“I don’t love you enough”.

Those words felt seared onto my forehead. A burning reminder of everything I have ever been afraid of. All at once I felt 5 years old again, all the mental progress I’d made the last decade just erased. My inner child trembled as I braced myself for the sky to fall.

‘How Can He Not Love Me Enough?’ became the title track playing on repeat in my head for days. Every hour. Every minute. I went through my mental checklist. I did everything right. I was laid-back but warm when he needed it. I wore those white jeans that he loved. I did my squats. I was sassy enough to keep his attention but not so much to annoy him. I planned adventures for us. Why wasn’t I enough?

My world felt like it had been lit on fire. The house that I’d built for us in my mind was burning away, turning black right before my eyes. Soon it would be nothing. We would be nothing. I would be nothing. Without us I felt like I would collapse. A burning pile of embers left solemnly on the ground, alone and forgotten about.

This feeling felt familiar. The darkness. The hole inside my center that I couldn’t cover no matter how many metaphorical blankets I threw at it. It had been a long time since I’d felt this place, but it was still there hiding inside of me, begging me to come visit.

And that was when I woke up. He was gone but the feeling was still there. I realized it didn’t matter who the “he” was, because the darkness was mine. He wasn’t causing this pain. It was already inside of me, sitting dormant and waiting patiently to be lit on fire.

I felt free and terrified all at once, armed with the knowledge that I was both the problem and the solution to my own suffering. No amount of wishing that he could love me more would fix me, not really. No amount of external love would fix that feeling I had shamefully hidden inside. I had to turn towards that feeling. I had to face the darkness head on. I had to hold the hand of my inner child and say “It’s okay, I love you, and everything will be okay”.

“With all of the darkness you may be walking through, it’s good to remember that where there is no light, you have the choice to become it”
— Katherine Woodward Thomas