After nearly everything in your entire life has told you that you deserve to be treated like shit, you grow into a young woman who doesn't tolerate shit. You read more; you unlearn; you relearn; you find your tribe; you are affirmed; you affirm yourself. You envision a future where you don't have to take what you can get but one where you can have what you want; you tap into your power; you vibrate higher. You then begin to open yourself up to the possibility of partnership, to building and sharing a life with someone. You've never been very vulnerable. You cry on your own shoulder and talk yourself through tough decisions, always wary of how much of yourself you expose. You struggle with having a partner, with expecting more from someone when people have always fallen short. Regardless, you push yourself through the discomfort, open up unseen parts of yourself, learn to trust more. "I'm growing," you say to yourself, "Growing pains are part of the process." Until all you feel is pain.
I've always admired people who share their hearts without hesitation. I hold on to mine for dear life, mostly because I cannot bear to subject it to being walked all over. It took me too long to build it up, only to let someone in and watch them destroy it.
Figuring out exactly where you went wrong with someone is always the hardest part: when the lines between challenging and dysfunctional become blurry. You aren't sure if you're self-sabotaging or if it just isn't working.
So you stick it out. You try harder; you say you won't give up. You tolerate rude comments and condescension. You rationalize being disrespected and disregarded. Your heart is now shared with someone who isn't being as gentle with it, and you aren't sure how to take it back. You continue to justify behavior. You become a gymnast, twisting and bending their anything-but-loving actions, into affection. Backflips. You bite your tongue and lower your gaze and tell yourself you are loved.
But you don't feel loved.
The most painful part is when you look in the mirror and no longer see yourself with loving eyes. You've replaced your loving eyes with the scathing glares of your partner who doesn't stop to admire your beauty, who forgets to tell you they love you, who dismisses your presence. You then become invisible, both to them and to yourself. An irrelevant afterthought.
You notice you don't trust yourself anymore. You speak up less. You shrink yourself to not draw attention to the fact that you simply feel empty.
It isn't until they blatantly, overtly, and glaringly gouge your heart out while somehow still claiming they love you that the curtains fall. You then are able to look in the mirror and admit to yourself that you weren't loved. You then stare at your heart, bruised and battered, and it stares back at you, betrayed.
After making promises to myself for years that I would never betray my heart, I did. I beat myself up about this for months. After the years it took to build it up, bandage it and heal it, I fed it to the lions. I subjected it to abandonment, I didn't nourish it or water it, or care for it the way I should have. After the years it took to blossom into the forest of strength and pride I had become, how could I have let someone set my home ablaze?
I'm in a love triangle with heartbreak, self worth, and forgiveness.
You work everyday at convincing yourself that you didn't deserve to be treated like shit. All of the self-love mumbojumbo somehow turns to dust and dissipates. You're left with an empty shell, a body you don't feel at home in and a heart that is in recovery.
Mourning the loss of yourself and your beloved feels unbearable sometimes. The discomfort of this ache bleeds into other parts of your life: an ocean trying to fit into a cup.
You are angry with yourself mostly, for allowing yourself to be vulnerable. For settling after you promised you wouldn't. You aren't sure how to make peace with the fact that you aren't perfect, and that people will let you down.
But you're trying.
Orit Mohamed is a writer based out of the San Francisco Bay Area. Her writing ranges from short stories and poetry, to opinion pieces, pop culture critique, and reports on art & music. Some of her interests include photography, discussing the intricacies of the African diaspora and sharing ideas on how to dismantle oppressive ideologies and the status quo.