Embracing a Lonely Ending

The panic of a relationship’s end fueled a hopeful future


It wasn’t the cheating that ended things. Rather, it was the actual break up a month later, and the admittance that he didn’t want to be with me anymore And suddenly the platform on which I’d built most of my adult life collapsed, and I had no idea where to grab onto as I was falling.

That night, I was fighting for my keys out of his grasp. He told me I was in no state to drive, but I wasn’t planning on driving anywhere. I hadn’t even grabbed my glasses. I just wanted to sit in my own quiet space. We’d shared space for about seven years, but my car was my own. I’d bought it, and it belonged to me, and in a moment of complete breakdown, I wanted to be in my space that I owned, and be allowed to process my heartbreak.

I eventually got my keys from him, having felt like a child being teased by an older sibling that was dangling my favorite toy over me as I begged for him to give it back to me. I went to my garage, closed the door, and got into my car. In hindsight, I can see why he and my roommates were critically scared about me. I had, nor have I ever had, no intention of harming myself. Locking myself in a garage with my car didn’t exactly give the best impression that I wasn’t going to do something terrible. I reassured them through texts that my car was not turned on.

Instead, in the quiet darkness of the garage, sitting in my little Toyota Yaris that I had purchased the year before, I found some form of calmness. That car had been my first major purchase, so I was in my hard-earned personal space. And as I sat there in my solitude, I began to let the moments of the previous hour sink in: my boyfriend of nearly seven years finally admitted to no longer being in love with me, and that had been his reason for cheating on me a month earlier his coworker. He was now in love with her. He’d denied this to me that night, but I knew it was true.

My life changed that day, and I knew it, and I was scared.

His income was higher than mine, and I had been financially dependent on him. I had no where to go; my mom had passed away eight years prior to that moment. My dad had remarried (to a woman with whom he had a relationship with while still legally married to my mom) and was raising four children in a cramped two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. I was estranged and unfamiliar with my extended family, stemming from tensions of emotion over my mom’s passing. And my brother, the only relative I consider myself close to, lived across the country in Connecticut with his wife and daughter, where he’d started a new life serving in the Navy.

I felt so desperately alone and panic began to set in.

I had wanted to make the relationship still work, despite being cheated on. I realized I wanted this because it was a comfortable space, because it’s all I’d ever known for seven years. Now, my new reality was that I was no longer wanted or desired, adding more to the heaviness that was my very real loneliness.

Holding my iPhone 5C in my hand (one of the only few possessions I’d purchased on my own), I opened my Facebook, and simply typed “Someone, please… help.” I then texted two friends from work. Both friends responded, immediately followed by another coworker who saw my plea on Facebook, asking if I was okay and what was wrong. I reassured them of my safety, both physically and mentally, and went on to explain everything. The cheating, the illusion that things could still work out, and the breakup.

I remember feeling ashamed. It was a stupid emotional reaction, but I felt so much shame. I felt embarrassed that I’d allowed for all of this to happen; it was absolutely my fault. It had to be. Somehow I knew it was my fault that he’d fallen out of love with me, that he’d cheated on me, and that this relationship had failed. I told my friends I had failed in this part of my life.

My friends listened to me. They shared my anger. They reassured. Above all else, they listened. Two offered a place to stay, which I declined. So they continued to listen and reassure me and share in my own emotions.

I spent two, maybe three, hours in my Yaris, locked in my garage, simultaneously texting and talking to these three friends, and gradually, more people responded to my post. Some asked, “what was wrong,” while other’s asked “how can I help?”

Gradually, the panic lifted. If only just a little, but it lifted.

At some point I went back to the condo we rented together, along with his brother and a mutual high school friend. I tried to sleep on the couch, but my now ex told me to go to bed. He took the couch. That was kind of him, but I really didn’t care about his kindness anymore. I left a voice message for my scheduler at work to let them know I wouldn’t be coming in to my shift. I gradually, and restlessly, drifted to sleep.

By no means was I okay after that night. I was worse for some of the days, weeks, even months, that followed. It was hard to find the enthusiasm to not just go to work, but do a good job at work. I was processing the end of a relationship with my high school sweetheart, whom I had know for over 10 years at that point. I processed the end of dreams that would never come to be, a life that I had planned for that would never become a reality.

I could not be happier for that night today.

The end of my identity with my ex was brutal. My self esteem shattered. I mentally beat myself up because I weren’t better, because I could have tried harder, or looked prettier, or lost more weight. I withdrew more into my insecurities, suffered with my health as I lost my appetite for many weeks. I stopped reading, drawing, playing games, or doing anything that made me happy. I felt like an empty, ugly shell.

