Hickster

“So tell me, have you ever fallen in love?”

Not bad for a conversation starter, don’t ya think?

I was sitting at a bar in Ottawa airport on Christmas day, working on my last post in 2018 about my impending trip to London during my 3 hour layover. A pilot slid into the bar stool next to me, clearly in a chatty mood. I tried typing really really loudly, but the dude didn’t take the hint. Figuring it wouldn’t hurt me to demonstrate a smidgen of non-Grinch spirit, I put my laptop away. I think he was a little lonely, having to truncate his family celebrations in order to fly out to London for a reason I didn’t catch. And then.

“So tell me, have you ever fallen in love? Yeah? What’s his name?”

Hickster.

Full stop.

His name was out of my mouth before I could think.

Not my ex, with whom I spent almost 6 years, until he called me up one day not long after we’d discussed the broad details of getting married and moving across the country to be closer to his family. He was distraught at having woken up half naked next to a girl. “Why did you do that? You aren’t a cheater. You are an honest, good man. So what’s going on?” Turns out he’d gone ring shopping, and that is how he figured out that while he loved me, he didn’t love me enough to marry me. And rather than deal with that like a grown up, he got drunk and did the one thing that would ensure I would never want to talk to him again. Took me years to reconstruct my identity after that breakup.

Not Beaut, even though there was some love shared between us.

Not ICB. I’m still processing the ramifications of that realization. Just like I am still working through his comments about my mental health, which have left me with the unshakeable feeling of being a commodity – specifically, damaged goods.

“But you’re not married?”

No.

“Divorced?”

No.

“So what happened?”

Sometimes love is not enough. From the moment we met, we both felt our worlds tilt and shift. We knew with certainty that our lives were going to change. And change they did, in ways we never would have predicted.

But he is a broken man. And I am a broken woman. He sees me, all of me. I see him, all of him. Unfortunately together, our brokenness destroys and maims the other. We aren’t ready for this love. We have too much healing to do, respectively.

You guys still talk?

Yes. After a lot of ups and downs, we seem to have figured out how to carefully stay in each other’s lives.

Is that him calling now?

Yes. To tell me a silly shenanigan he was up to and wish me a good trip.

Well, it sure sounds like you guys have a great connection. Pity it didn’t work out.

Yes, we do. And no, it isn’t a pity. This is life.



I can’t bring myself to think of Hickster as a regrettable mistake.

Hickster is Hickster – swept me off my feet, without warning. One is never sure what the outcome will be: like a hurricane, he sometimes strips away superfluous stuff, revealing underlying beauty that got muddled by life’s modifications and sometimes inflicts deep wounds and scars.

Creatures of the underworld can’t afford to love

I see, now, that his purpose in my life was to turn everything upside down, and get me to feel. All the feels. Uncontrollably. Had he not pushed past my vulnerability and just taken over, I would never been triggered to the point my symptoms became unmanageable. None of my coping mechanisms worked last fall and winter. My emotions were everything, so scary, to the point I was forced to get help.

It is funny that the guy who was the source of so much emotional volatility in me, to the point that I snapped into one of the scariest and darkest depressions in my life was also the reason I fought so hard to survive it. There were many days in winter/spring 2018 where I couldn’t comprehend how to make it through the day. But I would because Hickster expected me to. Not kindly, not empathetically, but because our lives were so completely interwoven, even as we were ending our relationship, we needed to remain in contact to figure our shit out. Those were scary days. I had no idea what was going on, other than the certainty that my brain was trying to kill me. I was scared I would not be able to bear much longer the invisible screaming pain in my head. Looking back, I see that I was frequently experiencing paranoia and cognitive distortion, my grip on reality slipping. But I had no idea then, and wouldn’t till August 2018 when I finally got my psychiatric diagnosis. What did I know? Despite the yelling, the sometimes awful accusations and betrayals, Hickster saw me. He was a hurricane in my life, but when he was around, I was in the eye of the hurricane, the screaming voices in my head silenced. Those moments of silence gave me strength to keep fighting my brain.

This borderline personality diagnosis has broken me. I am relieved to finally be able to name what has been causing me endless tormented sorrow and failed relationships for as long as I can remember. But I feel shattered by this new understanding of who I am, and just how much of me is broken. I don’t forgive ICB for his fears about my mental health, because I struggle with the feeling of being damaged, dangerous goods already. The list of interactions I’ve ruined, personally, professionally, anecdotally, is a long one. I’ve been described as an agent of destruction too – not a hurricane, like Hickster, but a heartless bulldozer. I damage all who come near me. I grieve and rage daily.

