I wish I was one of the few that could reminisce back to their life at school with fondness, rather than resentment, sadness and an anxious pit in my stomach.
Honestly, I’ve repressed my secondary school life experiences so deeply into my subconscious, that I couldn’t recall any significant moment even if I tried.
Sadly, that doesn’t apply to one nightmare experience my soul chose to retain forever. Maybe it’s because of all the lessons I’d learnt along with it; how it shaped me into the twenty-one-year-old girl I am today or simply because, how could I forget something like that?
It started with a boy. Most sad stories do, don’t they?
We shared a form class and after exchanging emails (or was it Facebook?) we’d message for hours after school. Completely unaware of my surrounding, time of day, or the new addition to the family promoting me to big sister. Infatuated wouldn’t even begin to describe how I felt about him.
I don’t even remember how we started dating or how short the relationship lasted, but I do remember the threats, public shame and embarrassment that it brought me.
As most young love stories in the 21st century go, things were exchanged. Cute text messages, compliments, regular after school walks home together, and selfies. Lots of selfies.
They start off innocent. Photos of you with the family, selfies of you dressed in your nicest outfit and face full of makeup; and then, a different type of selfie is requested. I remember that pit in my stomach.
When you’re in a new relationship—your first relationship at that—it’s like your teenage mind can’t separate right from wrong. Or it can, but doesn’t allow its rebellious mind to listen to it. It’s “high” off the love drug and would literally do anything to keep it.
Like I said, I can’t remember much. My brain chose to delete things it didn’t deem necessary. So, how he broke up with me and why, is something I couldn’t tell you.
I do however, remember this one conversation after the breakup. I was sitting alone in my room with post break up blues, hiding from the rest of the family. He’d messaged, threatening me, telling me to do the worst, or else he’d send my photos to the whole school. A young teen girl’s worst nightmare literally coming to life before my eyes. I won’t dive into the specifics of the requests (and I didn’t follow through with them either); but looking back at it now, it was my first time experiencing a panic attack.
I remember, constantly leaving but being repeatedly added back to group chats of 15+ school kids, who were dropping my personal pictures. I ended up having to block most of them off my social media to stop being brought back into the chats, but I couldn’t escape the inevitable: facing them all at school.
I changed completely. I couldn’t walk into a bathroom without running past the mirror to avoid my reflection; it sickened me. My “friends” would text each other around me, about me, and discuss how disgusting I was—it took one friend that felt bad for me to tell me what they were doing.
I overate for comfort, then hated myself for eating. I would sit in my kitchen staring at the clock, waiting for the day to end because this feeling in my chest and stomach, which felt a lot like permanent butterflies, were becoming unbearable.
I didn’t know it then, but I was developing an anxiety disorder—one that I battle with to this day.
You’d think such an experience would paralyse me from ever dating again, right?
Fast forward a few years, I met a boy. A new boy. Nothing like my ex. This one was kind, understanding and loving in so many ways. For the first time after years, I felt like I had someone I could open up to and trust. Suddenly, all these issues I’d been facing, disappeared like dust. To say it was the happiest I’d ever been (during that time of my life), would be an understatement.
Our break up wasn’t one that we wanted, but one due to cultural standards set by family, tearing us apart. Little did I know the pattern of behaviour that was forming.
One could call me a serial dater. The next few years of my life were spent jumping from one relationship to the other. How many times can a girl say she found the love of her life, ey?
It took me losing my best friends, boyfriend and being at the lowest and loneliest point in my life last year, to finally confront my biggest fear. Myself.
I had realised, I wasn’t scared of being alone. I was just frightened of becoming that anxious, insecure person I turned into after that incident at school. I was depressed and suffered from crippling anxiety. It took a “knight in shining armour” to finally treat me like a bloody human being. To be looked at as a person, instead of that girl; and be spoken to with respect, to make all the pain go away.
I feared falling into that spiral again. I associated that period of my life, with the feeling of happiness and safety. That’s all I ever really wanted.
But the thing is. I’m not that girl anymore. I hadn’t been for a long time. Fear blinded me into thinking if I didn’t have a man to save me again, then I would be.
You could say glass shattered before my eyes.
I spent the rest of my weeks self-reflecting, just myself and my thoughts. I’d do activities that allowed me alone time; like knitting, colouring and drawing, to get use to enjoying my own company. I’d made a conscious effort to grow closer to my family and cousins I had drifted away from. I started working out to improve my mental health and eating better (or at least having a few more veggies in my diet) to feel stronger.
Today, I have officially been single, for over a year.
This isn’t a miraculous story to say being single has made me the happiest person ever, living my best life.
No. I still feel sad sometimes. I still suffer with anxiety.
But to say I’m not stronger, happier or more at peace with myself, would be a massive lie.