By Manjiri Indurkar Dec. 23, 2019
For five years I was suffocated in a relationship of co-dependence. We were always together. But I was never present. It took me a while, but this year, I realised that I cared about my erstwhile partner a lot, but when I was with him, I had forgotten how to love myself.
It started in 2010. I met a guy I would fall in love with. He was sweet, kind, and smart. He cared about me. I cared about him. We met, we became friends. Close friends, best friends. We used to live in neighbouring PGs in GK-II. At night, when his room got too loud and chaotic, and when mine got too cramped for space, we would take long walks in the well-lit lanes of Delhi’s poshest colony. We would talk about our lives, about the people we were in love with. How those relationships weren’t going well. We would talk about literature, the things we were passionate about, our aspirations, our dreams, and how Delhi made us feel liberated but also a little scared.
Soon enough it was time to leave the PG, and we decided to move in together. We had found jobs. We both were doing well. We both were happy. We were also getting over our former lovers. One day, we realised we were falling for each other. Finally, it felt like we had everything. We had our careers. We had our books. We had our friendship. And we had love.
Caught up in this craziness, I forgot for a while the things I had fought for most of my life. My history of child sexual abuse that had always hung over me like a dark shadow I could not escape. I had lived my life trying to forget about my past, pretend like it didn’t exist. But it had only grown deeper and darker. For a brief period, though, I was so happy that I thought I had escaped it for good. Now that I had true love, I didn’t need anything else.
Confusing love as a cure-all is a cruel mistake that many tend to make. I was no different. But while I was busy escaping, life was hatching its own plan to bring me back to reality.
One January morning, I had a serious stomach infection. After close to 40 loo visits, an ambulance was called, and I was rushed to a hospital. The experience was so painful it traumatised me. By the time I was discharged, I was so scared of food, of falling ill, of life, of death that I had forgotten how to live. I was anxious all the time. I was absorbed by my depression. I was too afraid of moving. Too afraid of eating. Too afraid of breathing. I was a lump of mass, lying on my bed, staring blankly at the wall. My happy bubble had burst, leaving a giant mess in its wake.
A healthy relationship is one where you don’t end up forgetting about yourself. It has clear boundaries, which are respected.
This was the moment everything changed. I was suddenly withdrawn, busy obsessing over my perceived illnesses. I was in therapy. I was on meds. I was absent. But in retrospect, the problems in our relationship had started much before then.
It was his brooding sadness that had drawn me to him in the first place. He was the kind of person you’d want to look after. But, over time, being in a relationship with him often meant I was taking care of him emotionally, way more than I could handle. He had a troubled relationship with his mother. A fight with her would lead to him lashing out at me. He was often angry and it scared me. In his rage he would walk out in the middle of our fights, so none of them ever ended. In the middle of the many doors that were banged shut, I was closing in on myself. I was choking as things crumbled around us.
I was suffocated with the co-dependence. We were always together. But I was never present. It wasn’t fair to him. It wasn’t fair to me. It is also why, after struggling with the decision for over a year, I ended the relationship.
It wasn’t easy. It was the hardest decision of my life. The most painful thing I have done. But I had finally broken free from what had become a highly toxic relationship. I now had to pick up the pieces, and learn to live with myself, and just for myself, once again. I had forgotten how to do that. It took me two years to re-learn, but those two years were when I did most of my growing up. When he and I fell in love, we were very young. And, for a large part of the relationship we were holding on to our childhoods. To grow up, I had to get my heart broken.
The day I ended things with him, I moved out of Delhi. For a long time, whenever I would visit the city, I would feel an enormous amount of anxiety. But now that he and I are not in each other’s lives, not as lovers, not even as friends, things are a little easier. I don’t rely on him for anything. He isn’t the one I call when I have a panic attack. He isn’t the one I run to when I need things fixed. He isn’t the one reassuring me that I am not going to die. I now do that for myself. It has made me realise how capable I am of managing my own life. I had grown up as an independent person. But my depression and that relationship made me habitually rely on someone else. And that’s never a good sign.
A healthy relationship is one where you don’t end up forgetting about yourself. It has clear boundaries, which are respected. I loved him a lot, but when I was with him, I forgot how to love myself. He wasn’t a bad person, I wasn’t a bad person, but we were bad for each other. 2019, this sordid year, is the one where I did most of this learning. I cut myself away from him; it was something I should have done two years back, for his sake and mine. This cursed year is heavy with all this emotional baggage that I am going to leave behind, buried in a little grave I have dug for it, and move on to the next year as a different person.
For many years he was the most important person in my life. I am grateful that it was him, and no one else. I would not have been the person that I am today had it not been for that relationship, and for that, I am grateful. As I get ready to say goodbye to 2019, I say goodbye to him and to the person I used to be. I wish him all the happiness, love, and joy in life. Happiness that I won’t get to witness.
My erstwhile lover, may you live well.
Manjiri Indurkar is a poet who hails from the small central Indian town of Jabalpur. She is one of the founders and editors of the literary magazine Antiserious.