A year to this day, I went on a date with someone who changed my life in every way possible. A month ago, we called it quits because I had decided to move to Nairobi and because of his traumas. This blog post is not meant to be depressing and lament where the relationship could have gone but it is meant to celebrate the good memories and look forward to the future.
When we started dating, I was scarred in my own ways. I was still suffering flashbacks and effects from when I was sexually assaulted. I also had firmly believed that men could not be good parents. I believed that dads are not necessary in order to raise great kids. My trust in the male gender was low in general. I knew it was wrong to chalk everything up to the entire male gender, but my personal experiences made it almost impossible for me to change my mind. I was always jumpy and much more wary when I encounter a group of men together. My friends and ex’s learned to never touch the back of my neck- I elbowed and punched whoever did.
He helped me through the healing process. Not only did he show me that it was OK to let down my guard, but he stayed true in his actions. He was caring and patient. He never made promises that he could not fulfill and he tried his hardest to fulfill his end of the relationship. I had never felt so comfortable with any other man. He became the antithetical model of my previous belief of men. And I was glad. I was happy that someone was finally able to prove my belief wrong.
His close ties with his family gave me plenty of opportunity to get to know and hang with them. I spent last Thanksgiving with his 40 relatives as we took the White City Tour and had dinner at Greektown. His family demonstrated to me that men can be great parents and that marriages can be for lifetime. While every family has its spat and is dysfunctional to certain extent, his family is able to put it behind them and to have a great time.
One can say that we had a fairy tale romance until Thanksgiving weekend when he was diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome (PCS). He slowly sunk into a depression that is typical of severe cases of PCS. I could only helplessly watch as he fought against the raging headaches that has become his constant companion and against the emotional toll it took on him. He knew that he was becoming a different person- a person he did not want to be- and tried to battle it. His tears of frustration and anger made my heart break. I tried to help him and tolerate his increasingly erratic behaviors, but depression is an internal fight and almost nothing I said got through to him. We spent seven out of the 11 months we were together battling PCS.
Being long distance certainly did not help. One major thing that PCS took from him was the willingness to communicate. Before PCS, he was the communicator in the relationship. Nothing was off bound for him to discuss. It kept our relationship honest and open. Post-PCS, his willingness to communicate deteriorated, and we went on weeks without talking/chatting/emailing each other (it was also because of the sporadic Internet access in Kenya). We finally called it quits- the pressure to maintain the relationship was taking too much of a toll on both of us.
Calling it quits does not mean that we no longer have feelings for each other. We still do. But calling it quits did serve as a wake up call for both us. For him, it served as a reminder that he needs to continue to try his hardest to get better. He is currently hiking the Appalachian Trials, and when we talked last week, he sounded better. More at peace with his situation and less self-hate. For me, it served as a constant reminder of how sudden life can change and it also made me question if my decision to move to Kenya was not too self-centered. I sacrificed a lot by coming here, especially personally. But is sacrifice merely another way of saying self-centered? Because when we are sacrificing something, our decision is also impacting others, which means that we are sacrificing them as well.
I am thankful for the time we had together. We learned from each other and we grew together. It definitely hurts that we could have been so much more if we were not in the situation that we are in now, but it is pointless to dwell on the “what ifs”. We just need to move forward and see what the future brings. I am optimistic. We are still good friends and both of us are healing in our own ways.