Heartbreak hurts like a mother fucker. Sometimes you see it coming, other times it sneaks up on you like a Prius. Whether you were the rejector or the rejectee; whether it ended in good faith or bad faith; whether it was a five-year relationship or whether it was a brief fling, ultimately it still just really fucking sucks. The very person who’s the source of the sadness can’t be the one to fix it, either. Recovery is a brutal, solitary journey that can tear down the façades of tough men, destroy the confidence of brilliant women, and turn any normal person into a hysterical, golf-club-to-windshield wielding lunatic in the process. By the odds, experiencing heartbreak is about as inevitable as an STI sweeping through college hall. So how do we get through it?
You probably won’t see it right now, but you really are better off without them. This one person on a planet of 7 billion isn’t “as good as it gets”. We tend to adopt a scarcity mindset, believing that there’s nobody else out there we’d be interested in, or that if it didn’t work with this person, it won’t work with anybody, or that we’re doomed to die alone – that’s simply not true. In heartbreak, we’re so focussed on our immediate pain that we don’t get the benefit of seeing the big picture. If we could, maybe we would see that the heartache is opening us to new possibilities, like finding somebody who has ALL of your ex-lover’s good traits minus the emotional unavailability, having more time to work on improving your self-confidence, or the ability to go take that job or move to that city without feeling tied to anyone or anything. Heartbreak is actually a very rare opportunity, because feeling like you’ve been shattered to pieces means you get the chance to rebuild yourself in any way you choose. It sets you free.
So, whether you’re feeling solution-oriented or whether you’re still in the depressed phase, based on my experience, this is how to shawshank your way through the heartbreak.
1. Get a clean break – A tried-and-tested fact. More painful at first, less painful in the long run. Resist temptation. The sooner loose ends are tied up and you stop bloody texting them asking to catch up “just one more time” (then slip and probably end up fucking), the better. If it didn’t work the first time around, it’s probably going to fail again and again for very similar reasons. Don’t go back. Go forward.
2. Grieve – Indulge yourself, especially in the beginning. Play sad music (go for anything Daniel Caesar, JP Saxe, and to really twist the knife, Fell in Love Without You – Acoustic by Motion City Soundtrack slaps). Spend hours lying in bed, curtains drawn, staring at walls or ugly-crying if you need to. You can’t repress your feelings forever, soldier. Revel in your moment – you can be stronger later on. For now, let yourself luxuriate in all the feels.
3. Go easy on yourself – You might’ve made some mistakes, they might’ve made some mistakes. Be accountable, but don’t beat yourself up for it. Imagine: if your son or daughter were going through this, would you want them to beat themselves up about it? Would you want them to keep silent about it? What would you say to them?
4. Find outlets – Writing has always been healing for me. I highly advocate for writing down all of your thoughts in your phone notes and never sending them. You might have your own outlet, like sports or art or making ceramic sex toys, I don’t fucking know. Maybe get back into some old hobbies, maybe take up some new interests, maybe both.
5. New goals – Find new projects to work on, new goals to achieve, new things to redirect all that pent-up energy. Big or small, doesn’t matter.
6. People – Even if you’re introverted like me and don’t think you feel like it, spending time with other people can really help you get through it. Late-night Maccas runs slamming Neyo’s So Sick (bop) on full blast does wonders. You should talk to people who care about you and definitely those going through a similar thing. Misery needs company, and in a sick way, hearing about people who are also feeling like shit helps you feel slightly better. Also consider the free counselling at university, it’s fucking fantastic.
7. Distraction – You’re going to feel lonely and sad, and so you should. Allow yourself to be lonely without running from it all the time. However, there are also times when you need to get out of your head and go do fun shit. Socialise, even if you’re feeling like shit on the inside. Go to movies, read books, go on beach trips, catch up with mates you haven’t seen in ages, go to parties.
8. Reflect – What did you learn about yourself? In what ways did the relationship not work? How happy were you, REALLY, moment-by-moment in the relationship? What do you need to work on? Maybe it’s communicating what you want more clearly in the future. Maybe it’s noticing patterns in your behaviours or in the people you keep choosing. Maybe it’s learning to cope with rejection. Don’t disillusion yourself here. Be honest.
9. Self-discipline – The suffering is a mental game. Some thoughts torment us more than they ought to. We tend to make it worse for ourselves by replaying conversations in our head, picturing them hooking up with other people, or creating imaginary scenarios/sex scenes/the works in our head. When you feel your mind drifting to that unhelpful state where no good can come from, pull yourself back from the “what-ifs…”
10. Give it time – The ultimate healer. The shitty feelings aren’t going to go away immediately, so don’t expect them to. Trust that it gets better (it always does).
Having a broken heart isn’t a good thing or a bad thing. It means that you had the guts to feel something, that you’re human, and it’s a chance to prove to yourself that you can overcome anything. We humans SUCK at letting things go. I think it comes down to some shitty evolutionary wiring with a fear of losing security and stability. Just imagine how unstoppable we’d become if we lost the fear of failure, rejection, or of dying alone. For now, take the pain day by day, and if that’s too hard, minute by minute. I promise, with time, it’s all gonna be more than okay.