I was on a work trip to Melbourne when I fell ill and was basically confined to the four walls of my hotel room. Naturally, my phone was promoted to be my BFF for the rest of the trip. Being the millennial that I am, Tinder was one of the platforms where I mindlessly scratch my boredom itch...and that, was how I met M.
It wasn't until I got home that we connected and boy oh boy, were the sparks flying to Melbourne and back! It hits different when you meet a stranger on the internet who gets you without having the need to explain it. After a couple of months, we finally had an opportunity to meet when I had another work trip to Melbourne. Needless to say, I was excited beyond words!
The man who existed exclusively in my phone and in my head now stood in front of me--smiling as if to melt my heart. For months, we flew in planes and celebrated every chance we got--New Year's in Haji Lane, my birthday with our favourite Pidapipo, his birthday on Russell Street. We had the kind of connection where we both surprised each other with the same flowers on Valentine's day.
I know, long distance isn't everyone's cup of tea but it feels like second nature with the right person, I promise. He was looking for a job in Singapore, I was looking for one in Melbourne. I thought to myself, "This is someone I want to marry"...and I've never been the marrying kind.
As much as I was generally happy, I've always felt this gaping sadness in my life--a low-level sadness that was always there. When I say generally happy, I mean there isn't anything wrong with my life--I had a job, loved ones who supported me, people whom I loved, a roof over my head and the ability to travel more often than usual. I've been a huge advocate for mental health, but at that point, I've never been to therapy and I figured, it's time I started.
It began only as a curiosity and it quickly sprung into a journey of self-discovery. Next to having one too many forms to fill in, there were a truck ton of tears from unresolved childhood trauma. The sessions were difficult, but as someone who believes in science (I say 'believe' because hi, flat earthers!), I knew I had to trudge on.
I have to say, I'm so glad I was going to therapy. Because one fine morning in May, I received a call from M that he's decided that he doesn't want to do it anymore, that he doesn't think we're compatible and man, did it hurt. Around the same time, I was diagnosed with dysthymia, a chronic, low-grade depression. I attributed the end of the relationship with my diagnosis. "If I were not depressed, would he still be here?" From then on, he was all I spoke about in therapy for months, trying to wrap my head around the sudden news.
In therapy, I learned that there are many things that we choose to remember in our lives, I chose to remember only the good ones with him, perhaps in compensation for the lack of it in my childhood. My therapist made me realise that, while the relationship was entirely possible in the long run, there were many things that needed to stand in the test of time and unfortunately, ours did not. I was extremely sad for months. My already-cynical self had lost all hope on ever finding a love like that again.
I had already taken leave for the vacation we spoke about and...it took me a lot of courage, but I went on it, alone. I rented a car, and listened to some hits worth belting to (yes, Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You was on that list), and drove...a lot. I cried while driving and I cried before I went to bed but I also laughed and made new friends. I sat by the river alone for hours with a book, taking in the beautiful scenery. Sometimes, I imagined that he was there with me. It was the best and the worst trip I've taken. It helped me grief the relationship. On hindsight, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I think in life we're meant to, in some ways, meet the people we're supposed to meet. Sometimes they're people who stay in our lives for a long time, sometimes they're people who join the party for a few brief moments, sometimes we get our closure, but sometimes, unfortunately, we don't.
This person has shown me the qualities of a man that I want to be with in the long run (and that this person even exists!). He has made me realise that I want to be married to someone I love deeply someday. He's shown me that I am capable of being loved the way I want to be.
I am now in a happy serendipitous relationship with my best friend. I still think of M sometimes, not in a longing way but I'd just wonder what he's up to, is he well, how are his parents, is his dog still so cheeky. He left a mark in my life and I will not try to forget this person.
When speaking about mental health, I think it's important to note that you don't have to have to lead a horrible life or have a 'reason' to be depressed. Depression isn't sadness. Depression can simply be a result of the combination of various chemicals in the brain. And that sometimes it takes small changes to make us feel better, sometimes it's therapy, sometimes it takes medication. Just like a cut on our finger: sometimes they need a band-aid, sometimes they may take a few weeks to heal, and sometimes we need to get a tetanus jab. Much like clothing, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution and that's only normal.
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