By Lucy Wormald (she/her)
Culture and Lifestyle Writer, Lucy Wormald, reflects on losing herself to an all-consuming relationship, and her journey somewhat back.
It’s funny, the gap between who you want to be and who you are. You want to be edgy, kind of aloof. You want to be self-contained, a thriving and sort of enterprising young woman. But what you are, is desperate to be in love.
Sometimes you try and teach yourself to be embarrassed by this but you can’t bring yourself to be. That is how devoted you are to the cause. You hope that this reads to the outside world as ‘romantic’, or at the very least ‘staunch’, but deep down you know it’s just pure and unfettered thirst.
Contrary to popular assumptions, this trait has not sprouted from a lack of parental affection. You don’t believe that true love will make you whole. You don't even feel particularly lonely. You just sense that there is an immense and delicious type of love that can be (has to be?!) felt. This feeling is obscure but unabating, existing at your peripheries like the silvery tail of a memory or a word on the tip of your tongue.
Adding fuel to the fire, you have heard the stories of star-crossed lovers. You have seen The English Patient. Your mum and dad are goddamn soulmates. You nurture this collection of seeds with the rich soil of your imagination until they are swollen and monstrous fruit. You are the self-appointed Queen of Daydreams; by night, the MP for Delusion. And you spend a great deal of time being lovelorn over nobody in particular.
And so when someone comes along with dimples and good shoes and a sureness that is dazzling, you go for broke. You throw in all your chips; then the whole casino for good measure.
The sensation is intoxicating. It glimmers and is heady. You feel like you’re wading through honey. After so much anticipation, and fearing it fleeting, you drown yourself in this feeling.
In your head, you are constantly doing that thing people do on game shows where they clasp their hands together and shake them in victory. You take the relationship and photocopy it into 1 billion pamphlets and post it all over your life. You step back and look at your decorative work and nod in approval of your great taste.
The architecture of each of your thoughts begins to be built around this relationship. You schedule your friends and your plans and your aspirations around it. Every decision made is threaded with it. It ain’t cute but you can’t help it. You tell yourself this is what love is. You’re drowning, remember, and it feels good.
You have always had a strong sense of self. You have known who you are without any inhibitions or premeditations for as long as you can remember. So it is confusing and dismaying when you start to feel very sharply like you are fading.
It becomes increasingly difficult to feel the edges of yourself. You can’t seem to find your best stories, your hottest takes, your penchant for wandering alone. You are rummaging and riffling and you cannot find a solitary thought that isn't pressed up against this relationship. As the cloak of romance begins to slip you consider filing a missing person report for yourself.
Stage two of drowning is sinking. And sink you do, every night when you are trying to sleep. Something does not feel right. Something does not feel okay. You feel like a spool of thread unravelling, becoming sparer and sparer. You don’t feel heard or seen or known.
And how can you be known? You shoved yourself down to the bottom of your rucksack. Or maybe you tossed yourself out in a spring clean. Forgotten, deemed non-essential. You were so transfixed on this other person you shrunk yourself down and pocketed yourself with other extraneous things – spare change, bus tickets, trigonometry.
It hits breaking point when you feel like something crucial is now irretrievable. Some pearl, your power, some vital note of existence. You don’t feel like a real person except when backlit by the relationship. You do a lot of reflecting. You pathologise and psychoanalyse yourself and Google things like attachment theory. But you know what has happened here. It was a simple trade. You gave yourself away. You just don't know how to fix it.
No longer desperate for love, you are desperate to find yourself. You remember brilliant moments of feeling embodied and you flick through everything you’ve ever done in a bid to re-trigger that feeling. You try meditating. You pump your personality up with hobbies like embroidery and jogging. You fail many times over to step outside of the relationship. You are lulled and seduced by the ease of existing within something, for something.
But you are young. You didn’t realise that the greatest things could be a privilege and a prison both. You didn’t know that a relationship could build a kingdom only to then take your power and enslave you to it.
You don’t yet have the ticket. You haven’t quite found the balance. So you occupy this strange space of remembering yourself, re-meeting yourself. It is liminal and unchartered. But you’re getting there.