It is fitting that the person who made me so unhinged I had no choice but to uncover my underlying brokenness is also the same person who has made me believe that I can feel whole, through his complete acceptance of all of me. Hickster is more familiar with my brokenness than possibly anyone, he bears the scars I inflicted on him, and yet, he has forgiven me as I have forgiven him, and continues to believe in me and my capacity for joy as I do for him.

I fell in love with Hickster, alright. I still love him, fiercely, albeit from a very safe distance.

I hope I never experience a similar love again. I’ve no interest in reinacting Romeo and Juliet in my middle age. I don’t know that I ever want to fall in love again. I want to grow into love. I want to grow old with someone who knows me inside and out and accepts me.

I have fallen in love. It almost killed me. Now, I want peace.


I’m hoping the next time I get besieged by a chatty pilot at an airport, he is a wee bit less nosy. Damn, those questions had me thinking!

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BPD series: dealing with shame

Without justifying or condemning ourselves, we do the courageous work of opening to suffering. This can be the pain that comes when we put up barriers or the pain of opening our heart to our own sorrow or that of another being. We learn as much about doing this from our failures as we do from our successes. In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience – our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

Pema Chödrön, The Places that Scare You

I was working late at the office, a day like any other lately, when my bestie Allie FaceTimed me with her little baby Willie. They blew bubbles and kisses at me together,”we love you Auntie Vanilla and we are proud of you. You got this!!” My heart. I hung up, goofy smile on my face. My phone rang again, another FaceTime call. Laughing, I picked up, “Yes, Allie, what is Willie up to now?” Except it wasn’t Allie. It was Hickster, video calling me on Whatsapp.


Months. It had been months since I’d cut my losses and blocked him. Months of mourning the absence of someone who’d made me feel more alive than I’ve ever been. Months of trying to understand and accept that love is not enough. He made me feel fully whole and fully broken at the same time.

Months.


I might have blocked Hickster on all our usual platforms for communication (his number, Facebook, Messenger and Instagram), I’d forgotten that since I was in his contacts, he could use Whatsapp. My stunned brain couldn’t connect to my fingers to end the call. I sat in silence looking at a 2 dimensional small rectangle of a face that once meant the world to me.

“Vanilla, please. Hear me out. I want to apologize.”

He apologized for the relatively mundane trigger of our last fight. He apologized for the trigger of the fight before. He apologized for the trigger of the fight before that. As I tried to cut him off, and let him know it was ok, we didn’t need to revisit the past, he could just drop it, Hickster insisted, “No, Vanilla. I need to say this, and you need to hear it. I am sorry.”

45 minutes. It was a real apology. Not a “I’m sorry but” apology. No “yes I did this but you did that too” bullshit. He covered the big betrayals. The micro-betrayals. Specific moments where he made me feel inadequate. The accusations, the disregard. He described with precision and sadness the impact it had had on me. It was painful to listen to and hard to watch a proud man struggle to push the words of his shameful behavior out of his mouth. “I did all that. Me. I did that to someone who loved me. I broke something beautiful and I have to live with that knowledge every day. I am sorry.” 

I thanked him for the apology. Hung up. Cried for 2 hours.


I woke up different. The gaping wound I’d been carrying for all of 2018 felt slightly scarred over. One of the hardest parts of the deterioration of my relationship with Hickster was the cruel switch that happened almost overnight when I went from being his love to being nothing. It was like a denial of my existence in his life. I know I matter, I know I mattered to him, I know I brought goodness into his life, how can he pretend it never happened? I am so worthless, even the memories of me can be forgotten? Reconciling my reality of what we’d shared with his behavior made me almost insane. During those months, I gained a whole lot of understanding of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. And now, unexpectedly, I had confirmation that not only I mattered, but that his behaviour had been intentional, born not of a revulsion for my worthlessness but of his own brokenness.

The world had titled, somewhat.


A week later, Hickster texted me an innocuous comment, a feeler to see if I would be open to the idea of cautiously settling those few items which we’d never settled. I felt the bubble of panic rise inside of me. I can’t do this, I won’t manage, I can’t face any more pain, followed by the dread of another meltdown at work, I can’t afford that right now, I need to concentrate, I have too much on my plate, I can’t do this, I can’t, I can’t…

