in the frilly romantic way; it was something deeper. An instinct.

However, the months slipped by and with the birth of his child, our conversations slipped into nothing. I let go of my feelings and accepted that he had a family to take care of. I was upset, but I got it.

I wasn’t going to push something that wasn’t explicitly said. Nor was I going to be a home-wrecker — my maturity and empathy had been late to blossom but, at 20, it was finally there.

We talked on and off every few months but it wasn’t like before. I was hurt and wanted to erase all that had happened.

Soon, three years had passed. It was New Year’s Day 2018 and he texted me asking for a drink. And I thought it was finally happening.

It did for a time. We got back to our routine as if no time had elapsed. He needed a few months to get over his breakup before we eventually went for the drink. But when we did, it was great.

We hung out, I met his friends, even his best friend’s parents. I thought that I was done with dating. Life had confirmed that the problem was timing. It felt as if our time had come. But it hadn’t.

I have tried to think back to when things started going bad, looking for a point of time I could point to, to tell myself, “This is when you should have walked away and never turned back.”

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I was struggling with the pressure of school and work. He started to become inconsistent, distant. And I become erratic and more depressed.

In many ways, he was the only thing I had to look forward to.

Then, one day at a party, I drank and did a little too many drugs and told him that I loved him.

I know I must have been bad because I can’t remember that night. But he said it was fine and we talked for a little. Which calmed me. Until he stopped replying completely.

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The rest, such as my suicide attempt and borderline personality disorder diagnosis I’ve written about extensively so I won’t repeat here. But I think it is pertinent to explain that it is characterised by unstable relationships with other people, unstable emotions and an unstable sense of self.

It mostly affects women, and around 10 per cent of patients take their own life. Some 60–70 per cent of BPD patients attempt it in their lifetimes.

It is a difficult disorder. I believe without it I wouldn’t have reacted so badly to him exiting my life — a big part of it is a chronic fear of abandonment, real or imagined. I would try to describe how it felt but the letters are running through my fingers like sand.

All I can say is as the realisation hit that I was being ghosted, I swear I have never felt so much pain. I could feel it physically. An ache in my whole left arm. Emptiness.

Despair was no longer just a word. I had lost my job, university place and now my best friend. I felt rejected by life. So I tried to reject it too.

The months that followed being ghosted were the hardest I’ve gone through. But it led to my diagnosis. Which has given me many explanations as to why everything hurts so much.

It was very easy to pathologise the feelings I had for him. But it is no coincidence that as time draws closer to the New Year, the days get harder to fight through. The past few days, I have been getting assaulted with memories — good and bad — that remind me of him.

Like the times we would meet up, walk and talk for hours about anything and nothing. And how the first time we had sex post-breakup he couldn’t stop smiling and kissing me. How for a while, he was always there when I needed him.

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I have just realised that I moved 12,800 km away from home to get away from my sadness and reminders of him. Studying was secondary, escape primary. But the past will always catch up to you.

For the past year, I made my disorder take full responsibility for half a decade’s worth of actions and feelings. Which is why, almost two years later, I’m still being followed by remnants of memories I thought I had buried. It’s as if my subconscious is fighting my conscious mind for me to finally face the truth.

What was the disorder was the intensity of my feelings and my reaction to the fallout. But not the feelings themselves. It’s also my predisposition to black-and-white thinking.

It ended, which means he was stringing me along from the get-go. He left, so he was always a horrible person. He left, so he’s a monster.

When in reality just because he left doesn’t mean the years in each other’s lives were a lie. It doesn’t mean that he played me the whole time. It was easier for my mind to make sense of things by saying he felt nothing for me.

It’s been almost two years since I received that text, and it still hurts. Not as much as before, but the ache is still there. A part of me wishes I’d never responded.

It was the catalyst for the combustion of my life. But I survived the fallout. My life has turned around. In many ways, 2019 has been the best year of my life.

Heartbreak feels fatal but it is not. Heartbreak with BPD is something I wouldn’t even wish on my own worst enemy. But it is possible to survive it. I did survive it.

It has taken a while, but I can finally admit that I loved him. The disorder played its part, but I did really love him. I know finally facing this truth is what will help me say goodbye to my Ghost of Christmas Past for good.

*Names have been changed.

Feature image: Getty.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

This post originally appeared on Medium, and has been republished with full permission.

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