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Your Heart Still Beats When it's Broken

I’m not special. That’s something I learned this past month.

I had my heart broken - destroyed - by a girl I still love (loved?). I was totally blindsided. Even now, more than a month later, I can’t recall anything that would have suggested this was coming.

It was the most real, most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. My world flipped upside down. I couldn’t function. I didn’t want to. I gave her my heart and she left with it. On several occasions during the first week I cried in the shower until I puked. I lay on the bathroom floor screaming, crying, kicking, calling for help in a house occupied only by me and my sadness. I whimpered ‘owe, owe, owe’ as I lay on the floor gasping for air. It felt as though I was suffocating. My lungs had collapsed. No one would know this pain. There’s no way anyone has hurt this intensely and managed to get over it, I thought. There would be no escape. I may as well be dead.

I started calling people. It was the only thing I could think of. I was living alone in a different city and I needed help. I needed company. I would spend hours and hours on the phone with people I hadn’t spoken to in months. And what I learned is that everyone can relate. Everyone has been in a relationship that ended. Most everyone has had their heart broken. Many people have cried about it. Many people thought it was the end of the world when it first happened to them. Eventually, they moved on. I’m not special. Apparently, this is life.

 A photo I took on a ride last week.

A photo I took on a ride last week.

When it first happened, I wanted to go home. But, as I had written about in my column that same day (prior to being dumped) home to me isn’t a place in particular. Home to me is a feeling, the feeling I get when I’m with her. Well, at least it was. I lost my sense of belonging. Suddenly I felt as though I didn’t have a home to return to. I was completely and utterly lost. The person I would talk to about pain like this no longer wanted to talk to me.

I decided to tough it out. It seemed noble; necessary. I had to prove to myself that I could get through this alone. I needed to be able to live alone. I was there to train and I couldn’t allow this to affect the one thing I felt I still had.

I took two days off. I slept from 3 AM to 5 AM the first night. I mostly laid wide awake in bed with my mind and heart racing. I didn’t leave the house until early evening the following day when I finally forced myself to go outside for a short ride. I knew I needed to do something. I sat under a bridge for an hour waiting for the 7,000 bats that live under it to emerge at dusk. After waiting for close to an hour, I started to hear one squeak. You can’t see them when they’re sleeping in the concrete crevices on the underside of the bridge. But you know they’re there on account of the unmistakable smell of bat shit.

So I sat and waited, surrounded by shit. It seemed fitting. I had nothing better to do. The most eager bat eventually emerged and flew around. Then another followed, and another. I wished I could have a night with wings. I wanted to escape.

 Aidan has been a huge support this past month. 

Aidan has been a huge support this past month. 

After two days of doing next to nothing I finally convinced myself to ride. It was raining, but I set out armed with a podcast. Despite the audio distraction, my mind was still totally consumed by my ex. I tried riding hard to forget about it. I counted on the physical pain of the exertion to numb the pain in my chest, stomach and head. But the effort served only to force me to succumb to my vulnerability, and I cried and gasped as I rode. I got home and did nothing. The following day it was absolutely pouring rain. I had to get out though, so I went and rode. Thirty km into my ride my steerer tube broke on my bike and I was forced to slowly ride home with the risk of having my handlebars fall off.  

I didn’t have a bike to ride the next day. No distractions.

I returned to the shootout that Saturday morning. I was tired as I had, had less than 20 hours of sleep that week. But I knew I needed to get out. I decided that the best way forward would be to focus the energy I was investing into being sad into something positive.

Once the pace picked up, instead of sitting in the pack as I had for the last two weeks, I went to the front. I didn't want to play it safe and take it easy to ensure I wouldn’t get dropped. I wanted to ride my bike for real and risk getting dropped. I bridged to a small chase group which included Alexey Vermeulen, Conor O’Brien and Alec Cowan. We rolled at a decent tempo following a small break of three. We gained but didn’t make the catch, and I rolled over Sprint Hill behind Alec for fifth.

The ride continued to Madera Canyon and I managed to crest the hill in third, following Alexey and Nick Zuckowski. I rode an extra 40 km after the ride ended to make it a 6 hour, 200 km day. This was the strongest I had felt all year, and I had managed to somehow push through all the negativity consuming my mind.

 It snowed the night I got home. The next day was the sunniest day of the winter. Photo by Aidan.

It snowed the night I got home. The next day was the sunniest day of the winter. Photo by Aidan.