And just like that I was back in the grips of this other me. The endless texting, pages and pages and pages of lamentations, and pleas and regrets. Hickster initially reacted abruptly, but as my texting continued, uncontrolled, as I cried hysterically in my office, it shifted to bald responses: “Vanilla, I can’t read your think” followed by “Chill Vanilla. Chill. It’s ok. We’ll talk later, when you are better.” I cried and cried, used an entire box of Kleenexes, still typing. Silence. I kept typing, using scrap paper to blow my nose, because I couldn’t leave my office and show my coworkers my wrecked face. Typed some more. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I can’t do this, please don’t be mad, ok? Please. I’m sorry, I don’t understand this either. I know I’ve annoyed you and I’m crying and crying. I’m sorry Hickster, for real I don’t know how to control this. I don’t think this can work out, I’m just too fucked up. I want to try keep my shit together, to close out our shit on a good note, but I don’t think I can handle interacting with you. I think I’m more fucked up and hurt than I even realized. I hope you believe me; I can’t control this and I hate it as much as you do. I’m sorry.” I continued crying and typing into silence for another HOUR, until it dawned on me that Hickster had just demonstrated the same behaviour he used to when I was very depressed. He had flagged I was “off”. He had tried to keep me calm, and when that failed, stepped back until my emotions burned themselves out. THAT is when I realised I was having one of my BPD meltdowns triggered by my feelings of inadequacy. Almost 75 minutes after Hickster had backed off, I had finally understood what was going on. I felt deep shame.

I left work early, feeling defeated, and mortified.

The next day, around lunch, a text from Hickster. “You ok?” I called him up, started apologizing for my meltdown, for using him as an emotional punching bag, as I had so many times before. That I realized now how much exhaustion I’d caused him, while believing myself to be the only victim in our relationship. He cut me off. “Vanilla. Stop it. When I called you to apologize, I knew what I was getting into. This is who you are. You can’t control it, it just is. I know that now, even though back in the day, I didn’t know what was going on and I reacted very badly. You didn’t know you had this condition. You were doing your best. I know you can’t help these waves, I just gotta ride it out, not engage and wait till you are better and clear-headed. That’s ok. That comes with the territory, and I knew that when I decided I was ready to apologize. Don’t be sorry for who you are. Who you are is who I said sorry to. All of you.”


A few days later my 3-part Instagram meltdown with ICB. One week after that, ICB and I decided to part ways. ICB admitted that he feared the burden of my emotions, that he wouldn’t be able to manage them, long-term.

Who can blame him?


I’ve come to believe Hickster’s purpose in my life was to help me uncover my BPD diagnosis.

My whole life, I’ve known something was painfully off about me. I leave a long trail behind me of broken, confused relationships, filling me with shame. Some times I manage to hide it better, to appear more normal, but I always felt different. Apart. Managing to mostly fit in while being painfully aware of my secret brokenness.

And then came Hickster, like a hurricane, and he pushed all my buttons and overwhelmed me until my brokenness became so obvious and problematic I needed to get help.

I have a name now for what I have. An action plan. Books. Therapy. With hard work I’ll eventually build healthier responses to my brokenness such that I don’t in turn in Hulk Smash those I care for.

Without Hickster, I would never have known what it means to be fully broken and fully whole.

That time my dating life was an Instagram meme

3 weeks ago, I was chatting with ICB, asking him how his day had been. “Not bad, I went to see a friend. We had a bunch of shit we needed to talk through and clear up. I’m glad we did, we both feel better now”. Oh really? Now, in French, there are feminine and masculine declensions for nouns. Ami and amie are both friendly peeps, but one of them has a penis and the other boobs. Amie is the boob-variety type. So ICB went to see a female friend in order to have some sort of argument. Well then. To my brain, it was a slam dunk: he used to fuck this Amie and this argument was to clear up that they weren’t headed to a relationship. OB-VI. I mean. Come on. Don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Athletico, Beaut and Hickster all shared the same fuckboy dictionary. Amie is synonymous with non-platonic fuck friend. (The “non-platonic fuck” is silent #properpronunciation.) 3 guys, 3 series of devastating surprises, 1 definition.

I didn’t lose my shit on ICB. It was tempting, but instead I did breathing exercises, cried a little bit, did some more breathing exercises, told myself I had no reason not to trust him. Just because he had been fucking her before didn’t mean he was fucking her now. It sounded in fact like this was a talk to really wrap things up, distill any situationship type uncertainties. That was a good thing, the kinda thing I’d come to expect from ICB who’s never disrespected me. I was ok with the Amie. I didn’t need to ask questions that were none of my business.

10 days later I asked ICB questions that were none of my business.

It turns out that their fight had nothing to do with them fucking, and everything to do with worrisome self-destructive behaviour she was engaging in. Oh. No fucking? No fucking, why? Lalalala I didn’t hear your question, let’s move on. No fucking. Why?!

So I explained that the word Amie is forever tainted. My brain is aware of the Merriam-Webster definition of friend, but my body and my heart know the fuckboy version of friend. It’s a physical reaction. It’s an unfair one, but it’s the result of 5 years of gaslighting. I can’t fight it. But Vanilla, I’m not them. I’m me. ICB. I’m not them, you can’t react to them, you have to react to meBruh, you’re right. I’m trying.