In all of this, however, I knew this shell couldn’t stay in this household forever. And the job I had, while I loved it, wouldn’t be a substantial form of income for the rest of my life. I had to move out. I had to be my own breadwinner.

Someday, I’d have to find a way to be happy again, because happiness had always been my nature.

And the universe sent me signs that that would be the case, almost right away.

Parallel to my ex cheating on me and breaking up with me, I had been pursuing an opportunity at work that was sought out by many but only be offered to few. The day after the breakup, I received a call. I was told I got it.

Three months after the breakup, at the age of 25, I returned to the community college that I had passively taken classes at and eventually dropped out of, five years prior. I will transfer at the age of 30 next spring with three associates degrees. Going to school while working full time is no easy feat.

Eight months after the breakup, I moved from the condo we shared to a small bedroom I rented out from two brothers down the street. I still lived with him for that long, because it took me that long to save up for this move.

Almost four years have passed since that early December night. As I wrote this, I kept receiving texts from my current boyfriend, telling me he hoped that my day was going well. We’ve been in a relationship for over a year now. He too has experienced a traumatic ending to his last long-term relationship, which isn’t very heard of from a male’s perspective, but these shared experiences created a unique connection and understanding between the two of us. My writing this story came from being noticed for my writing by my professor. Along with writing, I’ve gradually begun to rediscover my passions, skills, and talents, things that I had unintentionally buried as I buried the part of me that was once in a relationship with my ex. I play video games again, binge watch my favorite films, and draw.

I have gradually become myself again, and will continue to grow for the rest of my life.

I don’t identify with my ex anymore, but I do believe that my breakup helped define my character today. Healing was a long process, and in that healing, I realized I still clung to shame. I hope to break that chain.

My shame came from my fear of how others perceived me. Initially, it was my perceived notion that I had failed maintaining my relationship because I identified so much with that relationship, when it really wasn’t my fault. Now, I wasn’t perfect; I am never going to say I that I was, and as a human, I’m never going to be perfect. But it wasn’t my fault he cheated. I had no reason to feel shame for my relationship ending this way.

I felt shame for wanting to stay in that relationship after he’d admitted what he did. The truth of the matter was that I really was in love with him, and I had so many wonderful moments and memories shared with him. I considered him my best friend. Of course I didn’t want that to go away. I am not ashamed for having wanted to find a way to get past this and make it work, somehow.

I felt shame in still referring back to this incident in my life. Why hadn’t I “gotten over it?” Impactful events in a person’s life shouldn’t be something to “get over,” since I’ve never heard of someone getting over a job promotion or the birth of a child. Emotionally scarring moments will stay with a person, in the same way the most joyous events of our lives do. Yet, we expect people to get over heartbreak as quickly as possible. A breakup is treated so trivially compared to other traumatic life changes. I don’t understand why, given that almost everybody has experienced a heartbreak.

No one should have to feel any shame. No one experiencing a breakup should feel as alone as I did that night. The reality was that I wasn’t alone. The friends that responded and listened to my hysterical rambling that night reassured me of that. The loneliness came from having identified my every fiber in that relationship, and not knowing where to go from there. In my sharing just my own experience of having been cheated on and facing the end of a very long relationship, I am hoping that this will resonate with somebody out there currently feeling the same panicked feeling of being completely alone and feeling unwanted.

Nobody is ever truly alone, and everybody is wanted.

One of the worse days of my life was the best thing that could have happened to me. No, my breakup was not worse than my mom’s passing, but diving into that day is most definitely a whole different story. Things have not been easy; getting diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder after this incident and being prone to bouts of depression have not made living on my own, commuting 50 miles to a full time job round trip, and going back to school easy on my mental and emotional health.

Yet, though I live on a limited budget, I found myself working harder towards the things I wanted the most. I was so proud when I bought my own bed, dresser, shelf, and bedside stand for my little rented room. I allowed myself to buy a few extra clothing items for that job opportunity I’d gotten, that didn’t require me to wear my uniform when I worked in that area. I started to travel; I travel domestically and on a budget to this day, but I revel in road trips and weekend trips, or on a flight to a major city in the country that I just want to explore.

I started being kind to myself again, because that’s the best thing you can do to yourself when your world crashes down around you.

The worse day of my life reminded me that life will always include vivid moments of suffering. And it’s those moments that fuel me to find my next life highlight. In those desperately lonely and low moments, cling to the ever-told saying that you will get past that moment. It’s worth it. I promise.