Five months and change ago I ended a toxic relationship. Afterward it was imperative that I put myself on a dating diet in order to get my head right. The relationship started like a dinner party, progressed to an all night rager and ended with a hangover lasting much longer than I’d anticipated.
I didn’t know it at first but during the relationship I was literally going out of my mind. If you know me, or can read between the lines, you know that I’ve got PTSD, OCD and several other acronyms. Mix in a charismatic, manipulative narcissist and it’s like adding Mentos (the freshmaker!) to a bottle of Coke. I shared more with him than any other person, including my therapist. Eventually every one of my “weaknesses” was used against me at one time or another to try to pry reality from my grasp.
It started with fits of rage over the smallest perceived slight. I believed it was me. I believed that I did something, said something, misunderstood something. In reality it was manipulation and grooming. After the first big blow up he realized he could get me back with sweet words and a pseudo apology. Of course in hindsight each high was just setting me up for the next crash.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize: the best cures for a relationship hangover are the intangible ones.
It wasn’t a pretty break up. I wasn’t eloquent or kind. I couldn’t think of how to be either. I just ended it by saying I couldn’t do it anymore. I wasn’t equipped to. See out of my mind, above.
There are still moments when I remember something I overlooked, ignored or lived with in the name of comfort and the illusion of love. At those times I get angry. Angry at myself for throwing to the side all the mental health work I’ve done in the past several years. Threw it away in an instant when the right buttons were pushed. My mental instability was locked up tight and he knew how to pick it. And pick it he did. Fortunately my better self—the one that takes cues from the gut—kicked in and I ended it.
Afterward there were times that I felt physically afraid for my safety. I changed the locks on my house and stopped going to certain places in case he’d be there. I triple checked my environment everywhere I went. I had to do this because of the volume and vitriolic nature of the messages he’d send me. They were typical narcissist-not-getting-his-way texts and emails. Rage. Insult. Guilt. Bait. Apologize. Rage. Insult. Bait. Guilt. Over and over again. I blocked him everywhere I could. I filled out the paperwork for a restraining order. And waited.
Not responding when attacked is one of the hardest non-action actions I can imagine. It’s in our nature to defend ourselves.
Not responding when attacked is one of the hardest non-action actions I can imagine. It’s in our nature to defend ourselves. For good or bad, this wasn’t my first time at it. Sitting still amongst chaos teaches you things. Patience. Self confidence. Humility. Self control. Inner peace. Yeah. inner peace comes from surviving chaos.
Eventually it settled down and I settled back into being comfortable in my own skin. But I still have flashbacks that hold me in place and keep me from wanting to open up to someone new. It’s those times that I thank myself for stepping out of the dating combine and spending time with/by myself. It wouldn’t be right for me to bring this toxic sludge into a new part of my life. Such is the nature of a relationship hangover. It has its own life cycle.
Here I am 5+ months into my 6 month diet and for the most part I am recovered. I’ve always loved being alone, exploring the world on my own, so its been a fantastic 5 months. I started a few side hustles to earn additional cash to fund the dream of never working in an office again, DIYed, and started making plans for the future once more. I’ve crafted, cleaned, binged Netlflix, workout, skied, started writing again, connected with friends and hung out with the true loves of my life—the threegles.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize—that unlike an alcohol hangover that can be cured with Advil and greasy brunch—the best cures for a relationship hangover are the intangible ones.
Time. Self care. Sunshine. Forgiveness.
And another one: Keep moving forward.