Three years ago, today at an exact time like now, I thought I was dying.
I knew I was dying.
I was going through the worst heartbreak.
As you can tell, I didn't die.
But to understand this story properly, I need to take you to the beginning.
On October 1, 2017 at around 1.30 pm the world as I knew it turned upside down.
(Yes, I’m a journalist and I am big on details like dates and time)
Back to the story: I discovered I was in an entanglement. A love triangle.
Now, this discovery meant that the almost seven-year-old relationship I had been in, had come to a sudden halt.
Seven. Sept Ans. Saba.
We met in campus. Dated through campus and post-Campus for another three years. I should have known that with ‘love’ brewed in Campus — as they say about Las Vegas — should stay in campus (I agree, it may work out for others though).
But — now when I think about it, three years later —this was probably the only way I would find myself, as you will discover shortly.
The sudden death of the relationship, burst the little bubble I was operating in. For months after this burst, I was left with wet eyes, ever-runny nose and an unprecedented weight-loss journey.
Friends, I survived on dates (tende) and warm water for weeks!
The meat around my cheekbones disappeared. My collar bone jutted out. I could even see and feel my pelvic bone.
And 10 kgs lighter later, I couldn't recognise myself in the mirror. I was a thinner, ashen-looking version of my now glowing self.
And then there was insomnia. It became tougher each day to lie down and sleep. I would linger around, zoom out and for a few seconds think I was going to sleep.
For about two months — after that October 1, 2017 entanglement discovery — I was merely floating about.
Now, as all this was happening, I was new at my Communications job (I wrote about it here).
But weirdly, I found a way to show up to work and do my very best.
Work was the only thing that was working for me. Stringing other people’s stories — the scientists and researchers that I worked with — gave me the best satisfaction, a distraction even.
I would go in early and leave late.
Brainstorming and building other peoples stories was my day-time relief.
But the moment I got home, I would discover how heavy the toll of not sleeping, eating and the heartbreak was. It was disorienting.
However, what was really eating into me, was a question I couldn't answer at the time.
Who are you?
Over and over.
Who are you, Eunice?
I honestly, for a moment there, didn't know who I was, what I was about and what defined me.
Now let me explain.
I had inadvertently, defined myself by what other people said I was.
One, for a very long time — seven years — I was known as so and so’s girlfriend. Not Eunice. Not Kalunde (my second name, that means small spear in Kamba).
I had built who I ‘thought’ I was around it. So when the relationship ended, I had nothing to clutch onto.
But also, I discovered when I spoke to a therapist, that my identity was tied to not only to that relationship but to something else.
The heartbreak was unearthing an internal struggle I didn't know about.
I was struggling to make the transition from Adrenalin-filled days chasing stories as a journalist, to not so fast-paced days outside that ecosystem.
I had always been a journalist. Chasing stories and deadlines. Outside the newsroom, I realised, I had no bearing.
I felt like a fish learning how to climb a tree.
All of a sudden, there was no rush for a scoop or to file a story before the 3 pm deadline. My phone went quiet. Previously, it would be buzzing with calls and texts and WhatsApp with tips and pointers for story ideas.
Then all of a sudden, there was silence. This was completely strange to me.
I was dealing with a silence I did not know or understand.
Now, pair this with the heartbreak. It was a paradox of havoc and silence and confusion.
So yes, I really thought I was going to die.
I instead discovered the outdoors. I pushed myself to go out for hikes, walking and clean eating. I even began a selfie-a-day challenge (below) for when I will come out of the other side of the dark tunnel to remind myself of the bumpy trip.
I reconnected with my Bible. I prayed more.
I challenged myself to meet new people outside my friend circles. Partly how I ended up on Tinder and then this awesomeness happened (it involves rings, my dashing Nairobi Prince and me in a white dress)!
I have never been so much alive, since.
I am more intentional and I don’t just go with the flow of things. The new me is curious to learn from others (and the new roles) but careful not to let them define me to the extent that I lose myself while in the process.
Having a very close circle of friends and family helped me to get grounded. They would check in on me, make sure that I tried to eat and I was staying afloat.
The biggest lesson I learnt from that entanglement-that-ended-on-October 1 is forgiveness. Not much for the other party, but for myself. This was a very tough lesson to accept and continues to date.
The new me is certain that so much would have been done differently and better.
The new me has also discovered that sometimes, good people do bad things and bad people can do good things.
I have also learnt not to hold people to standards that are sometimes, written in pencil and can be rubbed off, depending on who has the eraser.
But I have gained the biggest lesson of all.
Come closer, let me whisper it to you.
Know who you are.
Redefine who you are, in your own terms and voice. And yes, if a previous definition doesn’t work for you anymore, create a new one.
We are always growing and learning. Allow yourself to learn, make mistakes but learn all the same.
And yes, while heartbreaks hurt, I am most glad of my glowing, new skin. A new whole me, really.
Beautiful illustrations by @Zord_files
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Now that you are here, I do a monthly video series called #KalundeLearns, video storytelling for creatives and creators. The monthly series affords you a front-row seat to see the deep craft that goes behind the scenes as creatives turn their passion into an income and a living. Simply: Authentic storytelling of the creative process. Watch here.