[Image description: Illustration of two sliced open green apples and a whole red apple, with black text overlayed reading: THE APPLE DIET.]

Hi, readers! This month's submission comes from Jessica Graca:

This piece is a personal recount of heartbreak and falling out of love when you struggle with anxiety and your mental health in general. I share my story and my personal experience in the hopes that someone else can relate to it and find strength in knowing someone else is going through it just like they are.

CW: mental health talk, food talk, nausea

The Apple Diet
by Jessica Graca

Cover art by Amelia A. J. Foy

In 19 years  I’ve fallen out of love two times, and in all honesty as I write this I’m  making my way towards the third one. It is slow and I’ve been impatient my whole life. But this is me, I am overly self-aware, and more importantly, I am overly aware of every little ounce of feeling in me which makes letting go that much harder.

I clearly remember the nights after I got my heart broken, how I could tell the story of how it had gone down to my friends with so much ease. That’s what I do, I am a story teller at my core. I drag people in with my dramatic pauses and how choked up I get when I reach the climax - but I cannot put into words how it truly feels inside. I write it down, but I make it sound pretty and appealing for others, I make my heartbreak bite size and offer it to whoever listens. Yet, this piece isn’t that, this is the first time I write about not being able to eat for a week and that isn’t pretty, poetic or romantic.

My friends and I have started calling that week the “apple diet week”, a desperate effort to forget and lighten my terrible panic attacks when they’d have to scream at me to breathe. I could only eat apples for a week straight, my anxiety was through the roof and nausea was on the menu at all times. Loving someone when your mental health is fragile is a gamble at best and I learnt that - and so did my body. It isn’t impossible, you don’t have to love yourself to love someone else - I find that idea to be unfair in a time when we’re all struggling with self-love to an extent - but it’s hard and risky.

It’s not just the falling out I struggled with, being in love is hard too as I constantly struggled with my anxiety throughout all my relationships. There is so much to lose, and anxiety makes that fear a constant. Anxiety makes its way inside your bedroom and relationships. Anxiety is a voyeur of the worst kind. On some of my nights every “I love you” felt like a lie - and not even that good of a lie - some nights I wanted to ask them what they had overlooked in me so they’d be able to love me, so that hopefully I could follow their lead  and love myself. As I grew up I learnt how to not let anxiety weight on my relationships as much, it has gotten easer as I’ve gotten better at understanding when my mind is playing tricks on me. On some other nights though, my chest hurts and I need plain reassurance.

I’ve come to realize that love comes easy at times, love is easy to find but it’s so hard to find someone who will love you how you need to be loved. I’ve learnt to not blame myself for my flaws, for my needs, for my struggles, to communicate with my partner in a way that’ll push us forward instead of just weighting down our love. Feelings can be so goddamn productive if you allow them to be, if you go through it all and not around it.

More importantly, you’re not unlovable even if you don’t love yourself, if you’re struggling and just barely coping, you’re not unlovable even if you’re not being loved right now. I am not. And I’m learning to be okay with that, to love and not be loved back, to have feared losing something that did go away, to sometimes be mad at them and other times find myself missing them. The falling out for me is slow, I hold onto good memories for my dear life as a way to not completely sink, and that delays everything else. But that’s how I cope, that’s how I go through it all and there’s no shame in just surviving heartbreak however you can.