Recently, I wrote an article for Inpathy Bulletin about dealing with a breakup with anxiety, and it made me realize that I haven’t dedicated a post to handling heartbreak. Now that I’ve had a few weeks to distance myself from the more intense emotion and pain that comes directly after a breakup, I feel comfortable talking about it in depth.
Although it’s become clear by now, a few weeks ago my ex boyfriend broke up with me. The reasons were scattered, but in the end it came down to this: he just couldn’t come with me. By this, I mean he wasn’t the right match to go down the same road I’m on in my own mental health journey. While that’s hard to accept, it’s something I must. Like myself, he has issues and they just became too much to handle, so it was time to part ways.
Most people think breakups are the stuff of sad songs and romantic comedies, but in reality it’s a visceral and sometimes even suffocating pain to end a relationship in which you’ve most likely invested all of your emotional energy. Cue anxiety, depression, and other mental illness and it can be almost impossible to breathe.
Healing a broken heart is difficult for anyone, but for those of us who are constantly battling mental illness, it can cause us to question our self worth or even trigger. While this is not my first breakup, each one comes with its very own set of memories, which in the beginning, can be painful to relive. Even though I did not feel like anything was my fault during the breakup, it can be easy for anxiety to latch onto such a traumatic event and start to poke at your self worth with thoughts of whether this is your fault or you could have done something differently: maybe he/she would have stayed if….
Stop that thought process before it turns into a spiral. As someone who is hyper sensitive, I see you and feel that pain wholeheartedly. Fear the stress of this breakup could lead to a breakdown? Here are some tips I’ve learned while navigating my heartbreak.
Take Care of Yourself
Healing always starts with self care. No matter the form of loss, you must nurture your emotions and heart. Whether that means going to bed early, taking a day off to lounge on the couch, of reading your favorite book for the 20th time, do what you need to do to soothe your mind, body, and soul.
While you used to have someone to take care of you all the time, now you don’t. That person is gone but it doesn’t mean you stop the care. You are always first priority, relationship or not.
Feel It Out
If you want to cry, cry. If you feel like screaming, whip out a pillow and do the damage. Feeling relieved, or even happy? Don’t bottle those emotions up. Meet them, don’t feel guilty for having happy moments – it doesn’t diminish the time you had together.
It’s okay to not be okay, which is something we hear a lot in this community. More recently, I’ve learned that it’s also okay to be angry. Anger is an emotion I’ve always had trouble with, so it’s important to feel all the range of emotions. It will help you move on in a healthy way.
Learn to Let Go
Change is a bitch. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to shake her. Grieving is random, it comes in waves but you have to learn to let it go. We struggle to accept loss. We constantly fight reality and avoid the truth of the situation: they aren’t a part of our lives anymore. Try not to dwell on what could have been, or if you should have done something differently because in the end, it happened how it happened. You can’t control it. If you find yourself spiraling and ruminating, write it down. Battle with reality.
Protect Your Emotions
While we have to let our emotions, I truly believe that it’s important to protect those hyper sensitive souls from trivial things that will only cause suffering. A good example is social media. In the aftermath of a breakup, social media is toxic. It’s a space where – in a way – you can still be in each other’s lives without actually speaking. If it’s too triggering to see your ex over social media, unfollow. Unfriend. Block. Whatever you need to do, do it so you can be in a safe space and move forward.
Little things will hurt the most. Although I’ve been in a much better place lately, something small crept up on me and brought me to tears. I was lugging something gigantic up the stairs to my studio and while my neighbor was coming down, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “you dropped this.” I looked down and the keychain my ex boyfriend got me had broken off my keyring. While it’s trivial, it still really hurts. It’s a memory. Even though it’s a sweet one, it’s painful right now. I let myself feel the sadness, and afterwards I realized it was a sign. It needed to go. Time to shed that memory in order to create new ones.
Lean On Your People
Although you must deal with grief and loss at your own pace – there is no set timeline for moving on – there are plenty of people who understand what you’re going through. Let them help. Yes, you must deal with this emotionally on your own, but support is healthy too. In the first few days after my breakup, I had an outpouring of support from close friends and family. Sometimes it can be unexpected, but it can help ease anxiety to know you have a support system who is on your side – no matter what you’re feeling.
I will leave you with this quote from Becca Lee, an inspiring poet who beautifully states the true purpose of pain:
“So often we associate pain with darkness because that is how it tends to feel – all-encompassing, overwhelming and never-ending. But pain is not sent into our lives to drown us; pain illuminates the parts of us that need our attention and it makes us acutely aware of the parts that are broken, hurt and sore. Not so that we may suffer, but so we may heal and grow. So that we may give our wounds the love, care and treatment they so desperately need and deserve. Pain shows us where we do not want to be. It holds up the parts of our lives that are not aligned with our spirit and soul and creates discomfort so as to bring about the desire to change. Our pain moves us towards the light, towards who we truly are – but only if we are brave enough to look beyond the darkness and allow it to do so.”
The aftermath of heartbreak is intense. That pain is real. The sorrow is real. Your anxiety invading your mind, telling you you aren’t good enough or how you could have done better, is not. Breathe, and remember these feelings won’t break you – they can only make you stronger. Move towards the light, towards who you truly are.
Everyday, I get closer and closer to my true self. If you’re suffering from a broken heart, I hope you realize it’s not your fault, and that real change can come from this. Be patient with yourself – grow from the pain.
How do you handle heartbreak with anxiety? Share your tips or stories!