I’ve been listening to a podcast these past few months, made by a group of writers, poets, and artists from Canada and the United States. I wanted something to expand my mind, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a show called… ‘The Heart’. Exploring a range of topics from sexuality, gender, sociology, the mind, the body, love, sex, and much more besides, there are some episodes that resonated with me more than others. Especially the episode ‘First’.

This post is about a major first in my life. I met my first girlfriend online, years ago now. It’s a bit of a long story, so I understand if you might want to read it in parts.

Having been on the dating app for a short while without much luck, I was feeling a lot like giving up. No people messaging me, no responses, nothing. I felt a little inadequate, really.

Then she messaged me. It’s amazing to think how such a small thing can have such a great impact on our emotions, even if for a day, or a week. She told me that she was sorry she didn’t check the app very often, but that I seemed nice enough, and she’d like to chat.

Fast forward a few weeks, and we started to see each other in person. Late to message me, she was also late to our first date. I waited for around two hours before she showed up. Half wondering if she had ditched me, but half wondering if I’d ever have the opportunity to go out with a girl ever again (I was eighteen), I continued to wait until she did actually did appear.

I had a lot of firsts during this time. My first date. My first real kiss. My first visit to the aquarium since childhood. The first time I exceeded my phone plan. The first time I went to a reptile zoo. My first valentine’s day with a partner. My first love. My first fight. My first makeup. The first time I self-harmed. My first breakup. My first heartbreak. My head was not in the right place, and I realised my heart was not either. Little of the pain I experienced was her fault, but rather a symptom of my own illness, of my own problems

This was years ago, now. If I talk about it to people now, I say that we weren’t right for each other. I say that I was young and stupid, and that I made a lot of mistakes. I blame myself more than her, though we both had plenty of problems. Over the course of a little over a year, we had become such a large part of each person’s lives. Now we’re just chapters in each other’s story. When I talk about it now, I talk about how I’ve moved on. And I have.

It took a long, long time though. I caused a lot of pain to those around me. I caused a lot of pain to her, undoubtedly, and I hurt those who loved me a lot, because it was the first time that I had ever managed to love someone and, for me, it felt like the last time I ever would.

It’s important to mention that romantic love does not diminish the love we have for friends and family… although it often takes up a disproportionate amount of time. For so long, I couldn’t imagine my life without her. I talked to her about how I’d marry her. I imagined the story of our lives in my head. I imagined where we would be in a year, in five years, in ten. I wanted so much to believe that things would be how I had dreamed them.

But they weren’t. They couldn’t be, and they’ll never be. I haven’t spoken to her in a long time. I doubt she’s likely to read this. I hope she’s happy, though, because everyone deserves to be. No matter the pain we shared, we also shared plenty of good times, and plenty of love.

We were never going to be friends, though. It’s a cliché when someone mentions it, and perhaps in very specific, very rare circumstances, it can work. Most of the time it does not, and you cannot force it. When our heart is broken, we need distance. We shouldn’t see them any more than we have to. We need time to heal, because each time we see this person again, it’s like ripping the scab off for the wound to bleed anew.

To really heal, it’s that old adage – time heals all wounds. Though some may dispute this a little, it certainly numbs the pain at the very least. I would say that time turns all wounds to scars, at the very least. We need to cover the wounds while their fresh so that they can heal away from the source of our pain. You don’t want to put a fresh burn near an open flame, or run a hot shower over it. Such it is with heartbreak.

In time, friendship may develop, though somewhat rarely. That distance is important, though. In the midst of a breakup, we often feel that the only thing that we need from the other person is their love, and support, which we had become somewhat accustomed to over the course of our time with them. What we really need from them, though, is breathing space. That is the only way we heal, and it is the only way we can take care of ourselves.

You do not flex a wound until it is healed, and even then gingerly, as you don’t know exactly how much more rest it needs to be at full strength again. It’s the same with our heart. It’s a powerful muscle, and when it breaks, it needs a lot of rest to be strong again.

If you’ve had a major first that’s affected your life recently, I’d love to hear about it. It’s never stupid or foolish to feel pain over breakups and the end of friendships. All that matters is how it feels to you. And ask yourself – how can you get the space you need?