Written by Harley Gutierrez.
Graphic by Emma Robinson.

The warm embrace of the hellfire that burns in my heart is familiar. In two years, one cycle, like nine circles, smoldered and took seven attempts to escape. Circumambulating the situation, I spiraled into sorrow and anger – emotions inflicted or fueled by pain. 

The pain was so great, I can recall nights I thought I was dying of a broken heart. The emotional toll of the endless runaround hindered my ability to breathe and made me physically ill. I lost control of my mind and body, permitting my sanity and stability to wither along the way. The hurt became my home, embracing me like a soft mattress while dulling the shock of the bed of nails beneath it. I grew accustomed to the interchangeable anger-anguish-comfort-rejection within the hole I succumbed to. The hole was engaging, welcoming even, so I stayed there. The distinctions between up and down, right and wrong, happy and sad eluded me in the dark. 

Was I content? 

I no longer know how to feel when I am not actively happy. It isn’t that I enjoy being sad. I know I should feel okay when I am not sad. Instead I feel empty without the unsettling emotions that once pervaded my being. I had previously been fulfilled by feeling unwanted, useless, worthless, uncertain, disappointed, and sad. 

Used to it, I became reliant on it. Is this contentment? It’s familiar. Where do I go from here? Where could I go? Entering then abandoning this pit of venomous relations, I lost myself. 

I now know the difference between manipulation and love, and I know I am truly loved. I do not yet know how to trust affection that does not bite. I can douse the fire and lick the wounds, but the mental burns and scars remain. They sometimes feel invalid, as they are invisible, but I know at least that I am not invisible. I do not want to spend my time angry, holding onto grudges, but I know I am worth the rage. I am relearning who I am and owning my validity. I deserve to feel okay. I did the right thing pulling away from the allure of bright embers in a burning structure. It was no home. This was no relationship. This was a parasitic possession that made me run in circles hoping for a linear path to happiness, wherein I lost sight of my own. 

But I am not empty. 

I am free. 

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