I read (and loved!) Mandy’s piece a couple weeks ago, on surviving the end of a relationship you thought would last forever.
Partly because it was (unfortunately) very timely for me -- my boyfriend of six years and I broke up in the middle of March. I felt a lot of the things she explicitly mentioned -- wondering where it went wrong (or, in hopeful/idiot moments, whether it actually did), feeling hurt, feeling angry at him, feeling angry at myself -- and then some things she didn’t: not wanting to tell my friends, not wanting to talk about it at all, wanting to Run Away Right Now, feeling somehow stronger than before, and on and on.
Her words helped with all of it, especially her SHAME pneumonic -- Should Have Already Mastered Everything. (I think as much as everybody -- read: me -- is loath to admit it, Mandy’s “new age bullshit” comprises, like, some of the most effective methods I can think of for letting yourself FEEL. Which is not something I am used to doing).
I read it, I loved it, and I am trying to live it.
But, being the impulsive, severely ADHD-addled person that I am, I knew as soon as I finished Mandy’s piece that granting myself a deep and abiding acceptance, while incredibly HELPFUL and HEALTHY, still wouldn’t be ENOUGH. I need action -- a checklist of things I can do, right now, to make myself feel better. So, I kind of came up with one.
I’m not an expert. In fact, this is my first real, final breakup ever, besides in high school when I told Greg, my bf of like 12 weeks, that I just didn’t like him that much anymore (leaving out the fact I’d made out with a 26-year-old pothead busboy named Justin who literally every day wore a hoodie that read “Justincredible.” Which Justin, if you are reading this, you were not.)
But it FEELS like it’s been 10,000 hours since it ended -- so let’s just be kind and call me an expert. Or whatever. Anyway, here’s what’s working for me.
1. Feel free to become one with the gym. Or become one with three gyms.
This is a retroactive justification from me to myself on the amount of money I just spent joining three gyms. Ten yoga sessions for $140? Check. Planet Fitness membership because it’s where my friends go? Check. (Fine, that one’s not that expensive). And that’s not counting my three-mornings-a-week exercise vid routine (Tracy Anderson, thankyouverymuch) performed in the glamorous location of My Parents’ Basement, in the Area Without All the Boxes.
Focusing on the pain in my calves and outer-boob-inner-armpit area has done wonders in distracting from the pain in my HEART </3 </3 </3 :( :(.
Having a workout plan means having something to do after work every night and feeling a sense of accomplishment every day no matter what else you did. Even better, when I wake up each morning, I’m feeling sore and dreading my next workout, which is far preferable to what I’d be doing otherwise: crying fat, stunned tears as it dawns on me anew that I’m so, so alone.
2. Keep the argument going. In your super-secret Gmail Drive folder.
If you’re anything like me, you’re still angry as fuck, but you’re also all argued out. In the approximately 22039857018 fights we had in the last six months of our relationship, we basically covered everything I was upset about, and also I recapped it all the last time we talked.
So whenever I’m reminded of ANOTHER thing that pissed me off, something I want to remember lest I start feeling weak and nostalgic for what (truth be told) hardly ever was, I write it down. Since I try not to be a dick in general, I won’t share my actual gripes about the situation, but an example might be, “I STILL can’t believe that you YELLED AT MY BEST FRIEND’S DAD when you came to her birthday party! You never seemed to notice that no one wants to talk about GUN CONTROL at DINNER.”
I do it just like that, but with more CAPS LOCK and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!
Quick pro tip: Remember to breathe while you are doing this.
Write about other things, too. Write about why you’re proud of yourself today, or what you’re looking forward to, or what you’re thankful for right now. And by the way, yesterday I wrote that I was proud of myself for taking my antibiotics on time two days in a row, so it doesn’t have to be anything groundbreaking in order to make you feel better.
3. Book seven vacations.
Or three. Three is apparently my lucky number this time around. Not that there’s any great time to experience crushing emotional trauma, but this happened to work out in such a way that I will be busy with fun things just about every weekend for the next several months. I have three bachelorette parties, two trips to Florida, one horse race (?) and plenty of time to burn at the beach (LITERALLY, HAHA, I DON’T USE SUNBLOCK) between now and July, and if I didn’t, I’d make some plans right effing now, because I simply can’t stand to be alone. (Plus, I haven’t had a vacation to speak of in years. Yup.)