It was bound to happen, I suppose.

Yesterday I noticed a girl commenting on one of ICB’s posts, using a term of endearment that just happens to be the same one I call him. So I clicked on her profile, and down the rabbit hole I went. Pretty: check. A model: check. Good at selfies: check. Professional pics where she looks beautiful: check. Pics with no makeup where she looks even better: check. Tasteful sideboob: check. ICB like every single one of them. I stopped checking when I got as far back as July.

Do I think they are fucking? No, not really. She isn’t all over his page, yet. But… ICB hasn’t liked a single one of my instagram pics. The funny ones. The sexy ones. The photography ones. Nada. I am pretty sure the last time he liked one of my Facebook posts was in July. I don’t think he has ever liked one of my blog posts, even tho he dutifully reads wtv I send him. But he had time to like 3 month’s worth of pics of some girl’s IG profile.


The hurt was nauseating. All the symptoms that were common with Hickster resurfaced. The shaking hands, the uncontrollable crying, the urge to howl away my pain, the dread of a coworker walking by and seeing my miserable anguished meltdown.


After my last fight with Hickster, a 45 minute screaming match during which I lost my voice from yelling in a busy downtown metro station in the middle of rush hour, I’ve cut all ties with him, completely. Deleted and blocked him and most of his friends from my social media and every possible means of communication. They do not exist. I cannot find them via search, nor they me. Every reminder of Hickster has been flushed from my life. All the unfinished and unresolved business issues? Too bad. I’ve cut my losses. Could I have pursued and maybe eventually won? Maybe, but it was killing me. Not a hyperbole. Frankly, I’ve really really blossomed in the weeks since I’ve cut him out of my life. I might have known before that drama and happiness are mutually exclusive, but peace? My god, the bliss. Not having to ignore that feeling of dread every time I checked my phone – what would I find? Another mean, belittling text? Silence? An impersonal business question? 7 missed calls and an angry voicemail? I am free from all of that.

But I am not healed. My peace is not coming from a place of forgiveness or love. It is coming from the ability to ignore both Hickster’s existence and any reminder of my unresolved wounds. My impulse upon discovering ICB’s IG liking spree was to ghost him. To just walk away. I didn’t want to have to work through the disappointment, or talk about this with him. Just too hard. Much easier to bounce and add him to the list of things I won’t ever think about again because they hurt and make me sad.

It’s great discovering one is a coward. Annoying too, because now that I am aware of my cowardice, I gotta knuckle down and face this situation properly.


But Vanilla, I’m not them. I’m me. ICB. I’m not them, you can’t react to them, you have to react to me. 

That is true. As far as hurtful things go, ICB’s IG like-bonanza was a small relatively harmless moment in time. His motivation was probably nothing more than an appreciation for a friend’s newly discovered and very well curated IG profile. He’s not a thirsty dude. He is respectful. He would never, EVER voluntarily hurt me. ICB is no asshole. But the fact of the matter is, the list of things that matter more than I do is a long one. Top of mind, I am not. And from there, it is a very small step till I am back in the overwhelming ache of “I am not enough.”

Now that I’ve mostly sorted through what is the ICB-specific hurt and the unhealed tsunami of wounds-past… mostly I am just tired. And sad. I feel so much sorrow for the permanent deep scars the men in my life have inflicted upon me. Men I loved. Deeply. My bad for having given them so much of myself when they didn’t deserve it… but damn. I gave them love, time, money, energy, health. They gave me back brokenness. To this day, I’ll defend them as not being all bad. But it makes me sad, so very sad, to accept that this happened to me… because I let it.

They treated me as not enough, because I let them. I did not believe I am enough. I hoped with each one that if I just stuck it out, tried harder to show them just how worthy I was, maybe, maybe, they would find me enough.

They didn’t.

Here I am, left with brokenness, baggage and non-existent coping techniques. Self-inflicted, through my desperation to be seen, acknowledged and loved.


Part of me feels very silly. Here I am writing a long post about the hurt I feel bc of some IG stalking I did, and imma post it because I can’t not get this off my chest. I’ll eventually bring this to ICB’s attention. Or I won’t. Either way, it’s passive aggressive AF, but I can’t do better. This is gonna be a fight that is gonna be so silly. A fight about Instagram likes. How petty can I be?

Well…

Petty enough to say “I won’t accept this. This is not enough.”

Well… fuck.

