What I Learned From My Rock Bottom

“ Some people feel the rain, others just get wet…” - Bob Dylan

Back when I was in elementary school, there was a major storm that was going to hit my town in northern NJ. The local news warned everyone about the storm as they frantically shared lists of necessities that people would need if power went out and warned that when the storm was rolling in they should take cover in their basements if the windows blew in. This was my family’s first big storm living on the east coast, but my parents tried their best to prepare for it. The storm rolled in and the heavy winds, uncontrollable rain, and little sight visibility made it one of the worst storms we had ever seen. The storm lasted what felt like weeks, even though it was only a few days. While we had prepared as much as we could, we were still left with the consequential mess and destruction of the world around us after the storm ended and moved on out. This was my relationship with Jamie.

We met in high school, freshman year to be exact. I had transferred from a catholic school to the local town school because there was a serious lack of people of color at the catholic school which made me feel hella uncomfortable. My first class of the day was French II, but I was OD nervous because I had fallen behind at the catholic school while being out for 8 weeks due to ACL surgery. Jamie and I were partnered up together to do speaking exercises to prepare for the exams, and I struggled (hard). I became frustrated and even though he thought he was trying to help me, it felt like he was mocking me. We quickly grew to dislike each other and didn’t speak for the next 2 and a half years.

We met again senior year of high school through a mutual friend, not remembering our disdain for one another from French class. We quickly fell in love and spent almost every moment together senior year. We decided to go to the same college and throughout freshman and sophomore year we were in a state of bliss with minor issues that showcased my own issues with jealousy and lack of self confidence. We moved quickly and we thought the natural next step in our relationship was to live together. We moved into a small apartment on the west side of campus junior year and “playing house” felt like the start of our life together. Ironically, this felt like when the storm started to roll in.

Both of us were career driven, me more so than him really. I was a perfectionist that wanted to excel both academically and in my career, but I also wanted to excel at the role of a ROD housewife as I had seen my Mom do the same. Our ability to connect romantically fell to the wayside as I started juggling who I thought he wanted me to be.

I cooked. I cleaned. I did laundry. I paid the bills. I ran errands. I packed his lunch. The monotony of our relationship began to take a serious toll on me as I started noticing the beginning of my health issues that were stress induced. I asked for help multiple times, but my requests and sanity weren’t his priority as his work took precedent. To make matters worse, he started to make bold comments about how I “should” look and made crude comments about my body and/or what I wore. Someone who used to fill my cup up emotionally barely had enough time to go to the cabinet and get me said cup to fill up. I thought that I was becoming his mother, but in reality I was mirroring my own mom; in a relationship devoid of happiness as I lost sight of who I was.  

After college, our communication broke down to where he ended up in Phoenix for work and I was in Cleveland even though we had discussed being in the same place after we graduated. We thought the distance might help but it made things worse. We broke up and didn’t speak for 3 months. I texted him and told him that I missed him and I wanted to fly out to see him. He obliged and we planned to have a weekend to reconnect. As I arrived in Phoenix that weekend I texted my Mom that I made it safely, but didn’t hear back from her which was unusual. I called my sister to see if she was around and she told me “Mom’s in the hospital, she collapsed.” Within a few hours my Mom was dead and only a day and a half into the trip, me and Jamie’s relationship was put on the back burner.

As I fell into a state of shock, he prioritized my needs and became my rock that weekend. We reconnected in a way that reminded me of us in high school as we approached our relationship with a lightness despite the heaviness of what had happened with my Mom. I had felt like we made it out of the storm and we were going to weather this next one together.

Boy was I wrong.

I got back to Cleveland that Sunday to help my Dad prepare for the funeral, but Jamie didn’t come with me. He didn’t show up to any of the events that week. His family showed up to the funeral and the lunch we hosted at our house afterwards, but my “rock” was MIA. He offered his utmost support and guidance over text. In my eyes, our relationship was over the minute he didn’t get on a plane to Cleveland beside me. His selfishness reigned supreme and took front and center. Even though I should’ve broken up with him, I couldn’t bear to lose another person in my life so our relationship continued as I feared being alone.

Seven months later, I got a job back on the east coast near where I grew up as I was picking up the pieces of the depression that loomed over me after her death. I continued to feel alone without my family near me.

To feel less alone, I would call Jamie during/after my panic attacks and look to him as a support system in addition to the therapist I was seeing. His comments ranged from “you need to get over it” to “I don’t know what you want me to say.” I was drowning. I attempted suicide. I struggled to leave my apartment. I needed a way to get through the immense amount of pain I was in, so I became numb and devoid of any emotion. Six months after I moved back to the east coast, I began my affair.

He was in a broken relationship like me. If he was walking down the street I wouldn’t have looked twice, but he was reasonably cute and gave me a lot of attention. I became intoxicated with sneaking around and got high on his empty, but addictive compliments. I was starving for any sort of attention as I wasn’t getting any sort of emotional attachment from Jamie. But slowly over the 3 weeks of the affair the paradoxes became unavoidable and the roller coaster of my Cancer based emotions were hard to ignore. He wanted me all the time, but he wasn’t leaving his girl. He called me all of the time during the day, but after 8pm he was at home with her and the kids and couldn’t be reached. He said I was beautiful, but I couldn’t have felt more hideous.