In a few months, I’ll be tired of this away every weekend nonsense -- oh, and plus I’ll be poor -- and then it’ll be time for reflection and rest. But by then, I’ll likely have something else to think about besides where it all went wrong.
4. Allow yourself to feel everything fully.
I still feel love, and compassion, and empathy, and tenderness, along with anger, frustration, and bitterness toward my ex. I feel bad for writing this because what if he comes to xojane on a whim and reads it? That would be a punch in the gut.
I feel bad that I said just now that we never went on vacation, because though it is the truth, like any story it’s more complicated than just my side. And especially for a habitually breaking-up and making-up couple, like we used to be, it can seem like a lot of danger lurks in acknowledging the residual good or even just neutral feelings you have left toward this person, as opposed to focusing on your anger like some sort of Hulk... person.
But if I didn’t allow myself to fully feel those things, I would also be running the risk of blocking my acceptance of the truth, which is that we are Not Right For Each Other. I feel bad that things didn’t work because we loved each other so much. But I’m also hopeful that both of us will find something that’s a better fit.
5. Fine, go on a bender.
This doesn’t have to be a drinking bender. You can just go on a five day destruction spiral of, I don’t know, buying beauty products, spending half your savings, drinking energy drinks, playing video games, eating only burritos, whatever. Pick your vice. You can’t be so goddamn responsible all the time.
6. Give your old dreams a chance to rest.
Little things will set me off. The other day my parents’ horrible dog tried to bite me and without thinking I yelled, “LUCY!” Which is, in fact, not her name -- it’s my ex-boyfriend’s dog’s name, who I trained since she was a little baby, and slept next to and played Frisbee with and took care of for literally weeks at a time, and who I won’t get to see anymore.
Needless to say, tears ensued. That one was unavoidable. But there are other things I can avoid, like looking at home decorating sites, which we had been doing together, or engagement rings, which I had been doing alone. (I know.)
When a serious, in some ways life-defining relationship ends, it’s not just the partnership (hah) that you’re letting go of. Another friend who recently ended her long-term relationship said, “It’s not just him -- literally everything I thought would happen, didn’t happen.”
Whatever dreams or plans you had for the future were likely joint plans. And it’s important that you listen to me, now: Everything you wanted is still available to you, in some form. But in order to open yourself up to a new thing, you have to let the old thing die.
For me, this just means shoving any thoughts about buying a little house, or doing some cute weekend beach getaway thing, or being snuggly and vulnerable with another person, into a tiny corner of my psyche until they don’t hurt to think about, until they’re not inextricably linked with him anymore.
Since it’s only been two weeks I have no idea if this will work, but I can say it’s been an effective method for reducing the number of tears shed each day. Well, most days, anyway...
7. Recognize that some days will be worse than others.
If you slept 14 hours last night, your stomach won’t stop growling, your skin is gray and you’re sobbing uncontrollably, congratulations, because you are the proud owner of a bleeding uterus.
If you’re like me, you are surprised each month when your period arrives, and automatically curse whoever failed to (a) invent a cure for this fucking death scourge and (b) secretly inject you with it while you were sleeping, per your fervent, monthly wishes. Also, you might have failed AP biology.
Anyway. Similar to Emily’s experience, my continued refusal to catalog every whim of my lady parts (*shudder*) via some cutesy iPhone app means that I experience a full-scale fucking epiphany each month when it finally dawns on me that I’m just menstruating and not “turnin’ bipolar.”
Normally, that epiphany comes after the PMS period, which means -- well, you know what it means. For two or three days before The Dot even arrives, I’m snippy with family and friends, small requests like “can you pull your car out from behind mine” light a murderous rage somewhere beneath my ribcage, and oh, I experience an inability to feel hope or gladness -- AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHY.
If you can remind yourself at the outset of a tough period (heh heh) that there are going to be ups and downs, that you are going to take one step back for every two steps forward, and that if nothing else, something as out-of-your-control as your body’s synchronicity with the very Moon will cause you to behave (and appear) like some sort of werewolf-Predator hybrid once a month, well, at least you gave yourself a heads up.
So -- a couple weeks in and that’s all I got. Is anyone else in extreme breakup mode right now? Should I write again from an, ahem, less dark place?
Tell me your get-happy tips, I need them :(