The psychiatrist fetched me from the waiting room, 10-15 mins late. I was finishing up publishing my previous post on Facebook, “Mademoiselle, may I recommend you put away your phone and stay focused? We only have 45 minutes, and there will be no followup appointment.” Excuse me? 45 minutes to determine what is wrong with me? I waited 6 months for this? Lady, you better be good at your job.

Cue the questions about family history. No, it’s true no history of bipolarity in my family. Cue the questions about my ADD, who diagnosed it and why. No questions about how the symptoms manifest themselves. Minimal questions about my depressions.“Mademoiselle, I cannot comment about whether you have Major Depressive Disorder because right now you seem to have acceptable energy levels and seem fairly engaged.” Lady… I almost torpedoed my career in Nov-Jan, should have been on medical leave of work, and had the worst year-end evaluation of my life. Yeah, I am doing better now. Much better. But before calling into question my GP’s assessment, maybe our healthcare system can not decide that because I am still employed and not prone to self-harm that means I can just hang out, totally miserable, for 6 months before seeing an expert. “Well next time, consider seeing your doctor before you hit that low and get a prescription for anti-depressants.” Lady, are you SURE you are a psychiatrist? Do you KNOW what depression is like? I had trouble showering, had absenteeism issues at work, and you expected me to get my shit together sufficiently to see a doctor? The only reason why I saw a doc at all in February is because my little junior at work staged an intervention because she thought I was at risk of kidney failure. But thanks for that tip. I’ll keep it in mind.

At the 45 minute mark, the psychiatrist gave me my diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder. Gave me the name of a book I should read and suggested I take up psychotherapy. Any psychologists she could refer me to? No. I should just consult the website of the Ordre des Psychologues du Québec, it lists all licensed psychologists and their specializations, and pick one. Other highlights of her wrap-up convo?

Lots of artists have BPD. It just makes them more sensitive to their environments but they find ways to channel that into productive forms of self-expression. Cool. Except I am an accountant. That’s not the same thing, did you know?

You should focus on regulating your emotions. OH REALLY??? WHAT an idea. THANK YOU for that. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before, silly me. Boy oh boy, I am sure happy I saw a professional to give me such valuable advice. Let me just call up all the coworkers I’ve ever alienated, exhausted friends and family, and all the dudes I’ve failed relationships with. “Y’all, WE’RE GOOD NOW. Imma regulate my emotions and everything is gonna be just peachy. Woo hoo!”

She smiled, shook my hand, and promised me she’d send her report to my GP.

That’s our Quebec healthcare system for y’all. Its most notable feature is the bitter aftertaste it leaves anyone unfortunate enough to require its services.


I took the day off work. I was very upset. BPD has a reputation of being a garbage (“controversial”) diagnosis that is a catch-all for any patient that doesn’t fall neatly into a more firmly recognizable condition. It’s not a neurological/chemical illness, it is psychological illness so medication typically doesn’t work. It isn’t a broken brain. It’s a broken personality. I am broken, apparently, my identity and my personality are so problematic, they get a label, one that comes with a lot of stigma.

Except, gotta say… it does describe me well. “In general, someone with a personality disorder will differ significantly from an average person in terms of how he or she thinks, perceives, feels or relates to others (oh hey! funny you mention that, that has been my impression MY ENTIRE LIFE). The symptoms of BPD can be grouped into four main areas:

  • emotional instability – the psychological term for this is “affective dysregulation” –> so many examples to chose from. Exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C, exhibit D.
  • disturbed patterns of thinking or perception – (“cognitive distortions” or “perceptual distortions”) –> remember the time I thought my dance team was out to get me? That was fun.
  • impulsive behaviour
  • intense but unstable relationships with others”

It’s the last part that upsets me the most. As per the NHS’s website:

If you have BPD, you may feel that other people abandon you when you most need them, or that they get too close and smother you.

When people fear abandonment, it can lead to feelings of intense anxiety and anger. You may make frantic efforts to prevent being left alone, such as:

  • constantly texting or phoning a person
  • suddenly calling that person in the middle of the night
  • physically clinging on to that person and refusing to let go
  • making threats to harm or kill yourself if that person ever leaves you

Alternatively, you may feel others are smothering, controlling or crowding you, which also provokes intense fear and anger. You may then respond by acting in ways to make people go away, such as emotionally withdrawing, rejecting them or using verbal abuse.

These two patterns may result in an unstable “love-hate” relationship with certain people.

Many people with BPD seem to be stuck with a very rigid “black-white” view of relationships. Either a relationship is perfect and that person is wonderful, or the relationship is doomed and that person is terrible. People with BPD seem unable or unwilling to accept any sort of “grey area” in their personal life and relationships.

For many people with BPD, emotional relationships (including relationships with professional carers) involve “go away/please don’t go” states of mind, which is confusing for them and their partners. Sadly, this can often lead to break-ups.

