Ballads of Heartbreak: A Series with H. Payne

When He Left Me

Content warning: Suicide; heartbreak

Go to university, be another sheep lost in the millennial rat race, it’ll be fun,” they said, only in a more polite, enticing manner which fooled me and many others.

Bugger. University. The big adult world, sort of. You learn important life lessons when you choose to move away from home and study for a degree. Cheese is fucking expensive; honestly, it’s student cruelty. Fun is also expensive, even god damn cinema tickets or a ‘cheap’ bottle of booze to drown your sorrows. There isn’t just the currency of fun at university either; there’s paying for your tuition with money and then paying with your mental health as well. How much will it cost you? That’s the thing, you won’t know until you get there, until you experience university first-hand.

University is expensive in more than one way.

As a great and wise Disney Greek cartoon woman once said, “You’d think a girl would learn”. She then proceeded to sing about the trials and tribulations of love whilst being accompanied by singing Gospels. She may have been fictional, but she certainly wasn’t wrong. One entire Disney song is the summation of my young adult dating life. Been there, done that, oh look… I’m doing it again. Where is my Hercules? Fuck knows. Apparently, pre-twenty-one-year-old me could not learn. I’ve made interesting life choices. We all have. Twenty-one is a pivotal age, in my opinion anyway.

I reflect, sitting in my student house on a bed that has seen more than a fair few lovers and witnessed a fair few tears when those lovers left. My heart was a casual vacancy. After each failed triumph I swore never again only to have that oath abolished time after time, when a new pair of gorgeous eyes and a dazzling mind bewitched me once more. Some people are addicted to crack, some to alcohol, and here I am on the rather potent substance of love.

Well, like all great, trashy contemporary romances there’s got to be heartbreak somewhere: so here it is, at the beginning. I’d been at university for two months or so. Lying on the carpet of my university halls room, small tracks of tears had run down my face and my chest felt as if it was being crushed. The world had ended. My first love had broken my heart, and therefore, any possible glimpse of happiness was gone from my life. The only solution to this misery was to post tragic Facebook posts and crying, lots and lots of crying. My local supermarket was definitely low on tissues because of me, and probably still is. Heartbreak is a bitch, even more so than the price of cheese.

He’d sent the dreaded We need to talk message. The phone call that followed, I don’t particularly remember, nor do I wish to, but there is one poignant sentence: This relationship is toxic. Yes, yes it was. Breaking up with me was possibly the only right thing he ever did, for which I am grateful. My idiotic hopeless romantic self was too young and dumb to leave.

When he left me, the words came rushing back like that of oxygen rushing back into the lungs after a long-held breath. Moments after the phone call ended, it hit me. The truest version of myself came rushing back and I realised then, crippled with this horrific pain in my chest, that the damage had been done. It was a momentous wave of realisation – an epiphany of sorts – and perhaps that’s why I ended up on the floor. My idiocy forced me to my knees. I screamed, like something from a horror film my friends tell me, it was loud and pained as my chest imploded. Anyone who has ever felt heartbreak will know exactly what I mean: you can’t breathe, you can’t focus and still nothing else has yet to compare to the intricate and exquisite pain. Not even grief. Break ups, I guess, are much like funerals just without the dead body.

The month that followed my first heartbreak was a long one. Picking up the pieces of yourself is never an easy or enjoyable task. It wasn’t the end of the world funnily enough, even though it felt like it, rather more like a super shitty beginning. Just a bleak November day after finishing a shitty retail shift selling kitchen appliances. Five months of toxicity and then nothing. No criticisms, no punishments, just peace. I’d like to say I handled it well, but I didn’t. Being free of the chains themselves does not necessarily mean being free of the scars left behind.

Sometimes people make decisions to end the pain for good. I just wanted to breathe again. I took a long walk off of a short pier. Thank fuck it didn’t work, is all I can say. Intriguing creatures that we are, we put ourselves through all sorts of shit to find love, to find that happily ever after. Do we just have a morbid fascination for pain? I don’t think so. I think we all want to be able to believe in love so that we have something to strive for, to live for, to make our lives that little bit less mundane. I guess that’s what I was looking for when I got into a relationship with the First One. I just wanted to fall in love, to have kissed someone before I went to university, to lose my virginity and other rather inconsequential things I now look back on with far less significance. The realisation that love wasn’t what I thought it was sent me tumbling. I had been trying to conform to some warped idea of love that the media and the world had convinced me was ‘right’. Sell every last part of myself to gain love, the currency had been wrong, the interpretation of love incorrect. I wish I could have told myself, No, sweetheart, that isn’t love. Love should not be a gamble for a ‘sometimes’ lover. No one should ever have to beg for affection. Nor should love be something that consumes you so that you lose sight of yourself.

I got me back the day he left me. The version of myself I had almost lost. I became the tidal wave of emotions I’d been left with – I moved with might, with force, with the strength of what was inside of me – the pain and the rest. I fell from elegance, from the picturesque love blind state I was in, with a dull, loud thud, and I startled. My eyes were finally open, truly open.

I did not know then what I know now, and that’s okay, because now, well now, I rise again, stronger.

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