“And once you had left Andy’s party and you were outside, what happened Lihlo?”

“I don’t understand why we need to keep going over what happened, Dr Mazibuko.”

“Come sit down so we can continue our conversation.”

I hadn’t realised I was pacing. I sink into her small grey sofa and prepare for her usual line of questioning. I’ve spent one hour a day in these counselling sessions for a month now. She is peering over her glasses at me.

“I stood outside for a while. I needed a minute to process … or catch my breath.”

“Were you having trouble breathing?”

I don’t know how many different ways I can say that I was just upset and I didn’t mean for anything bad to happen. Sometimes bad things just happen.

The worst night of my life has been replaying in my mind, on a loop. I opened myself up to hurt and disappointment and now I’m paying for it. I can’t see any positive in what Andy and I were doing anymore … it’s all tainted. I am a home wrecker and he is a cheating bastard.

“No, I don’t think so. I was drunk. My head felt like it was spinning. I just couldn’t process anything. The man I loved had just ripped my heart out of my chest.”

“So you felt hurt? Explain what you were feeling at that moment, while you were standing outside.”

“I don’t know if I’d ever felt that way before. It was as if the agony was slowly moving through my entire body. My heart felt as if it had been exposed, as though the casing that was once my chest had been dissolved by the love … that has since evolved into hate. It was as though my pain didn’t fit my body … I felt overwhelmed by it all.”

I should have seen it coming. What in the hell made me believe that he would leave his girlfriend for me? How could I have been so stupid? I don’t have anyone to blame; I did this to myself. I should have stayed away from him and saved myself all this heartache.

“I can’t help but feel like I set myself up for failure when I fell for a man in a committed relationship.”

“It is good to take responsibility for your actions but you can’t take on all the blame. Remember Andy was in this with you.”

“Well, seeing as he is out in the world planning his wedding and I’m in here, looks to me like I got the short end of this taking responsibility stick.”

Are psychologists supposed to make you feel worse before you feel better? This woman seems determined to have me dredge up all the emotions that landed me here.

“We have gone a little off track. So, you were outside the party and you felt overwhelmed by your emotions… What happened next?”

“I … somehow … stepped into the path of an oncoming car.”

“How? What made you walk into the middle of the street? Could you see the car coming?”

This is always the question that trips me up.

I still don’t know how to put into words what was going through my mind when I stepped in front of that car. I remember doing it … but I feel so detached from the whole experience, like I was outside my body watching it happen. I don’t really know why I did it.

“Wouldn’t our time be best utilized by unpacking my fixation with an unavailable man?”

I have become really good at this avoidance thing.

“We have done that. You just won’t accept my evaluation of your relationship.”

“I just don’t understand why you think my being with Andy has everything to do with my relationship with my dad.

“It’s because those relationships are the same. Your father first abandoned you only to come back into your life, and then reject you all over again. Andy started a relationship with you in the past, only to end it to be with Zama, only to pull you back in again, and then leave you once more.”

Maybe the good doctor has a point. My daddy issues have been transferred to my romantic relationships somehow.

“Lihlo it is important for you to not only come to terms with the toxic behaviour displayed in your relationship with Andy, but also how it affected you so negatively that you nearly died. Was that your intention … to hurt yourself?”

“So it all comes back to me almost being run over by a car?” I ask mockingly.

“It is important to find out what triggered it all. Knowing what led to the events of that evening will help with your healing process.”

Maybe I should be more forthcoming with her. What is the use of being here if I won’t participate fully?

“I don’t exactly remember it happening to me. For a moment I wasn’t there … I was on the side-lines watching my world implode.”

She leans back into her seat and watches me silently. I guess I have the floor to recount the worst experience of my life.

“I saw the car coming down the road, but I walked into the street and stopped right in the middle of it … and waited for it all to end. I didn’t walk out of that house with the intention of ending my life. But it all felt just too much to bear.”

I take a deep breath as I try to steady my breathing and fight back my tears.

“I felt betrayed and absolutely stupid. It wasn’t just the fact that I didn’t get the guy, but he toyed with me, and lied. He made me believe we had a future when that wasn’t the case. Oh, and Brandon …”

The thought that I gave up Brandon now that I know truth about Andy’s intentions makes me sick to my stomach. I had a good thing with him; well at least we could have had a good thing, before I ruined it all.

“Maybe it’s because now I know that Andy was lying to me, but I regret giving up what I had with Brandon. He didn’t deserve to be treated the way I treated him. He was good to me; more than I deserved.”

“Don’t you believe that you deserve to have a man be good to you?”

All I’ve been exposed to are jerks who treat me like crap. Maybe I got used to it before Brandon. No man had ever been so kind and gentle with me. He eased my insecurities and was interested in what I had to say. When he looked at me, I felt like the only woman in the world. And then I blew it.

“I don’t know, but it felt amazing to have a man be good to me and not want anything other than to make me happy. When I was standing next to the street faced with Andy’s betrayal it all came flooding back. Breaking up with Brandon, believing Andy when he made promises he had no plans to keep, and how foolish I felt in that moment.”

Suddenly the words won’t form and I can’t speak. I can’t hold back the tears anymore so I focus on a spot on the floor, trying not to sob loudly.

“Lihlo? We can stop at any moment if you don’t feel ready to share.” The good doctor looks concerned.

“No, I’m fine,” I say and wipe my nose with back of my hand.

“I just couldn’t take it anymore. I know he wasn’t actually mine but I lost the man I loved that day. Not only that, I was the fool who didn’t see he was playing me, even when my friends warned me. He broke me … I felt something change in me. I felt like I was suffocating and I just wanted it to end. I wasn’t thinking. I just stepped in front of that car with the hope that all my agony would disappear … but it didn’t …”

“I think we can end our session here for today. You have done really well. I want you to focus on owning your emotions, and not letting them overwhelm you. Talking through everything helps you work through the pain.”

As I make my way back to my room I go through the whole session in my head. I know now that I needn’t take all the blame for the affair. And I know I deserve to find someone who will treat me well. I need to stop punishing myself for hurting Brandon, and try to move on.

The truth is, I am better off without Andy. There is no way we could have built a relationship from the ashes of his relationship with Zama, if he ever left her. I’m learning to let go of both my toxic father, and my toxic lover. They both abandoned me twice; didn’t love me enough, damaged me.

I’m still a way from it, but I know one day I’ll break the pattern and find love. Reciprocal, healthy love, because I deserve it. But first, I need to fully forgive myself, love myself … and I’m getting there.


Tell us: Do you agree that Lee first needs to love and value herself more, before she can have a healthy, mutual relationship with a man?