Who knew the NHS had a section detailing the implosion of my relationship with Hickster?  Suddenly, I see myself as he did. I reread our text message convos and I am dismayed. Pages and pages of texts, at all hours of the night. Him trying, but really trying, to understand and contain these tsunamis of text assaults. His bewilderment, that I used to assume was faked or an avoidance tactic, suddenly seems more plausible. Dude goes to sleep having ended the day with normal interactions with Vanilla, and wakes up to a novel of vitriolic accusations and lamentations. Maybe his tendency to leave me on read, decline my calls or to respond curtly/meanly was not him being awful to me, but his coping techniques for months of non-stop volcanic eruptions.

I think back to Beaut, who told me once that he found my waves of emotions difficult to handle. I disregarded that comment, because it was his fault: had his life not been such a mess, and his communication skills so weak, I wouldn’t be so worried/uncertain/insecure.

I think back to my ex. He used to complain that I could spend 3-4 days glued to him, refusing to leave him even long enough for him to go do groceries alone. He had to implement a rule: even though we had the keys to each other’s place, we (aka I) could not show up unannounced, even if it was just for a surprise. “Vanilla, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you, I promise. I just need my space.” At the time I thought it was just the growing pains of my first relationship, I was young and really in love, and learning – I’ve never exchanged keys with a dude, since. But until my ex imposed that boundary, my impulse was remove any distance between us.

I think back to ICB and the pre-Paris fiasco caused by texting habits that didn’t meet my 48 hour requirement. My 48 hour requirement is a hard limit, regardless of the guy, trust issues, relationship status, anything. If 48 hours go by without me hearing from a guy, cue the narrative of “he’s not into me anymore”. I can manage to keep my shit together and avoid a complete meltdown for 72-96 hours, but on the inside? I can’t focus, I’m miserable, checking my phone 285,764,873 times a day, and practicing the breakup conversation. I thought this was me having standards, finally. Maybe it is. But maybe it is also a completely disproportionate reaction to what is most frequently not an impending breakup?

I feel sorrow. So much pointless suffering. Were any of these relationships meant to be? Nah, really doubt it, they all had their legit problems. But I made myself ill with misery. I inflicted WAY more emotional baggage on these guys than I meant to. So much unhappiness.

I think back to the number of “episodes” I’ve had with coworkers over the past decade. I’ve made people cry at work far more often than the acceptable never. Some ppl have even quit, citing me as the mean reason they lost their appetite for accounting. I have always been hurt by these incidents – why couldn’t they just accept my feedback about their performance? Why didn’t people like me?

I can’t even blame it on my brain. I did this, with my broken personality. To people I loved. To coworkers I respected. To myself.

You should focus on regulating your emotions.

Apparently.

Closure and forgiveness

A few weeks after Phase 6 feels like mourning and confusion, things with Hickster reached an all-time low. I’ve cut off +/- all contact with him, keeping just enough to monitor the situation from afar, because I sometimes wonder if it will one day go legal. Paranoid? Probably. But I am first and foremost an accountant aka #riskaverse and a business woman aka #riskmanagement. (Yes, I am those things EVEN in my personal relationships.) So imma consider the worst case scenario, and be prepared for it #justincase.

I’ve been working hard to not let this drama poison my ongoing recovery. As Dynamo once told me, about an entirely different guy,

So this is what you are gonna do. You are going to unfriend him from social media, block him, and never talk to him again. He lied to you. He has lied to others. He has repeatedly shown that he will hurt you as a side-effect to him getting something he wants. He can have all the good quantities you describe, all that is true. You have forgiven him, bc you should not hold hatred in your heart. But he is not a good friend. And so he deserves nothing from you. No time, no energy, no space in your life. That isn’t being a drama queen, that is choosing to control the levels of drama and happiness in your life. To chose happiness you MUST not choose drama.

And just like that, after 15 months, Beaut was back top of mind. I cannot work through Hickster’s gaping wounds unless I acknowledge the many parallels between the two relationships and the common denominator: me. I must learn all the lessons from these two experiences to make sure I never find myself in another harmful relationship. Which of my deep insecurities did these guys successfully use to their advantage? By being aware of them and working to address them, I can avoid repeating the same patterns in the future.

