This post is about the events that occurred exactly a year ago. At the time of this writing—5:11 pm—I was absorbing the fact that my partner had died by the side of the road from a massive coronary. I had neighbors coming over to make sure I was fine; I had notified the family; and I spoke with my own family and close friends. Once the shock began to settle, I caught my breath and the inevitable question came up: “Now what?”

I was fortunate to have friends and family who helped me maneuver through those early months of “now what” moments. I managed to move forward, but this year I spent most of it regaining my bearings and in deep survival mode. That comes across a bit melodramatic, but I spent much of it on the mechanics of getting through each month and not fully focusing on what mattered to me.

I also spent time reconciling the reality that I lived with a master controller and manipulator—a classic narcissist.  I lost myself in a relationship that became physically and mentally unhealthy. Once I came to realize how I was made to believe I was borderline crazy or lacked common-sense, or that I was catastrophic failure because I couldn’t meet his expectations that’s when the fury and rage consumed me. I had allowed myself to be with someone who used every one of my insecurities for his gain.

His toxicity, and his own dissatisfaction with himself, poisoned me. I sensed if we continued in this manner, I wouldn’t survive. Was I suicidal? No, but I feared the stress would ultimately kill me. Now when I sense the anger at its boiling point, I remind myself there is light and goodness surrounding me. I saw it in those first few hours after his death, I saw it earlier this month among my friends in Salem, and I see it every morning when I’m greeted with a smile.

During our time together, I questioned whether his behavior towards me had been formed by past relationships. An ex-wife whom he accused of multiple extra-marital affairs had turned him into a man who was distrustful of women, but now I suspect that any type of male friendship was seen as a threat. In his perceived reality, he was no longer “the guy” and turned himself into a victim of infidelity; making him, once again, the center of attention.

I also questioned my affection for him during this year. Was it genuine or was it forced? Now I believe it was the latter. If I convinced myself I loved him and accepted him for who he was, maybe he would reciprocate in the same manner. However, his moments of affection were purely theatrical, showing me off at a gathering, and later, behind closed doors, dismissing me.

So now, a year after the fact, I’ve made a pact with myself: after spending a year analyzing him, me, us, going through the anger, the guilt, the rage and the exhaustion that followed each emotion, I can’t change what happened in the past. It’s done. It’s over. However, what I can change is my outlook. And in doing that, I am opening that door and letting go, so that I can live my life happily ever after in my new reality, under my own terms.