In realising that there must be some, weak or otherwise link between a traumatic breakup and the onset of my recent ongoing Crohns flares; I decided to take steps to processing past emotions and the toxic residue they had left in my body.
Presently, I am content and secure in my relationship. But it’s no secret to my partner, that the relationship before this one; or more specifically it’s abrupt unexplained ending, left me in turmoil and shook parts of me up to the core. For this reason I title this blog ghosts, because these past feelings; no matter how insignificant to me now in the present, still haunt a part of me – most notably because I wasn’t able to process them as I needed at the time.
As a person, I am a talker, a verbaliser and my coping strategy is to speak about things openly and to cry buckets. In my view this is a healthy approach, but of course it isn’t shared by everyone. In fact my ex girlfriend was so far the opposite, that my desire to talk and cry it out must have repulsed her quite a lot. When she broke up with me, after 2 years by text message I didn’t really know where to put myself. I had a thousand questions for her, but the answers and information she gave me was strictly limited. Desperate to make sense of the situation, I begin obsessing over the scrappy details I would get from mutual friends. Not wanting to get involved or say the wrong thing, they said very little and possibly misquoted, misinterpreted what was said about it by her in a scrambled game of Chinese whispers.
At that time; I lost a lot of weight and found myself admitted to hospital with a flare up. It was overwhelming, but I told myself back then that it was just my body’s reflexes from all the tears.
Naturally as the months and year went by, my curiousity lessened and my need to know ‘but what does she really think of me?’ became less important. But the real difficulty then was, I knew that this person’s feelings had turned from what I perceived to be love, to a nasty sort of scorn which I didn’t understand. To me, it was no longer important why we had ended, rather why I was now hated. This unsettling rumour, echoed by many friends became difficult to shake – and caused me to continue to collect a pocket full of unanswered questions.
Fast forward to now, or more accurately 2 weeks ago, after reading the first chapter in a book detailed in the previous blog ‘let go‘. I decided it was time to be brave. Four and a bit years had passed, we were both in long term relationships, had finished our studies and were actually living just a few stops apart on the underground line. It felt inevitable to me that we might some day run into each other. But it was time to take chance into my own hands. So I sent her a message. After years of silence, I waved her a small white flag:
“I have been meaning to write to you for a while. I don’t want us to be mates, or anything that requires you to feel inauthentic to your feelings. But I want to be able to have a conversation with you where we can clear the air – at least for the sake of our mates. There’s been too many parties / gatherings when it’s been an issue and needn’t have been. So can we sort that out now? Let just get a tea and talk and draw a line under it all. Let me know if you’re game.”
To my surprise, she responded.
She offered to call me, and we chatted on the phone. A week later we met up for a chat. And I made sure that if nothing else, she knew that I completely acknowledged my mistakes in the time we were together, and hopefully that I was not a horrible person and meant nothing but good at the time. I realise now, that perhaps I had smothered her and mothered her, and could see the impact that had on her. She swiftly apologised and explained that those hateful feelings belonged to a bigger picture, a time which surrounded our relationship and personal struggles which she herself had refused to process. After briefly delving into the deep; we laughed, caught up, and acknowledged the positive impact we had on each other during that chapter.
When I orginally spoke to one of my close friends about potentially getting in touch with my ex for the sake of my healing; she told me it was not necessary. She insisted that with a bit of careful processing, I could tidy up my feelings myself. But in this particular instance, what was missing for me was a basic understanding of what had happened, to be able to ‘put it to bed’ or ‘close the lid’ and all those other cliches. To add to this triptych of cliches; this ghost wasn’t ready to leave me until I could catch a decent glimpse of it, and look at it, unafraid.
And now that I have done that; that ghost, and my questions have left me. And hopefully left my body to heal and just be content with the events that led me to where I am today.
Two Women on the shore, 1906
Woodcut printed from one block (sawn into three sections) in dark blue, green, black and red-brown ink with additions in green crayon on cream Japanese paper
Clarence Buckingham Collection, 1963.293