Processing life in times of trauma - 'When Only One Can Love'

Today I am being kind to myself. I have thrown away my to-do list. I am sitting on the sofa in my hoodie, with a blanket over my lap, sipping banana smoothies and mint tea, tissues at the ready and writing to you.

Writing to you. Writing to me. Writing to let it all go. Writing to process and make peace and move through…

sofa blanket laptop.JPG

I hadn’t planned to share this post.

Writing it wasn’t even on my to-do list (the to-do list that I have pretty much written off for this entire week).

It felt a little too raw, real and vulnerable.

But a little voice whispered ‘that’s your gift to the world, what if it helped others too’, and so I surrendered to that possibility. Knowing that in doing so it would also help me. That’s part of the beauty of it all.

The outcome was that I wrote some words that helped set me free (scroll down to see them) but first let me give you some context. That part feels important too.

Last week I wrote this post. It centred around my powerful experience at Osho Leela, of choosing to re-write a story that had been holding me back. Towards the end of that post was this paragraph:

“The shift was immediate. As the festival unfolded over the following three days, I felt myself feeling so much more connected, having conversations with ease whereas previously I struggled to initiate, forming close relationships with the girls in my dorm room, meeting people that I've met over the last couple of years and allowing myself to relaxing into their company, and even feeling the exciting spark of potential once again.”

‘the exciting spark of potential’ was actually a guy I connected with. And over the following week that connection took me to a deep and totally unexpected level.

If you’ve been in my world for some time or have read My Why (my ‘about’ page), you’ll already know that this blog, quitting my corporate career, my transition to a plant-based diet, my spiritual journey and a whole host of others powerful parts of my life were ALL as a result of my relationship with a guy with Aspergers. I even wrote about the time in my life in this bestselling book - ‘Thresholds’

I left that relationship over eight years ago, but it took me almost seven years to truly process the impact he’d had on my life and feel ready to embark on another relationship (which then broke down last year due to his complex mental health issues).

To be honest, over these last few months, I have been enjoying finding myself again, enjoying being me, enjoying flings without commitment, self exploration, travel and transience…

Then at Osho Leela I met a guy, who in oh so subtle ways in his mannerisms and way of being reminded me of Paul- the guy with Aspergers.

We connected… it was intense… it was beautiful… then overwhelm hit… then it all backtracked and my brain imploded (ok, slight exaggeration but ya get the point)

It cracked me open and triggered me at a deep level.

I got intense flashbacks, trauma that I thought I had put to bed many years ago engulfed me.

These last few days I have had no appetite, having to force feed myself smoothies and fruit. Broken sleep, waking in the middle of the night and recording voice notes to vent and process the swirling noise in my head. Writing, writing, writing. Sitting alone in the quietness of my house so that process without censoring.

I reached out for help from two friends who i knew would hold space for me. They helped me see things with more objective eyes. It was wonderful and I am glad I was able to reach out to them.

Through my conversations with them, I was hit by a new found (but now so obvious) awareness of the fact that I am always attracted to guys who display ‘aspergic tendencies’* so my brain had a freak out - it flew back to the ‘extreme’ scenario of my previous relationship and dramatically painted every possible future relationship with the same brush.

*there is no intention for labelling or judgement in that phrase- I am simply referring to personality traits, probably something to do with the fact that since I have ADHD, I too am technically somewhere on the spectrum so there is a resonance.

I’d gone down a spiral of worrying that I’d spend my entire life loving without being able to be loved in return. The pain felt so real as I re-lived my traumatic experiences with Paul in our darkest days. When I loved him so deeply but he did not have the emotional capacity to return that love, no matter how much he wanted to.

I woke up yesterday morning and re-listened to a voice note I had recoded in the middle of the night. I transcribed and tweaked it’s message to create the piece of prose below.

This is what it feels like for me when ‘only one can love’ - my experience with Paul. The experience that I have never shared openly before or even acknowledged to myself. I first shared this piece within a private group and so many people thanked me for sharing as they too could resonate with my experience of unrequited love, whatever it’s source or context.

So this is is for you if you have struggled with unrequited love.

If you resonate with my words and my feelings. Know that I hear you. I see you.

Today I am being kind to myself. I have thrown away my to-do list. I am sitting on the sofa with a blanket over my lap, sipping banana smoothies and mint tea, tissues at the ready and writing to you.

Writing to you. Writing to me. Writing to let it all go. Writing to process and make peace and move through.

It already feels lighter. I already feel more empowered. I already feel that so much more space has been created within me. I feel me.

Debris dislodged and shifted. A newfound respect for myself and my self permission to process without censoring. A spark of excited hope for my future.

There is so much beauty available in pain when you allow space for it and are willing to open your heart to the lessons it has to teach you.

As I sit here, I also see the beautiful irony in having this corner of the internet in which to share my pain in all it’s raw and beautiful humanness, a corner I would never even have created if it hadn’t been for that series of events that unfolded over eight years ago.

And I feel incredibly grateful.


I get to hold your hand on the outside, but we never get to go in.

I see the party going on behind the windows, I can even hear the muffled beat of the music and I know what an amazing time everybody's having. But I'm standing outside looking in. Holding your hand, standing outside looking in.

I could let go of your hand so that I can go in on my own.

And I can have some fun, I can smile, I can listen to music and I can dance.

But I know you're still waiting outside and it always feels just a little bit empty.

That's what love is for me. When only one can love. It's always just that little bit empty.

Having someone to 'do' life with. Having someone to take my hand with laughter in their eyes as we dance through the house oblivious, having someone to hold and sway with to the music... creates a depth of connection at a whole new level.

I want someone who feels the rhythm with me. When i'm no longer just listening to the beat on my own, not just standing and dancing amongst other people in the same room when they're dancing in their own way, to their own rhythm in their own little bubbles.

They are not in ours, not in our special bubble. But you are not in ours either because you're standing outside. You were never able to come inside with me. Even though you wanted to.

But because I know you're waiting outside it still hurts and I can't fully immerse myself in what's going on around me.

It hurts. Loving someone who can't meet you in the space of that emotion. Who can hold your hand, can maybe even dip a toe in the waters edge but can never dive in.

It's always just a possibility, a dream. I can almost touch it but not quite.

Worse than if I wasn't standing at the edge at all.

If I wasn't standing there at all, the dream, the vision, the possibilities would have never even existed for me.

I wouldn't know what I was missing.

So close.

So close.

Yet once again not quite close enough to hold.