“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”
Back in June, I wrote a very personal post about how I was feeling following the end of a toxic relationship. As June is nearly 6 months ago now (and 8 months after said relationship ended), I’m feeling reflective again (not unusual for me!) So I wanted to write a bit of an update of how I’m feeling now, 6 months on, and also an update of what I’ve achieved and learnt during this time.
The past 8 months have been difficult for me at times, but also a huge period of self development and growth that I think I really needed. You see, before the toxic relationship, I was in a relationship for 13 years, which suddenly ended. I found myself lost and confused following the end of this, and at the time, I felt like a part of me (and my life) had died.
As reaction to the split, I pretty much jumped into another relationship with somebody who just wasn’t right for me. At the time, it was what I thought I needed. It was fun and a welcome distraction from dealing with my pain. In a way, it helped me to get over what I had been through. But in focusing all my energy on this I was neglecting myself and stopping myself from dealing with what I needed to deal with. Over the coming months, this new relationship quickly turned unhealthy and toxic.
There were many factors involved, but looking back, I realise that at the time I had no self esteem and limited personal boundaries, which meant that I lowered my standards and accepted behaviour that I really shouldn’t have accepted. Why? Because I was lonely and wanted to feel wanted. I thought that a relationship, any relationship, would make me happy. I thought that it would fix me. But in reality, all it did was make me feel worse, much worse than before. I quickly realised that this new relationship couldn’t fix me or make me happy, this had to come from me. I also realised that it was better to be alone, even though this was a scary option, than be in a relationship that was unhealthy and making me ill.
A part of me also felt like I hadn’t given myself time to get over the sudden end of the previous relationship and I started to feel suffocated and trapped. After the toxic relationship ended, I struggled for a while. I blamed myself for the failure of yet another relationship. I thought that there must be something wrong with me.
As a result of all this, in June I decided to dedicate the rest of this year to myself. I decided to purposely and intentionally stay away from dating and relationships. Partly because I didn’t want to end up feeling trapped in that horrible scenario again, but also because I felt like I needed time to recover, learn about myself and grow as a person. Deal with feelings and emotions that I had been perhaps avoiding.
I hadn’t been single prior to this since I was 18 and I think as a result, I needed to find out who I was again, without having to worry about someone else.
And, over the last 6 months, this is just what I have done. I’m actually really proud of myself. Because now, rather than feeling lonely and having the urge to fill a void by dating, I actually quite like my own company. I don’t feel sad, or sorry for myself. I feel quite content. I can do what I want, when I want, which is quite liberating. Yes, there are times when it can be hard, like I’ve been quite poorly recently, and being alone during illness and having to do everything yourself is not exactly fun but overall, this time to myself has made me more independent and stronger as a person.
SELF CARE & GROWTH
I’ve spent the last 6 months working on myself. I have made more time for self care by taking up yoga and meditation, making time for a candle-lit bubble baths and taking up reading again, which I used to love but for some reason stopped after the stress of everything. I have also been having counselling, which in all honestly, I think I’ve needed for a long time. I’ve started to read self help books and listen to inspiring and uplifting podcasts. It’s the little things like this that can make a real difference to your mental health and well-being.
As a result, I can honestly say that I’m a different person than I was a couple of years ago. I’ve had a lot of time to think and I’ve realised that, in a way, the long term relationship held me back. I relied on him for a lot and I think as a result, I lost a part of myself and my independence. Being alone has forced me to do things by myself and I feel quite liberated as a result. I think nothing of doing simple things like the weekly shop, driving myself places or even travelling abroad alone, all things which would have terrified me back then and I just wouldn’t have done.
In terms of my running, I have recently started the Parkrun alphabet challenge, which I am doing with a fab group of people from my run club. Over the last 6 months, I have thrown myself into running and have taken part in loads of social activities with my run club. As a result, I’ve made a good group of friends, which means I always have someone to run with or go with to races or different Parkruns, so I don’t need to rely on a partner to fill this need. Over the last 6 months, we have been to many different Parkruns, including Northwich, Alderford Lake (Whitchurch), Phoneix (Runcorn), Glossop, The Wammy (Newcastle Under Lyme) and Jersey! In the last 6 months, I also reached the milestone of 50 Parkruns, which was one of my goals for this year.
I absolutely love running and my run club and it has helped me immensely with my mental health and building up a good network of inspiring and adventurous friends on the same wavelength.
I’ve also managed to do the Three Peak Challenge and 3 half marathons in the last 8 months – Liverpool Rock and Roll, The Great North Run and Manchester Half in October. It would have been 4 but unfortunately I’ve been quite ill since the beginning of October so had to pull out of the Conway Half which I had planned for November.
Another thing I started in the last 6 months is GoodGym, which I absolutely love. Basically, you run to a task (usually about a mile), which is something that will help the community and it could range from litter picking, cleaning or sorting food and clothes for the homeless. Then you run back. I love it because it combines my love of running with helping people and the community. Plus, it’s another chance to meet some amazing people and continue to build my friends and support network.
My goal this year was to travel alone in order to build my confidence and independence. I’m so proud that I managed to achieve this goal this year. In September, I went to Poland, completely alone, for a weekend to do a Parkrun abroad in Gdansk (and also threw in a bit of sight-seeing!).
Not only that, but I forced myself to stay in a hostel and go on tours (including a bar crawl) by myself. This was a MASSIVE challenge for me and looking back sometimes I can’t believe I actually did it. But they do say, the choices that scare you are the ones that help you to grow and that’s so true.
I won’t lie, this trip was quite difficult for me at times, especially with the language barrier and feeling alone in an unknown city. You realise how vulnerable you are at certain points (such as eating alone in a restaurant) and being alone did restrict what I did – for example, I didn’t really like walking alone at night and so I would go back to the hostel early. In other respects though, it taught me quite a few things and I met some really nice people at the Parkrun and on the Bar Crawl.
I’m also proud that I went alone to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (5 hours drive away) to take part in The Great North Run. As this is a huge event, I didn’t want to turn my ballot place down because I had nobody to go with. As it happens, the running community and Instagram is a friendly place, and I managed to meet up with one of my Instagram friends whilst I was there who was also doing the race. I went on a race day package trip and stayed at the Newcastle University with other people doing the race so met some nice people and overall had a good experience. Although I did miss my run club friends and it was a bit lonely at the finish line, I am proud of myself for going on my own, and I smashed it in 2.03! 🙂
So these are just some of the things I managed to achieve in my 6 months of self focus. I have definitely learnt a lot about myself and actually, I think they have turned into some of the best months of my life.
This year, through my run club, I have met so many different people who are inspiring and fun to be around and who push me to do more. This has had a massive benefit on me and inspires me to keep pushing and trying new things.
I have become stronger, more independent and a long way from the vulnerable, naive girl that I was 2 years ago. It’s true what they say, you really do grow and learn from what you go through and if it wasn’t for all the hard times, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
I’m now happy on my own, I don’t NEED a relationship and I’m not looking either. I’m self sufficient, I make my own money, have my own flat, have a good social life a network of friends to run with, travel with etc. I think I am now in a much better and healthier place should I WANT a relationship in the future and I’m proud of what it’s taken me to get to this stage.
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I had scoliosis surgery in 2010 and blog about my experiences living with scoliosis. My aim is to raise awareness of scoliosis and help and inspire others with the condition.