Not my first heartbreak, but the heartbreak that broke me

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The end came three years ago, and the divorce finalized a year after that. 
It wasn’t my first heartbreak, 
but it was the heartbreak that finally broke me.

I don’t remember many specifics. I think my brain protects me from things, things I’ve said, done, and witnessed.
It protects me from my life
my truth
my self.

When I try to think back on certain 

sometimes I see your face looking back at me… then nothing, only the blackness of memory loss or the quick, burning twinge of embarrassment
and regret, followed quickly by

So much pain that survival became my only focus.

I keep wanting to tell this story, about how it started and all fell apart.
How it fell apart quickly but not quickly enough,
how I committed and you committed and neither of us did anything to
our commitment until our commitment was only to our child and no longer to each other.

And yet and yet and yet

I can’t seem to tell our story.
I can’t seem to find the words even though finding words is what I do. 
I look at a word and I research it and I define it and I find 
another word to replace it,
another word that makes more sense,
another word people can understand,
another word that makes a complicated concept 
a little less complex
a little less intimidating
a little less overwhelming.

Even after three years, I can’t seem to admit to myself that I’m better off without you when it was disturbingly easy to admit to myself 
you are better off without me. But that’s because I can see it.

I see it in your face when we speak now,
I see it in your smile when you mention your life now,
I see it in your eyes when you smile at our daughter now,
I see your light.

The light that used to be mine. 
The light you gave to me ‘till death do us part, then snatched away under false pretenses on a therapist’s couch.

The light you promised to share with me until you couldn’t anymore and you gave it to someone else instead, and instead of telling me yourself, I had to find out after you forgot to sign out of Facebook and I had to read about the woman you couldn’t wait to hold again, the woman you made love to, the woman you spent our money on a hotel room for, the woman who filled your emotional void, the woman who listened to you, the woman who fucked you three times in one night, the woman you gave everything to, the woman who would later call me crazy bitch, the woman who is now a stepmother to our child, the woman you currently ask me to get along with, to talk to, to welcome into our new co-parenting life.

‘Till death do us part, indeed.

Even after that revelation, I wasn’t ready to give up. Not until that one day. Until that fight.

I’m not ready to talk about that fight. I’m not ready to admit to that fight. I’ve written about what happened after that fight, but I’m not ready to talk about what happened during that fight. And to be completely honest, I can’t really remember the details. My brain won’t let me.

Has your cheese ever slid off your cracker? 
Can you remember the feeling of it as it happened, as if something plunked into place, but the wrong place?
I can.
Do you look back on your life, like looking at a slideshow, then point at a blurry picture and say — that’s the moment you broke me?
I do. 
I remember how it felt, but that’s all I can remember. I see flashes of it in my mind as I approach the three-year mark since my attempt to stop my own heartbeat, now only days away.

I remember my skin crawling from the adrenaline and anger.
I remember seeing a knife in one hand, an open wound on the opposite arm.
I remember the drawer that the pills were in.
I remember I had hidden them from you on purpose, for this reason.
I remember the feeling of vindictiveness, selfishness, satisfaction.
I remember the purest and most visceral desperation I’ve ever felt,
the desperation that I would do anything to keep you while careening into the black chasm of hopelessness based on one fact:
I couldn’t do anything to keep you.
I remember knowing the absolute wrongness of what I was doing 
while also feeling the rightness of what I was doing.

The absolute rightness of taking my own life.

I’m better now. I’ve talked about that before. 
One thing no one tells you about mental illness is that you can recover, but those thoughts and feelings never really go away, you just get better at 
ignoring them
hiding them
dismissing them
challenging them

until one day you either get back to being a semi-functional human being 
or you don’t.
I’ve likened my climb out of that place to climbing out of a deep well, surrounded by claustrophobic darkness pressing in from all sides,
seeing a small speck of light ahead of you, clawing your way towards it 
only to realize
the well is actually a tunnel and 
the light is actually a speeding train headed right at you.

It was bad. That fucking train hit me over and over and over through our year-long divorce. You made poor choices over and over and over that kept me from recovering. Over and over and over. It could have been worse. You could be a shitty father, and you’re not. So that’s something.

I survived — the suicide attempt, obviously, but also the situation. The train stopped coming and I made it into the light. (On second thought, I’m pretty sure I jumped on the train and rode that asshole out of the tunnel.)

Everything was the same, and everything was different. 
When I have to, I challenge the thought that I still want you back. 
When I have to, I slap a smile on my face when it’s necessary to see you. 
When I have to, I knock on the door of the house you share with the woman you chose over me, the woman who is now part of my life for as long as she’s part of yours.

I’ve made some choices, not the least of which is a choice to live. At first I made that choice for my daughter, but now I make it for me. Every day.

My heart is not fully healed from its break. But sometimes, sometimes I think it might be close. 
Sometimes, I see the beauty in the world.
Sometimes, I find joy. 
Sometimes, I sing. 
Sometimes, I dance. 
I like to call it

Written for the Heartbreak Challenge. Thanks to This Glorious Mess for allowing me to participate!

Want to know more about Natalie? Tweet her @leiashotfirst, check out her Instagram, or visit her design portfolio on Behance. Sometimes she writes things here on Medium, sometimes she writes about science for her job. She currently lives in Albuquerque, NM.

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