A few months ago I was contacted by someone I met when I was 17 and working my first real full-time corporate job. He was probably the first person I really ever let in and was untainted by the dating world. For his privacy, I will call him Paul.

When I first met Paul it was actually in the break room discussing politics…a huge no in the workplace but something that although we were on the opposite ends of the spectrum, we made a heated discussion funny. Months passed and we got closer and closer. I had managed to make a lot of friends quite quickly and without surprise, they were also Paul’s friends.

While Paul and I didn’t get to spend a lot of time outside of the workplace we quickly began to form some kind of relationship that had never quite made it into the “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” but it was definitely heading that way. I had never connected with anyone the way that I so easily connected with Paul, our mutual friends actually pushed us together and the more time we spent talking, every day and all night, the more it started to feel like an instant relationship. For the very first time in my messed up life, I was okay with this.

Before we even got the chance to really start dating, he found out my age and was instantly scared off. It wasn’t a secret, it had just never come up in conversation. Well, that was it. World War III erupted and we were obliterated…all because when he confronted me about it, I lied.

A few months later I received a call from one of our mutual friends and because I still cared about Paul, I asked how he was. The response I got was something that damn near destroyed me. After our argument, he went off, got drunk, had a one night stand and had gotten the girl pregnant. My heart hurt so much and I knew then that I never wanted to know anymore. I stopped talking to that person and refused to let my mind visit that space in time again…

A few years later, after the biggest heartache of my life I thought about Paul again, sitting outside with tears streaming down my face I decided to send him a message, not knowing if he still had the same number but needing to just get the guilt of the lie I had held steady for years off my chest. I kept the message as short as possible but the gist of it was admitting what he already knew, apologizing for lying to him and wishing him the absolute best in life.

What I didn’t expect was the response, he not only accepted my apology but wanted the chance to get to know me. My heart skipped a beat and the pain I had been experiencing lessened just a little. We talked on and off for a few months but being someone who suffers from Anxiety, every time it came to actually see him, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. What if I wasn’t what he expected anymore? What if he was just wanting to humiliate me? What if this is all some kind of sick payback? It just seemed too easy. We had fallen back into the same ease as though nothing had changed and after going through such a complicated relationship with someone that I still wasn’t over, I just couldn’t believe it could be that easy. So the self-sabotage took over and of course, I backed out.

Every few years we would talk, fall back into the same space and then I would run again…until one day we had such a frank conversation that I decided to fight my anxiety and give it a go what could it really hurt?

I remember sitting in the car that night breathing through the nerves and realizing that I was never going to be ready to do it but I was already there so there was no turning back. The moment I saw him in the waiting area I was in shock, he was not the person I knew. Something was blank in his eyes, something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. We went up to his apartment and sat talking for hours about the past, about everything that we had missed and it was like nothing had changed. It was then that he told me how his world had been shattered by our “break up” so badly that it pretty much could be classed as painful as a divorce. Something just clicked between us, always has and no matter what it just felt so right that even back then I thought I would end up married with children to Paul.

A few years after we stopped speaking he was diagnosed with Bipolar and it had all come about because the woman he thought he had a child with, raised the child for years and loved with all his heart, told him that the child wasn’t his at all and it destroyed him. It was then that I realized why there was an emptiness in his eyes. He was still in pain, it was also then that I realised starting something with him would only just trigger my own anxiety and I needed to take things really slow for both of us.

To cut a very long story short, he disappeared from my life out of the blue with no warning after I left his apartment that night and went as far as blocking my number and every single one of my social media accounts. I had truly done nothing at all and was so heart broken because for once I had let my walls down and told him everything that had happened in my life since we had parted just as he did. I told him I was scared of getting hurt again and that’s why I had always made excuses not to be there or catch up. Everything was great and we even made plans to catch up again but in the 25 minutes it took for me to drive from his house to home…he had disappeared from my life. I cried and vowed never again would I give that man another chance.

In October this year, he contacted me and I instantly shut him down. I couldn’t deal with it all over again…so once again he blocked me from social media. I never got the chance to ask him what had happened but at that time I was just in too much shock he had contacted me to care.

A week ago I contacted him, It had been years since we had seen each other and months since I had cut him off. We began talking and just as always it was the easiest of conversations. Nothing had changed. I went home that night, make myself look incredible and headed straight there. This time when I saw him, his eyes were just as I had remembered…10 years ago this year. The Paul I remember was standing in front of me, just a little older but still as handsome as ever.

A few glasses of wine later we shared our second ever kiss, nothing had changed apart from the fact that we had both decided that this was the last time we could really give this a go. Both of us needed to put aside any reservations, fears or anxieties and just go for it…so we did just that. We made out for hours, I felt so happy that for the first time in years, maybe I was just where I was supposed to be. Maybe I had to go through all of the heartaches and kissed all the toads (well no they weren’t ugly) just to get back to the handsome prince that I needed to mature for.

That night, we slept together for the first time, with the city skyline sprawled out around us, the twinkling lights of the buildings, stars and planes melted away as I felt my heart finally ease with this man. For the first time in a while I had found myself so calm, no anxiety, no fear just ease. I fell asleep in his arm and for me actually falling asleep next to a man was something so rare. I always had trouble sleeping because of my anxiety but this time I was just at ease.

When I woke the next morning, I rolled over and he had just woken up. We spent the next few hours in bed just staring at each other, talking and feeling so comfortable. I didn’t want to leave but I had so much to do.

Leaving didn’t feel so difficult this time because we had taken a step forward that we had never taken before. As he hugged me, kissing my forehead he whispered “Don’t run from me this time”, I whispered, Don’t push me away this time, don’t block me.

“I really like you Ava, just the way you are, I really want to give this a go and be with you” he whispered back.

“I really like you too” I responded honestly.

We had made plans to see each other the next day and I had sent him a message to confirm…it was then that my heart began to sink. He was reading my messages but wasn’t responding. He was ignoring me completely. My anxiety spiked over the next few days as he continued to ignore my messages but read them. I tried to separate my anxiety from the situation but it didn’t work, so I decided that I couldn’t do this anymore. I felt like a joke, like an absolute laughing stock.

The last message I sent him was something I knew would burn him so deeply that there would be no coming back from it and I was right.

“I hope you had a good laugh, this feels like a massive joke and its all on me. I hope that your son has more respect for women than you” It was something that would destroy him and I knew that I was saying it out of hurt, I just couldn’t handle any more pain and I wanted it to end.

As soon as I pushed send he read it and within minutes he had blocked me. At that moment, I made a pact with myself. NO more. 10 years of trying to get past my anxiety and give it a go with someone I really cared about. I realized in that very second, never try to date an ex again…they’re an ex for a VERY good reason.

2019 is going to be different, no matter what happens. I won’t be taking any steps backward, I can only take a step forward from here.