2020 has been difficult for everyone, without a doubt. Definitely, a year to remember but also one I would eagerly forget. For me, it started with the abortion of an unplanned pregnancy. My long-term partner and I didn't feel like it was the right moment for us to start a family. Days after, he was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, and the fight for his life began.
Within weeks we heard of the global pandemic making its way to the UK. As if that wasn't enough to pull the rug from under my feet, I also had to deal with the sudden news of my partner's infidelities. I learned that through our entire relationship, there were multiple people he had been cheating on me with. Even though I saw the signs like a slap in the face, I chose to ignore them, excuse them and explain them away because I wanted to be with that person more than I wanted to honour myself.
I convinced myself that cheating is nothing in comparison with cancer and tried to bottle the feelings up. In a way, his betrayal was overshadowed by the way I was betraying myself. I was madly in love with him and wanted the relationship to work more than anything, but I was hitting the rock of all the bottoms. Navigating cancer, Covid, and infidelities whilst in isolation knocks you out takes the air out of your lungs. It's constant PTSD, without the P.
At some point, I felt helpless and couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I started to have vicious suicidal thoughts and began to self-harm as a 30-year-old. As a kid, I couldn't wait to be 30; I anticipated it with curiosity, as I was excited to be a grown-up woman. In reality, I hated the person I saw in the mirror. The amount of stress I was under caused major hair loss, panic attacks, stomach spasms to the point of blacking out. Every day felt like torture; I was losing myself.
Finding out that your partner is unfaithful creates a deeply visceral sense of shock, disgust, and disbelief. I started to unconsciously associate the trauma of these events with my own body. First, it was unintentional as I just lost my appetite, but soon I began to starve and dehydrate myself on purpose. When that wasn't enough, I would self-inflict cuts on my body and use these feelings as preferable to the emotional pain I felt, or at least as the type of suffering I could choose.
It went on for months until the day when I realised I was pregnant again. 11 months after my abortion, I was looking at the stick with the faintest double pink line. I couldn't believe it, I knew I should be scared, but in the strangest way, I felt calm. At that moment, I realised there was a difference between pain and suffering. Pain can bring a well of depth and growth, empathy and understanding, while suffering is a choice. The relationship was coming to an end, but my heart was telling me that I should keep the baby. Whilst all the logic was against me keeping the baby, that pregnancy test forced a paradigm shift in the life I knew. I wanted the baby, even if that meant going through it by myself.
As I expected, my partner and I broke up, and he moved out the next morning. After months of feeling lost, it felt like my deeply hidden survival instincts had finally kicked in. I fought and pulled myself out of the deepest hole. At first, I was totally overwhelmed with my feelings, and on some days, I didn't know what to do with my fears and emotions. Questions of whether I was even ready to take on such a responsibility, with no family around, no partner to share it with, in the midst of a pandemic, were raging in my head. But deep down, I knew that with or without support, I would make it work. Because I am me, I'm a survivor and a living example of "that which doesn't kill you only makes you stronger."
I am now seven months pregnant and single, but I am happy. My baby made me stop, look around and embrace the feelings inside of me. She might not be here yet, but her presence is very much felt. By protecting this baby, I've automatically become better at protecting myself, too. I am no longer accepting any attitude or behaviour that affects me negatively in the slightest. What other people think is no longer of any help to me. These thoughts only exist within certain structures, and I have definitely left those structures. We live in a world that condemns single mothers for having the audacity to exist. I say fuck that. It's a wild world, but with a brave heart, everything is possible.
We all have different journeys, and sometimes we can get a little lost and end up on the wrong path. Throughout my life, I have always taken the road less travelled, so to speak. Now, I've come to land on the right one and heading in the direction I want to go. I'm so proud of the girl I was. She smiled when her heart was aching. She was born brave and strong, and she chose compassion over resentment. The chaos was long and tiring, but she never stopped dealing with the terrible hand she'd been dealt. And today, I feel free. Free from ever having to settle for less than I deserve. Because now I know that I am made of the same goddamn things the stars are made of. I am out of this world. I always have been.
My biggest lesson is never to underestimate your own strength and to trust yourself more than anything else. My journey has been a colourful and somewhat confusing blend of mistakes and victories and twists and turns that, in the end, made me fall in love with myself. I became the woman I wanted to be. I don't believe everything happens for a reason. Sometimes there's no sense in the nonsense. But life will give you moments, glimmers so crystal clear that they nudge you towards an understanding. Or at least a place to put all the things that felt so purposeless. Sometimes it's a person. An experience. A realisation. A change. Sometimes, it's all of the above.