One night we were at a classy motel in the Bronx where we could pay by the hour to get a room. It was later in the night, so we didn’t have many places to choose from. I also had to pay for it because he didn’t have any cash on him and he didn’t want his credit card to show where he was (typical). As we were leaving the room that night, we walked downstairs to find his wife Sofia waiting for us. It’s a shame her skills were never used in the FBI because let me tell you, her skills were unmatched. None of us said a word as we all got in our cars and drove away.

We met up 2 more times until my conscious couldn’t take it anymore after we were at another hotel in Queens one night. Right as he was about to leave I heard a pounding on the door. It was his wife and she wouldn’t stop pounding until he came out of the room. Rather than confronting her head on, he took a seat in the chair next to the TV and answered emails while I was laying down in bed.

I sat up in bed and there was a mirror facing me head on. I saw a woman whose self worth was diminished. She wanted to be devoid of emotion because she feared that anyone she loved and cared for would leave her so she self sabotaged her relationships, including the one with herself to where she couldn’t recognize who she was anymore. She was using sex as a tool to try to regain her power and control as she felt like she didn’t have control over the world around her. I’d like to say while I was looking at her in the mirror, I made a vow to never degrade my self worth again, but this particular moment was more for the acknowledgment of knowing I had a serious issue to deal with and needed to truly begin the healing process.

Suddenly the pounding had stopped and I saw through the hole in the door that she had left. On que, he got up from the chair and told me he’d see me tomorrow. It seemed like he had done this before. Our month long affair ended the next morning and I cut him off completely. He called and texted me the next few days more than he did in the past month, telling me that he missed me which in retrospect allowed me to rebuild my strength in saying no to him.

What surprised me the most was how much better Jamie and I started to become for months after the affair. I had a distorted idea in my head of how things weren’t that bad with Jaime and how I should be grateful to have someone like him in comparison to the man I was dealing with in my affair. But as I started to have those thoughts in my head, I began to understand that the issue I had wasn’t with him but it was with myself and the lack of self worth I had to where the boundaries of how I let people treat me were non-existent. My twin in the mirror was screaming at me and consistently ran through my head.

I didn’t have much time to share this epiphany of setting quality boundaries with Jamie as he called me one morning a few months after the affair had ended and asked me “who’s Sofia?” He had gotten a Facebook message months ago (he was rarely on social media) from Sofia saying that I was sleeping with her man and that he should know. Sofia could’ve been in the CIA or FBI with her fact finding skills; especially since Jamie and I weren’t friends on Facebook and our relationship status’ were both blank. I told him I would call him back and explain everything to him, but he didn’t want to hear it. I tried to make up a story about how she’s crazy and how she’s been out to get me (which she was but that wasn’t the point). He wasn’t fooled and broke up with me for good over text that same day. In tandem, I was getting calls from Sofia’s friends and family everyday for about 3 weeks calling me a whore and a slut.

I had expected to be upset, but over the next few days I sat in the silence of my lack of texts and calls from him (and Sofia’s friends) and bathed in my loneliness. In the past year I had lost two of the most important people in my life and day by day their missing presence became unavoidable. For months I had stored away the pain brought on by both of their absences and I had now decided to feel into it and fully take it in. I began the healing process to mend my relationship with myself through therapy, meditation, exercise, diet, celibacy, etc.

What I came to realize is that just as storms are fleeting, pain isn’t meant to be felt forever as humans are designed to move on from pain. The most destructive storm can roll through town, but it will pass and one step at a time you’ll recover from the destruction.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. While my relationship with Jamie was the catalyst to my relationship with my true self, this particular storm had been brewing years before I had even met him.

  2. The things I thought that would adequately prepare me for a serious relationship ended up being the least important pieces as I missed the vital component of knowing who I was as an individual. Ie. I thought if I played the part of a housewife well, then there would be no issues.

  3. It wasn’t Jamie’s responsibility to make me feel whole, but I had placed such a heavy weight on him to make me happy when I couldn’t even make myself happy. I was looking externally for someone to bring me happiness, rather than looking inward to provide happiness for my own self.

  4. I needed to perfect setting clear and consistent boundaries for myself and others.

The hardest part was having to rewrite quite a few narratives I believed to be true about myself like not being enough, not deserving of love, and not having the power to change my situation. The false narratives would accumulate into a litany of thoughts like “why wasn’t I enough for Jamie to come to my Mom’s funeral?” or “I don’t deserve his love because I wasn’t a good enough housewife for him.” I had to reprogram my entire self conscious to enable myself to believe that I am enough, I am deserving of love, and I am powerful. I had to reprogram my entire self conscious to understand that even though I was broken, everything around me wasn’t broken as I had loving, supportive friends and family. I had to reprogram my entire self conscious to comprehend that this was a growth opportunity that I so desperately needed. I also had to acknowledge that he was selfish, narcisstic, and cold hearted because he had abandoned me in my time of need (#nomorecapricorns) and take off my rose colored glasses.

I’m going to share more of my journey to happiness and healing, as it’s a fluid and evolving process. Enjoy the process: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t forget that you have everything you need, but hopefully my stories will help you understand that. I needed me, just like you need you.