After that ride I had it in my head that I could do this. I could be okay. I would recover. It would be tough, but I was on the mend! Although I didn’t want to, I realised that I could live without my best friend. I would stay in Tucson and train harder than I ever had. But on the following Monday I discovered that my ex had met someone. It fucking killed me. The pain was worse than being dumped. I called my friend Danick and he told me to go home. I booked a flight the next day. It was the right move.

I landed around midnight and walked with my roommate, Aidan, from 2-3AM. I was asleep around 3:30 but up again before 7. I couldn’t escape my thoughts - not even at night. I dreamt about her too, and I had been for the three weeks before that. Although she had only officially dumped me a week and a half prior to my return. She had told me she wanted a break a week before that. I clung on to false hope during the ‘break’ and although I was anxious and very sad, being dumped was a massive catalyst and that’s when things really got bad.

I tried to go for the Oak Bay ride that Saturday, but I couldn’t get her out of my head. Once the pace picked up, I succumbed again to my emotional vulnerability, unable to push myself physically. I rode slowly home on my own, crying. I was exhausted, broken, hurt, confused, curious, angry and jealous. I couldn’t focus on riding.

 Aidan wasn't a huge fan of the all the rides I've been taking him on...

Aidan wasn't a huge fan of the all the rides I've been taking him on...

I hesitated to publish this. I wrote it a while ago, and left out details. My intention is not to tarnish opinions of my ex girlfriend. I respect her, and am grateful for the times we shared. For a long time she was the most important person in my life. I won’t deny that.

This post is jumbled. It’s poorly written and skips details and could go on forever. There’s so much. But I’m publishing it because I stopped writing again, as this is what I wanted to write about. My blog is my outlet. It’s how I deal with my shit. And I pride myself in the honesty of my blog. My blog is intended for ‘detailed accounts of my life on and off the bike’. February was meant to be a totally focussed month of riding, but it really went to shit. This is real life. And real life has taken a massive toll on my mental health, and as a result, has affected my riding.

I’ve learned a few things throughout this process:

-Your heart still beats when it’s broken. Although I can’t push myself physically, I can still ride. My heart still works. I’ve got to do what I can and not give up entirely.

-If it takes energy to dislike someone, that’s energy wasted. I forgive her. I started to hate her. My love turned to hatred rapidly. I don’t think the two feelings are mutually exclusive though, and perhaps hatred is just angry love, as it’s such a passionate dislike. I determined that the energy required to hate the one I love based on principle may as well be spent on forgiveness. I don’t talk to her anymore, but I won’t hold a grudge.

-Don’t rush recovery. Pain is part of the process. When I learned that she had met someone, I thought I needed to as well. I didn't want to, but I met a girl from Tinder in Tucson. That was all kinds of weird and left me feeling more alone than I had before (We went for a walk that’s all). It’s also fucking hilarious and probably the saddest experience of my life. But pain is part of the process, and I quickly learned that I have to feel it. I can’t fill the void she left behind to distract myself from what I’m feeling.

I left Tucson to allow myself to go home, mourn and feel support from my friends. I didn’t want to push it aside and then come home, see her, and start over. I needed to allow myself to go through the process and start to recover instead of push it aside. I don’t want to feel this later on.

There’s a massive void to fill. She was my life off the bike. She was my balance. She was my home. She was what made me feel grounded, or homesick or loved. I’ve been socializing more than I ever have before since getting home, and while it’s incredibly difficult to do it, it’s what I need to do. Not to fill the void, but to avoid alienating myself.

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-Progress is progress. Five minutes without thinking about it is rare still. But I congratulate myself everytime I notice that I focused on something else for five minutes.

-Similar to concussions, I think depression might compound. While something chemical leaves me with an underlying sadness most of the time, this intense sadness due to circumstance has added to it. That being said, my depression and anxiety don’t have shit on heartbreak, so I’m looking forward to getting over this and having my regular struggles put into a whole new perspective.

-Curiosity is shit. There are some things I’d have been better off not knowing. Some questions aren’t worth asking.

The only way to view this experience is as an opportunity. I now have the opportunity to travel to races guilt-free. I have the opportunity to spend time with myself and with others. I get to develop a better relationship with myself, and learn to be more independent. There are positives to be found in this new chapter of my life. As hard as this is, I’ve decided to look forward to learning about me, and learning to love me.