I’ve always found the action of blocking someone on social media and ignoring them in real life incredibly savage. Sure, when the hurt is just too much, it is better to deny a person’s existence than to obsess over them unhealthily, going mad with unhelpful comparisons, low-key stalking, self-inflicting worry and anxiety. Blocking Beaut was necessary for me to have the space get over him, but I found it incompatible with forgiveness. Continuously denying the existence of a person, even on social media, is a deliberate action. It is a choice to erase any memory of them in your life. It implies unresolved pain and an inability to handle the complexities of human interaction. About 6 months after blocking Beaut, I cautiously unblocked him. Seeing his posts flit through my newsfeed gave me satisfaction: he was still trucking along, trying his bumbling best. He might be repeating some of the same mistakes, but nevertheless, he was fighting the good fight. I’d forgiven him.

When I felt myself forced to cut off contact with Hickster, I had an overwhelming impulse to reach out to Beaut. Through his social media, I was aware that his relationship with Main Girl Girlfriend had fallen apart. I wondered. Was this some repressed need to self-sabotage and create drama? I sounded all areas of my heart, but found nothing twisted or painful. I invited him to join me at a dance event, at the same school where we used to take salsa classes together. When he showed up, I was so happy to see him. He was happy to see me. He looked good. We talked a bit, catching up on 15 months of life events, we danced a fair bit, and he eventually left after exchanging the customary and meaningless mutual noises of goodwill and keeping in touch. A weight I didn’t even know I’d been carrying for the past 2.5 years has been lifted. I’ve forgiven myself.


Petty post notwithstanding, I’ve been following Main Girl Girlfriend Ex-Girlfriend’s blog on and off since I first found out about it.

It started from a place of insecurity: what did she have that I didn’t? What made her sweeter, kinder, more appealing, better able to withstand the pain that came from dealing with Beaut? Was she a manipulator playing Beaut better than he was playing her?

Then, as my hurt began to fade, it continued from curiosity and a sense of being bonded to her. We’d shared the same guy for so long, had too many Facebook conversations on his wall (I cringe at how obvious I was in competing for his attention to anyone viewing his profile #nodignity), even meeting each other once, that our #funnynotfunny nickname for each other was SisterWives. I’d always liked her, despite myself – she was an AMAZING mother, full of love and compassion, funny, sassy, open-minded and kind. So I continued to read, wondering if maybe this time Beaut would get his head out of his ass and recognize the love of a good woman before he torpedoed the relationship the way he had with so many others. I hoped so, for his sake.

As I got embroiled with Hickster and began cycling through the rollercoaster of passion and emotional abuse, I continued to read. I recognized so much of myself in her: the doubts, confusion, fear, justifications and love. I hoped that her’s would be a much happier ending than my own. I saw the tell-tale signs of mental anguish and I felt our bond grow stronger. I continued to read, as I navigated my depression. One day this spring, she wrote about her love for her son and the letters she wrote to him on an almost daily basis. It squeezed my heart – I still cherish the handwritten notes my mother wrote to me growing up (here and here). So I left her a comment, to tell her as much. Some things are more important than petty appearances of indifference.

As Main Girl Girlfriend Ex-Girlfriend Bright Light began to write of her attempts to piece back her life after the breakup, it became harder to not comment. So many of her struggles and reflections were identical to the ones that I’d been working through because of Hickster. Eventually, I couldn’t stop myself. Her posts were a mix of confusion and shame. And if there is one thing I am familiar with, it is shame.

Empathy’s the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.

Brené Brown, Listening to Shame, Ted 2012

Me too, Bright Light. Me too. You got this. You will find peace, and you will forgive yourself.

She wrote recently about the similar feeling of solidarity she shares with me, and how my comments have helped her on her journey to healing. In that post, she renamed me Rainbows, fully conscious of my struggle to see the colors.

It feels like absolution.

On days where I am too confused, hurt and tired to continue fighting against my brain, I tell myself I owe it to all the ppl who have invested themselves in my recovery: the public healthcare system, my coworkers, my friends, my family, ICB and now Bright Light.

I got this. I will find peace, and I will forgive myself.

Phase 6 feels like mourning and confusion

My godmama cornered me at a recent family gathering.

Sweetheart, I read your blog because your god-sisters tell me when they think I need to be aware of what you are going through. It make me so sad to know that you have such a big sadness. Tell me what I can say to make it better, I wish I knew. I know you are having a hard time right now, but the only advice I can give you is: don’t worry about the forest. Focus on the trees. Just take one thing at a time. Tell yourself, ‘I can’t handle this thing right now, so I will work on this other easier and smaller thing and make it better. I know I need to fix this third thing, but I’m not strong enough right now, so that will have to wait and that’s ok. Instead I’ll take care of this little thing.” One tree at a time, sweetheart, bit by bit, that is how forests are made. It breaks my heart, sweetheart, that you are feeling so sad. Please, please just remember that we are a phone call away and that we love you. I wish I knew what to say to make it better.

That’s a godmama, right there.

