A Liberated Black Woman’s Experiences: Coping After A Toxic Relationship.

By: Bernice Maune
Main image: Ian Dooley on unsplash

There’s an unspoken transition period that happens right after a break-up. Some choose to skip that phase and find a rebound while others choose to go right through the fire and feel the burn.

Whatever the choice, what cannot be escaped is the transition that needs to happen for you to evolve and become the best version of yourself.

The transition is a painful one. There are many questions to be asked and answered. It is a phase of self-exploration, an uncomfortable time where you need to search within you and find yourself again.

There are thoughts and deliberations within yourself that take place. There are conversations with family and friends that must occur. Some of these chats are merely a way for you to test the waters of how your loved ones see and experience you during that period of transition. It’s insane and sometimes it can be heart breaking.

With the end of that chapter, my transition period begun. It was ugly alright, there were tears, crying myself to sleep every night for three months. There was regret, wondering why I had put myself through it all.

For me, the transition period came after I had closed the chapter on an ex who had broken my heart one too many times. He had stomped all over it, watched it come back to life again and come back to destroy it piece by piece. Maybe my choice of words is dramatic, but it felt like a death, a finality that threatened my being.

With the end of that chapter, my transition period begun. It was ugly alright, there were tears, crying myself to sleep every night for three months. There was regret, wondering why I had put myself through it all.

Thoughts of how I too had messed up because of my own emotional traumas that I had experienced in my childhood. In that struggle for survival, I had become fiercely independent.

I had become so independent that I had signs of masculinity, perhaps I was too strong in my sense of self that I had become an all in one, multi-functional woman, but my independence couldn’t save me from the transition period.

As my transition begun I found coping mechanisms which became personal vices to escape a wound. There was alcohol, and with it by my side I could cook myself a hearty meal and fall asleep in the comfort of my own home. It was familiar. It didn’t require much effort except to buy it.

Then there were the painkillers. From Panado to Adcodol which were silent, and they could calm my state of anxiety within 10 minutes. With these I could temporarily escape from my thoughts.

Why is it that I too had been groomed to believe that men are the cherry on top? That successful relationships are how women should be defined? That no matter how hard I worked, focused, studied and accomplished personally, my success would still be judged by my marital status?

During the first two weeks which I saw as the beginning of the transition phase my heart beat so fast and I would collapse in a fit of tears while at work. I survived on rescue and anti-anxiety medication during the day. It helped me to maintain a sense of control especially because I had a highly demanding job.

As the transition phase progressed, there were moments where my heart was so sore that I pictured it as a broken organ that was so fragile and unable to beat properly. It felt like it was bleeding on the inside of my chest.  The coping mechanisms seemed to worked but they were still temporary fixes.

I felt like a failure, two back to back relationships that hadn’t worked out and yet I was hardworking and killing it in my academic endeavours, but was that enough?

Why is it that I too had been groomed to believe that men are the cherry on top? That successful relationships are how women should be defined? That no matter how hard I worked, focused, studied and accomplished personally, my success would still be judged by my marital status?

For several months friends and family served as my support system. A particular friend, also going through heartbreak, was a pillar of strength. We met up often and dissected our failed relationships and in-between those encouraging sessions where we spoke life into each other through prayer and scripture. Those moments were empowering. They were what any girl needs; to open up and share how the pain has or is changing her.

I finally came to the realisation that all the coping mechanisms in the world could not change what I was feeling. It was time to work on myself. I could no longer afford to mask the wounds and pretend that everything was okay.

Mid transition phase, I travelled. I flew to Asia with friends in a bid to escape the reality of my life back home and to just revel in my youth. It was a beautiful contrast, a background of the world and a heartbroken woman who was battling internally to survive.  Yet, I needed that too.

I needed to party in Bali and go hiking in Malaysia. Shopping in the Phillipines and dining in Thailand were moments that allowed me to spend time with myself and people I didn’t know in order to look at the prism of my life from a different perspective. But at the end of it all, I still needed to face me. To face what had happened, what went wrong and how it had all changed me.

What was the emotional impact of physically finding my ex with another woman when we were dating? What was the effect of finding out he had taken another woman out and lied to me about it? What influence did it have on me to have gotten back together with him only for him to go back to the other woman?

I had to be intentional about my healing. That meant letting go of all the coping mechanisms.

It had shattered me. It had broken me down and made me feel worthless. I finally came to the realisation that all the coping mechanisms in the world could not change what I was feeling. It was time to work on myself.

I could no longer afford to mask the wounds and pretend that everything was okay. So in the last part of the transition phase, I made a decision. I would work on myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

I quit my job and went on a three month sabbatical because I needed to focus and office politics were mentally draining and heavy on my spirit. I went to the coast to spend time with family and friends so that I could recuperate.

I had to be intentional about my healing. That meant letting go of all the coping mechanisms. First to go was alcohol for a period of four months.

Then the painkillers indefinitely and luckily I had already let go of the anxiety and rescue medication. This meant staring at my raw, real self for the first time in months. It was scary, it was necessary but more than anything it was time.

Some of the things that worked for me while transitioning;

  • I went to gym three times a week. I could let go of the frustration and turn my pain into physical purpose.
  • Going to church regularly, I was there for every service and sometimes two services in a weekend. I signed up for life courses on knowing your worth as a woman and becoming whole through Christ. These courses lasted two months and equipped me with the tools to cope healthily.
  • Keeping a journal.  I could chronicle my pain and experiences. I also kept a separate gratitude journal to count my blessings.
  • Prayer – This connects me daily to my God. I  could communicate and connect intimately with Him this way. My prayer schedule is rigorous and regular.
  • I found that a good diet helped me think more clearly and I was able to focus better. This is still a daily endeavour, to eat well and drink water often.
  • I read all the time. Some of my favourite authors during this journey have been Don Miguel’s The Mastery of Love, Toke Makinwa’s On Becoming, Paul Coehlo’s The Alchemist, Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Toure Roberts’ Wholeness, Devon Franklin and Meagan Good’s The Wait and Iyanla Vanzant’s Forgiveness.Building myself intellectually has been great for my spirit and mind.

The healing has certainly been intentional and it’s a daily decision to keep healing and evolving, to become better than who I was yesterday.

Who is Bernice?
Bernice Maune is a South African freelance writer, currently based in France. She is a life enthusiast, Masters student who laughs at awkward moments.


Follow her escapades at Bernice_Fire on Instagram.
 

 

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