I was engaged at 18 years old. It made sense to me at the time, and people didn't tell me that I was off my rocker. Well, some of them didn't. But looking back, I can't believe how naive I was. I took it all so seriously instead of allowing myself to be a teenager.
I was a hopelessly romantic kid. I say "kid" because I hadn't even started university yet. I found myself talking to a boy from my high school and got the butterflies and rosy cheeks I had been longing for. He even asked me on our first date before he got home from a summer trip.
That first date is what sealed the deal; I was completely in love. Things moved quickly, and it was obvious that we felt the same way about each other. Two months later, he proposed to me. At the ripe old age of 18, I got engaged on a sunny day in October.
We loved each other and told each other secrets that no one else knew. I was there to see two of his cousins get married. We were supposed to be next. It felt right. It was a beautiful and happy time. At least it was for a while.
Having mental-health issues complicates any relationship, and an engagement is no exception. I was with a partner who wanted to fix me and take away my pain, but it was all trapped in my head. Fights would start and finish, then start again. He became obsessed with helping me, and I couldn't keep up. We weren't on the same wavelength anymore. I wasn't recovering to his standards, and this meant that we couldn't discuss anything else.
Our relationship became all about my faults. Most of the time, all we talked about was whether or not I had gotten out of bed or eaten proper meals. I relied on him to tell me what to do and how to do it, which got too hard for him. I can't imagine how much pressure that must have been.
After our second year together, I should have seen the signs. We were drifting apart. I had been ignoring our constant fighting and even pretending it was OK when he said he didn't like me anymore, which he said twice, actually. We became a mess of tears, insults, apologies, and anger. I wanted to believe it would be all right. It wasn't.
When he ended our engagement — and the whole relationship — he did it over text message. I cried for days, and it got to a point where I couldn't eat or sleep because I was in a constant state of depression and panic.
Then he told me to throw my engagement ring in the garbage. I don't remember much about the moments afterward, but I do remember taking almost an entire bottle of sleeping pills and saying goodbye to my best friend. I put on a shirt he had bought for me, and I sat on my bed.
The subsequent three days were spent in a hospital, alone.
Two weeks later, after coming out of the haze that seemed to last forever, I learned that my now ex-fiancé was going on a date. He had just left me. I cried hysterically. And I continued to cry like that on and off for over a month.
After my hospitalization, I had to start seeing a therapist. She told me I probably had undiagnosed bipolar disorder. When she said that, things started to make more sense to me — my outbursts, mood swings, and dependency on other people to help me survive everyday life. I manipulated people; I used them, and I didn't even realize it. I had been enabled to the point where I forgot how to do things for myself.
A psychiatrist confirmed that my therapist was right about bipolar disorder and gave me medication to manage my symptoms. Then, the strangest thing happened. I began to think of my ex-fiancé less and less. I stopped holding out hope that he would take me back, and I even stopped wanting us to get back together.
I realized that I was surviving, which was something I never thought I could do without him.
I started pushing myself. I listened to our would-be wedding song until it no longer made me cry, and then I did the same thing with every other song that had meant something to us. I took back my life, and more importantly, took responsibility for it. That included acknowledging that I was an insufferable partner. I would have dragged him down if he hadn't broken things off. I would still have relied on him and allowed myself to rot in the negativity that was swallowing me up.
Getting a proper diagnosis was one of the greatest blessings in my life. It has taught me so much about myself and made me learn how to have healthy relationships. I will never again take for granted the importance and commitment of an engagement, and I will never allow myself to treat someone as poorly as I treated him.
He unknowingly saved my life by breaking off our engagement. I think he saved his, too.