I have struggled for years with love on many levels.
At my core, I have always been torn between contradictory beliefs. I am forever the hopeless romantic that wants desperately to believe in happily ever afters, yet I am also very much the realist that weighs the odds and finds it highly improbable that two like souls could not only find each other but also somehow defy the odds and make it work.
Looking back at my life only added to the improbability that I would never have a chance when it came to matters of the heart. I grew up in a dysfunctional battlefield, never really understanding what love even was let alone where to find it or how to tend to it and make it grow.
My parents were of no assistance. Their marriage was in many ways a manual of what not to do. My own relationships in the past were not much better, though I am proud to say that none of my exes have bullet wounds by my hand – a boast my mother could not make.
(Please note that I joke not because I find any of it even mildly hysterical but rather because I’ve learned over the years that it is often easier to laugh than to cry and that, when discussing deeper traumas, a joke helps lift that uncomfortable weight of the situation.)
To complicate matters more, I struggle with depression, anxiety and PTSD. Making a relationship work is hard enough when both people are fully functional. When you factor in mental illness that pulls me in many directions against my will, it creates a volatile concoction that is almost guaranteed to implode upon itself given enough time.
Again and again, I found myself heartbroken and alone, searching for answers of where everything went wrong. I believed in love on a fundamental level. Yet as the failed relationships continued to pile up, I found myself questioning whether love was even attainable for me or if it truly only existed in fairy tales.
Along my journey, I began to see the red flags of repeated dysfunction. I spent an inordinate amount of time examining and reexamining situations from my past, trying to determine where everything had gone wrong. I also began to reconsider my own personal views of myself. After all, how could anyone ever truly love or accept me until I learned to love and accept myself?
I found myself at an impasse. It wasn’t that I had given up entirely on love but rather I needed to focus on myself before I would ever be ready to let anyone else into my life again. I had chains to break and long-standing belief systems to shatter and rebuild. I still very much wanted my happily ever after but finally understood I would never be able to build anything lasting until I was able to fix many of the cracks in the foundation that my life was built upon. I needed to put my love life on hold and work on myself.
A funny thing happened during my hiatus to rebuild – I not only discovered myself again but I also found my first crush again, or shall I say he found me.
He had remained with me as a fond memory of my childhood, one of the brighter spots during a time when the darkness had begun to creep in. He was a few years older than me and a friend of my brother’s so the cards had been stacked against us from the start, yet we still managed to create a few sweetly innocent memories together before we eventually faded out of each other’s lives.
Fast-forward twenty five years. My life had collapsed yet again but I was in the process of rebuilding. Though my struggles are far from over, I am in a healthier place now than I have ever been before. I have begun talking and writing about all I have been through. More importantly, though, I’ve been healing. I am no longer running from my past and I am beginning to slowly reopen doors that had been long-closed for no other reason than they existed in close proximity to the worst experiences of my life.
One of these doors happened to be my first crush. He reentered my life through a simple friend request, not even sure if I would remember him. I was dumbfounded by that assumption because he had been that sweet boy next door who had ushered me into puppy-love and had been the standard by which all other boys had been measured for years.
As we began talking, it became clear that, though we had been worlds apart for many years, we had been walking along the same path in so many ways. Without going into details because his story is his alone to share, he understood me completely on so many levels that no one else ever has. From that first moment we reconnected, we have been drawn together in this whirlwind beyond our control.
There is a safety and serenity with him on so many levels. My history not scare him because he understood my childhood, if not the full extent of it all. My diagnosis and struggles do not intimidate him, either, because he understands better than most what it has been like for me over the years.
We’ve found ourselves connecting to one another in this free fall, accelerating as we go while the rest of the world passes by in a blur. I imagine us caught within the eye of the storm, in that peaceful quiet stillness that is unaffected by the chaos that whirls around us. From the outside, I imagine it seems insanely chaotic and nonsensical but from in here, it is the first thing in a long time in my life that makes sense.
In each other, we have found the compassion, understanding and solace we had been searching for elsewhere in vain. We have rekindled old sparks that had begun in innocence and fanned them into a genuine passion for each other. For the first time, I am able to fully embrace and express all that I am without fear of judgment or ridicule because I am still very much that silly, adorkable girl he knew me as all those years ago. Likewise, he knows he can put all of himself out there without fear because he is still very much himself.
We are not blind to each other’s scars. We are respectfully cautious of each scar because neither of us wishes to reopen old battle wounds and we understand that they are a part of who we have become over the years. But we are also able to see one another for who we are underneath and cherish that innocence beneath it all because we had been there before those wounds were made.
I used to wonder whether love and happily ever afters existed only in fairy tales. As much as the hopeless romantic in me wanted to believe anything was possible, the realist in me always pondered whether some people were just beyond hope when it came to love. Over the years, my journey has taken me through a lifetime of heartache and heartbreak. I have come through the other end, though, a stronger and healthier person. I have also come around full circle as the first person to ever capture my heart has once again won it.