I was about to start with “where do I even begin?” 

It’s been a fair while and there’s a lot to say, but talking is bloody hard. I guess I’d better just plant my flag and get started.

I’ll put the flag down on a big spot: the end of my relationship. I was in a relationship with a wonderful woman from March 2021 to mid-October of the same year. She really was great. She knew me, she adored me, and she wanted a future with me. We had a good thing going, with plans to see her home in Australia and to eventually move to the seaside town Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. It was without doubt the strongest romantic connection I’d ever had with somebody. We’d started dating virtually during during the second lockdown that began shortly before Christmas in 2020, eventually going on to see each other physically when I returned to Essex from Manchester. That was a really special time. She once kitted out the back of her car to turn it into a makeshift home cinema for us both. To showcase just how well she knew me and cared for me, she she made an ‘open when’ set of envelopes for me. I still have all those things sat about a metre away from me. Honestly, I thought I’d found that elusive ‘one’. Unfortunately, despite all the amazing things we did together, it didn’t work out because I pissed the whole thing away. 

I’m hesitant to share the parts of myself that I think people won’t like. I’m deeply frightened of conflict, so much so that I tend to freeze up and completely disengage when it does arise. So, I didn’t communicate anywhere near as much as I should have done. If something bothered me: a conversation we’d had, feeling a little too tired to do something, I didn’t say because I thought these things would lead to a problem. I wasn’t always honest, either. I talked up a good game at the start, setting out not just who I thought I was but also what I wanted to be. I didn’t hold up to those ideals very well because I hid a piece of information that I thought would damage the relationship, which immediately damaged her trust in me. I was dishonest again, later. That fear of conflict and of causing damage eventually caused way more damage in the end. She did communicate. She was honest. she was committed to growth within the relationship and to working on the more negative aspects of ourselves together. For me, this was scary and overwhelming. I didn’t have the maturity to recognise that the person in front of me was willing to accept me as I came, just as long as I was up-front. The worst part of this is that I made her feel in the end that she was a bad person, that she’d put me under pressure and held me back. She never did any of those things. Were there tough moments in the relationship? Absolutely. However, I didn’t recognise the growth that was going on and didn’t accept myself as I truly was. I was working against the grain, failing to see that she was trying to reach out, connect, and grow.

If you were to ask me right now if I missed her after these mounting months I would say yes, I miss her enormously. There hasn’t been a day where I haven’t thought about her. I didn’t recognise it straight away because I threw myself into work and the gym as soon as we broke up, but around mid-December it hit me. Right now, I’m just doing what I can to move through it. I’m holding myself under a microscope and I’ve started the messy business of deliberate self-improvement. I’m proud of myself for doing that. I hope it leads to a happier life, makes me a better friend and eventually makes me a better partner. I often wish I could go back in time to change how I went about things in my relationship. That however, is the curse of hindsight, isn’t it? We can only work with what we have in front of us and must commit to constantly being a better version of ourselves instead of wishing we could make our past selves behave and think differently. That being said, it would be nice to see her again someday. I hope she’s doing well, still making music, still doing her morning pages, pulling good cards, enjoying her new school and having plenty of adventures.

Time to put the flag down on the shaky isle of mental health. Sounds like a nightmare land from a Lemony Snickett book. About a month ago now, I was en route to London to have Christmas dinner with my friends, when I started having a panic attack whilst crossing Tower Bridge. For anyone unfamiliar with what panic attacks are: these are severe bouts of intense, sudden fear. It could be a fear that you are about to die, faint, lose your mind or about something generally catastrophic. Panic attacks are psycho-somatic, so terrified thoughts are often accompanied by strong physical symptoms. These two feed off each other: the more intense your physical symptoms, the more you panic about them, which leads to your symptoms getting worse in-turn. By the time I had arrived at the pub, I had completely dissociated from the world around me. My friends were talking to me, and I could hear them, but I felt detached from reality. Sitting down in the pub, I think I had so much adrenaline coursing through me that I could have filled a few pint glasses. That adrenaline causes so many problems, not least of which are intense rushes across your chest that makes you feel like you’re about to die. Flash forward about 15 minutes and I’m sat on a street corner, my (obviously very concerned) dad on the phone to me, my friends around me- holding my hands and offering reassurance that I wasn’t dying. I had pins and needles in my extremities, my breathing was deep and laboured, and wave after wave of crushing fear just kept pummelling me. Eventually, I found myself in the back of an ambulance. Check-ups confirmed I was okay, but letting go of that trauma is so very difficult. 

I’ve had a short break in writing since the end of this last paragraph. Fortunately, I’m coming out of a bad spell with the panic. It was really rough for a few weeks. Random panic attacks came up at literally any time! I was even teaching and felt one rising up in me. God knows how I got through that. 

So, this is where I’m at right now. I lost the person I loved because of my own immature actions and thought processes and went seemingly back to square one with my panic disorder. Oh, I had covid again as well; exactly a year since the first time, actually. You might say I’m at a very low point and I’d agree. I’m finding my way without her whilst rebuilding my mental health from the ground up. It’s not easy-going, but something I’ve learned recently is to focus on one thing at a time. In the end, those small wins mount up. I just know one thing: I want to be better.


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