As everyone knows, childhood isn’t always easy. I grew up in a household with two parents that loved each other at one point, but time and broken trust had turned them against one another. This is not unusual: many of us are the product of a broken home or have at least three friends with divorced parents. To offset the battles that waged at home I was, in every aspect, the perfect child. Popular, pretty, smart, I was always the least of my parents’ concerns — or at least I tried to be. I was also very normal in the sense that I used to make up stories to escape the reality of my everyday life. For a time these stories were based on my favorite anime, Sailor Moon.
Sailor Moon is an anime that came out in the 90s about a girl who is the reincarnation of the Moon Princess, and also a Pretty Sailor Soldier of Justice destined to battle evil and protect the Earth. She came equipped with four awesome insta-best friends and a talking cat mentor, PLUS a soul mate that was ALSO a reincarnation of a prince from Earth, and the hottest dude in Crystal Tokyo.
Sailor Moon was my everything. I could get lost for hours watching their tales of triumph and defeat, but no matter how hard Sailor Moon got knocked down, she always got back up. And guess who was there eight out of ten times? Her beloved soul mate, Tuxedo Mask.
So, it began with my imagining myself as the long-lost brown, curly-haired cousin of Sailor Moon, destined for my powers to unlock and a constant companion to be by my side. This daydreaming of Sailor Moon spinoffs sparked my creativity, and I had journals filled with original stories and characters. Some I put on paper, some existed only in my mind. Every story had the same recurring theme: girl gains powers previously known, falls in love with boy that loves her back, and saves the world. I truly believed this wasn’t just a story, it was the story, and it would be my story.
At 15 I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder and depression, and I admittedly don’t remember the majority of the following 2 years. Heavily sedated with antidepressants, I was a sleep-walking shadow of myself. At 15 I was on an aggressive combination of pills for severe anxiety, depression, and insomnia — many that were not made for children to take long term. My creation of stories and fictions transformed into something new: rumination. The question of “what if?” along with all the possibilities of what I was missing out on in the outside world would fill my mind.
Fast forward a decade or so and I have the worst breakup I’ve ever experienced. I was head over heels desperately in love with a man that I thought was my better half, my Tuxedo Mask if you will. I loved this man, believed he was the better version of me and could make me better. Despite only dating for only a year-and-a-half I very much felt this fantasy was destined to become reality. Sailormoon found her Mamo-chan.
Then we broke up. Not only was he not my Tuxedo Mask, but he betrayed me deeply and instilled a distrust of men in my heart. The dream veil that covered my relationship was broken, and I was devastated. I fell into a deep depression, and when I wasn’t abusing things or people to escape the pain of losing him I was thinking about the what ifs. What if he came back? What if a month, a year, ten years, he apologizes? What if he does truly want to be with me, and right now just isn’t the right time? What if, what if, what if. Ruminating, again, not living. I remember going to work and finding an empty office to hide in to cry, stuck on my loss and the loneliness I felt. Determined to fill the void I began doing things I thought would distract me, and, surprise, didn’t. I went to the gym almost every day and cried on the elliptical at least twice a week. All this time, despite what I told myself when I looked in the mirror, I was waiting for him to come back to me. This was a mistake.
But this behavior, this latching onto an idea and obsessing over it, started in my childhood. I used my anxiety and depression as a way to rationalize these thoughts and allow myself to continue to be in the deep dark depths of those diagnoses. So, after months of crying, going back and forth with this man, feeling so broken and bruised, stuck on thought I would never love again and there was no one else other in this world for me or anything better I could do that achieve a relationship with him — I woke up. It honestly was just a moment where I realized I felt so empty for so long for nothing more than a feeling. And a feeling is nothing more than that — a feeling and they are fleeting. Feelings like all things in life are temporary, and they will change if you allow them to. The lesson in there is that you have to be willing to allow change to come into your life and to let go of that which holds you back.
I stood up and I said I don’t have to do this anymore, my sadness, what I am feeling at this moment doesn’t define me. I realized that despite the physical actions I was taking to get well my mind was still in the same place as it was when we broke up. I never changed my mental behavior. I was still ruminating on fantasies when I needed to be present in life in order to move forward. My friends had begun doing things I envisioned myself accomplishing one day, and I was still stuck on a man who didn’t even respect me enough to be honest with me. And who is the one person I can count on to be honest? Myself, because I am the only person whose actions I can control.
I want to reiterate that this story is not just about loss, it’s not just about a breakup, it is about altering learned behaviors into positive habits. Instead of simply contemplating my fantasies I began writing them down. The “What Ifs” poured out of me onto paper, and it was a sweet cleansing of my heart. I was purging myself of these extra thoughts and it felt so good. I would read what I wrote, digested how ridiculous it all sounded, and let it go. By the end of the month, I had filled an entire journal with my “we belong together” novel… and I burned it all! I felt so light, so motivated, so ready for the fog to lift and reclaim my life and be ME again.
Ruminate from time to time I still do. I am a born worrier, but not in the same debilitating capacity. Life is a journey and that was a trauma I had to experience to become next-level Bee. We are forever changing, but often times that inevitable change is ignored or avoided, because we are afraid. I was afraid to move on, to be single again, to potentially never fall in love again or ever get married. But what is love for another without the foundation of true love for yourself? In order to persevere and evolve, I had to shift my traditional way of thinking, adjust learned behaviors. Even Sailor Moon wouldn’t allow tuxedo mask to disrespect her in the way my ex disrespected me. And if I am the pretty soldier of justice like I claim I am, how can I continue to have a place in my regular thought pattern for someone that doesn’t value my presence?