Over these past few weeks I’ve ceased to recognize the woman in my mirror. She’s gaunt, her skin is yellow, her eyes are swollen from nights of crying. This is not the person I thought would become when a man broke my heart.
Of course, I never imagined a man would break my heart.
Especially not this one, with his wit and charm and intelligence. He swept me off my feet before I realized what happened. Our conversations stretched into the small hours of the morning. He was my friend, only that, until the day he told me he loved me. No man had ever told me that before. I half expected none would, a sentiment born of years spent perfecting the art of being invisible. Indeed, the only remarkable thing about me were my opinions. So I had been led to believe.
That day, I woke up as a quiet girl accustomed to the sting of unrequited affection. I went to sleep as a woman who was loved and loved back. My world had been shaken, my perceptions of myself destroyed. I was beautiful: no one had ever told me. I was intelligent: that much I knew, but never before had it been sexy. For that matter, neither had I.
I loved him. Never doubt that. Insecurities I possess in excess, but even though I did not love myself, I loved others. And I loved him like I had never loved anyone. He was the smile on my face at work, the hope that motivated me to endure long days. He promised me many things. I would never be alone again, I would be loved for the rest of my life, I need never worry about anything again. He told me he wanted to marry me. I told him I wanted that too.
So it was settled. I departed for my semester overseas more at ease than I had ever been in my life. Worry’s a close friend of mine, so close, in fact, that no dosage of anti-anxiety medication ever dreamed up by any psychiatrist ever has been able to banish him. I’d grown accustomed to his presence the way you get used to a bad smell. But he had faded. I was no longer alone, I was loved for who I was. The world was mine.
It continued that way for four more months. Then winter came, and brought depression with it. For I seem to be a human plant: I crave sunlight. Without it, my brain hibernates. My neurotransmitters play dead. A light box is my weapon of choice, but I had not brought it overseas. I was unarmed but for the support of my friends, and the love of the man I thought I was going to marry. It would be enough.
It was for a while. The depression was manageable. I had good days. But one night I admitted to my lover that I was sad I would not be able to spend the holidays with him, and he decided he was done. That’s what his Facebook chat message said, at least. He was done, he could not handle my depression. I had to ask the man who told me he would never leave me to do the courtesy of breaking up with me over the phone.
I cried for days.
While I cried, and became too sick to eat, he went on with his life like nothing happened. There was no visible sign he was affected by leaving me. On the phone, his voice was steady. On video, his expression never changed. The depression worsened, I became suicidal. My clothes no longer fit. Every betrayal I had ever experienced rushed to the surface. Worry had his hands around my throat and depression held me down. The hall wardens arrived at my door, sent, they said, by friends who were concerned for my safety. I lied. They left. I endured the therapy sessions until I decided that as usual, it was useless.
But I began to eat again. The worst of the depression lifted. The wardens did not come back to my door. And even though sometimes I still cried in secret, it was always in secret. Then even that too stopped. I went back to class. I went out. I began the monumental effort of catching up with my coursework. And three weeks later, I am still here. The pain is not gone. The betrayal is still devastating. Nothing can alleviate the knowledge that the man who referred to me as his wife, called me his soulmate, and swore he would never leave me did just that–on Facebook, for having depression. I think I will carry that with me always. He’s planning his holidays and celebrating his birthday “with people he loves,” or so he told me. I doubt those people know he said that he is the most important person in his life.
But I made it. And really, I should feel lucky. I escaped a one-sided relationship that would have eventually crushed me. Someday I’ll even believe I’m lucky. Until then, it’s one foot in front of the other.