Day 1. I was in shock. I called everyone I could, and I sobbed uncontrollably. I could barely sleep that night, and the next day I woke up after 3 1/2 hours of tortured sleep. I felt like I was going to vomit for about 24 hours after the breakup came out of nowhere. I barely ate.
Week 1. I was surprised to see anger show up so early (the second day), mixed in with a ton of sadness, doubt, and bargaining in my dreams (i.e. in my dreams I'd be begging her to take me back). The first week, I barely ate and dropped about 10 lbs.
Month 1 (May). For most of the month, I couldn't do much of anything. I had no motivation to do anything physical for the first few weeks (I started lightly working out around the third week). I was extremely quiet, didn't find anything funny, felt depressed, didn't have the motivation to cook or clean. Around the 30th day is when I started seeing a few glimpses of hope (but not many) and I started getting motivation to clean my plate and eat somewhat more normally (but not completely normally). "Sexual bereavement" was a very prominent feeling I had. Generally, I was heavily facing anger, sadness, denial.
Month 2 (June). At times, the second month felt like a regression — I had more consecutive days of crying in the second month than the first month. The ups-and-downs were more noticeable in the second month... and, many days felt really challenging. It was also made harder by many friends cutting back on texting, calling, and asking me how I was doing. I felt really alone, and the emotions often felt STRONGER in the second month compared to the first month, which felt more like shock and numbness over the situation not feeling like reality.
Month 3 (July). This month felt like a continuation of month two in many ways. Sledging through the mud is what most days felt like. A lot of more existential questions came up: What am I meant to do? What makes me happy? What is my purpose? It felt like the relationship was a catalyst to deeper questions about my life. And, I still felt a lot of competition with my ex-girlfriend: Wanting to find someone before she does and be happier before she is.
Month 4 (August). There was some shifting this month. I "forced" myself to go on an adventure, to experience a new environment and try something new. I went to Belize and the nomad community Umaya Village, and met so many new people... and formed a new romantic connection. Being around people really helped show that I could make friendships and be loved — that my life wasn't only rejection. I still thought about my ex-girlfriend —anger, sadness, the "WTF" feeling of how this even happened — but the emotions were less acute and painful.
Month 5 (September). I continued to stay away from San Diego, where my ex-girlfriend lives and where six years of memories had been associated and blended together with her. Being away from San Diego really helped, and I continued to heal during this time. I still felt moments of wondering how it happened, if I would ever find someone better, and comparing every woman to her. The pain was less acute and I was able to function again "normally", but a new state of normal. The healing hasn't been happening overnight, instead, it's incremental changes on a weekly and monthly basis that have helped me get better and better. I continued dating the new woman, and our relationship continued to grow from a "rebound" to something more "real".
Month 6 (October). I decided to move back to San Diego. Enough time had passed, and I had done what I needed to: Ran towards comfort back home, traveled all around (Belize, North Carolina), and found what had now turned into a new girlfriend. While unfair in many ways, the new girlfriend was often compared to my ex-girlfriend. I had a hard time letting go of the past relationship and the hurt that I felt. I did my best to treat my new girlfriend with kindness and appreciation, but I was still healing. And holidays (like Thanksgiving, that made it hard because it was a holiday my ex-girlfriend loved) made it challenging.
Month 7 (November). It's strange to think how much time has passed, and how quickly — and slowly at the same time — it felt. The wound still felt so fresh. I thought about my ex-girlfriend every day, wondering what she was doing and why I still hadn't heard anything from her. I wanted an apology or some type of closure. My new girlfriend was amazing, and helping me see patterns about myself in relationships that I didn't like: I can be condescending, particular, I can withhold emotion, and I can be a bit "eye-for-an-eye". At this point, the new relationship had been going on for about four months.
Month 8 (December). The holidays were hard again, but I spent them with my new girlfriend's family which helped me see them from a different perspective. The thoughts of my ex still hadn't vanished, but over the past few months had been less about the hurt and more about understanding what I learned from the relationship and what I wanted. I had written down a list of all the things that my ex-girlfriend didn't do that I wanted, and it helped me find a partner who fulfilled some of those needs.
Month 9 (January). I spent the month in Panama with a group of five friends from Belize, including my new girlfriend. Environmental change helps give new perspective, and I learned a lot while I was there. My new girlfriend told me that she loved me for the first time in a wonderful birthday card. It was a heartfelt, beautiful message that also mentioned I was the best boyfriend she ever hade and it made me cry. It felt so nice to see that I do have value in a romantic relationship. And that I can be loved.
Month 10 (February). After roughly six months, my new girlfriend and I broke up on February 1st. While she helped me so much, and was a great partner, I don't think I ever fully opened to her. And I think there were some fundamental issues between us that became clear as time went on: She wanted to move to London, I didn't. She had certain beliefs on a relationship, and I didn't. We were both Type A, alpha personalities and we often butted heads. It was a mutual breakup, but it was so sad. The first two days past the breakup, I spent crying nonstop and not eating. I cried more during the end of this relationship than I did after my 5 1/2 year relationship. So much grief showed up, and I felt so ashamed that I had another relationship that ended. I felt guilty that I was putting my friends through another breakup ("oh, David got broken up with again"), I felt guilty that I didn't let this new partner into my heart completely, and I felt guilty that I didn't tell many people about her and tried to play it off as more casual, even though behind-the-scenes it was serious. I was scared of getting hurt again — and, ironically, when it ended, I did anyway. Going through two heartbreaks over a 12-month period was really hard, and I felt a lot of pain in February.
Month 10 (March). This was an emotional month. The end of the month was the one-year anniversary of when I last talked to my ex-girlfriend H before I left for Hawaii (we took a communication break when I was in Hawaii to "reset" things, and so I could fully enjoy Hawaii and she could fully focus on wrapping up her Master's degree). Anniversaries have always been tough for me, with heightened emotions like sadness and fear ("I'm getting older, will I ever find anyone else?!"). It also marks about two months since my six-month relationship with C ended on February 1st. March really felt like I was falling behind: My thoughts were that H and C had likely started sleeping with other people, were having more fun with me, maybe found another relationship... and many other fearful thoughts that led to shame about my own dating and romantic "failures". It goes to show that the recovery ebbs and flows.
Month 12 (April). April was a months of continued ups-and-downs. Rebuilding habits, being around friends, and trying to explore what it looks like to be single. In this month, there was more of a "settling in" around being single. Between my past few relationships, I've felt a strong urgency to find someone again quickly — I felt like if I didn't start sleeping with someone, or dating someone, shortly after it would be a "use it or lose it" and I'd lose all my abilities to interact romantically. The end of April marked the longest stretch I've been single in 8 years across three relationships (3 months), which was scary and freeing. I feel more... okay being single now. But, I also fear becoming a hermit and shying away from romance. I'm trying to keep in mind what I read from relationship expert Amy Chan: "The key is to open our heart even when it hurts; especially when it hurts."