I tried to tell her that I know she loves me, and it comforts me. But at the moment, I just can’t show up. I’m exhausted, and I’m trying so hard. All my energy is consumed trying to salvage my career and fight my brain. Knowing that she and my close friends and family are a phone call away sustains me. But other than concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, building up my career, and then attacking one by one the trees that need fixing in my life, I have no energy for anyone or anything else.


For reasons that are not relevant to this blog, I am still in contact with Hickster. There are some loose ends we are trying to take care of, which involve us communicating with one another far more often than never.

Before my diagnosis, especially from November to January, Hickster and I were locked in a pissing contest to see who could hurt the other more. He was soooooooooo frustrated with my constant tears, yelling meltdowns and screaming matches. He would dish out 3-10x as good as he’d get, warning me “you mess with me, I’ll make sure you never try that shit again”. We were the ultimate case study for a toxic destructive relationship. I’d rage at him that he was an ungrateful coward who couldn’t recognize everything I’d done for him, and he’d reply, “You can’t see what I’ve done for you. Who else would put up with your social awkwardness and your tantrums and tears. You’re a fucking child who doesn’t know how to behave. There is a reason why people find you so hard to love. I have moderated your odd quirks and made it easier for people to accept you and like you. You think I don’t value you? I’m still here despite you acting like a spoiled brat drama queen all the time. Nobody else would put up with your exhausting bullshit. Grow up.”

#romance101

February, I got my prelim diagnosis. I begged Hickster to reach a truce in our warring, while I was on the waiting list to see a psychiatrist and sort out my shit. I was sick, sicker than I’d ever realized and I didn’t have the energy to fight him anymore, not when I was losing the battle against my brain. I had nothing left in me. For about a week, he refused to accept the diagnosis, telling me I just needed to learn to control my emotions. Classic reaction of someone who doesn’t accept mental health issues. The warring continued. I thought I would drown in my own tears.

One day, something switched. Hickster saw me. He saw me trapped in my own misery during a conversation. Since then, he listens and can flag in my voice if I’m sliding down own of my paranoid tunnels, experiencing an episode of cognitive distortion. He stops short the conversation, “Vanilla it isn’t you talking right now, it is your sick brain. You are upset, I see that, but we have to finish this conversation later once you are better. Or else your brain will say something to hurt me, and I will say shit I don’t mean, you know my temper. Let’s just wait till you are better. No, Vanilla. Don’t insist. I have a relationship with you and I have an entirely different one with your brain. I need to manage both.” I assumed at first he was manipulating me. Except rather than use my brain as an excuse to avoid the difficult conversations we needed to have, he checks in periodically to assess my mood, and when he feels I am clear-headed, he DOES have the painful, complicated convos we need to have. Almost overnight, the fighting has stopped. We are closing out the loose ends I thought would choke me to death.

It has been disorienting to have Hickster switch from being the guy that almost broke me to someone I can trust to protect me against myself. To be clear: this doesn’t absolve him of all the incredible bullshit he did during our time together. He was an asshole, sometimes still is. But whereas for the longest time I felt unseen, unacknowledged, and devalued, here he is, for the 2nd month running, seeing me better than I see myself. Even though we are dealing with the shitty aftermath of a relationship, he is still showing up. I hear the echo of all the times he told me “You think I don’t value you? I’m still here despite you acting like a spoiled brat drama queen all the time. Nobody else would put up with your exhausting bullshit.” I wonder, now. How much of that was abusive demeaning talk, and how much of it was actually true? He is attempting to fix some of the messes he made in my life even though we are done. He talks to the real Vanilla, the one he always cared for, and has taken on the considerable burden of managing my sick brain. I am grateful for that, because I need all the help managing it.

I feel so much grief. I wonder how many of our fights could have been avoided had we known about the extent and gravity of my condition. How much unnecessary scar tissue we could have saved ourselves. I don’t doubt for a second that Hickster and I were doomed from the start, regardless of my mental health state, because we both are very broken individuals in incompatible ways. But it seems such a waste to have inflicted SO many scars on one another because of my unmanaged condition and unmanageable emotions. I wonder how many other romantic relationships and friendships could not bear that burden and caved or faded. I wonder. I remember some of the fights I had with my ex, over the 6 years of our relationship, the number of times he told me I was exhausting, he couldn’t get through to me, I was vortex of despair. Again, I don’t think we would have ended up happily married, but I mourn how hard I made it for him. How hard I’ve made it for the people in my life, and how many I pushed out of my life.

The real Vanilla wants to love these people, wants to show up, wants to be. But I can’t most days. I fail them, despite my best efforts.

#mentalhealthisbullshit


Recap of this recent battle with depression: