‘Heartbroken’. A term that we have all heard about a million times. A term that is batted around like its a normal part of life. We talk about it, read about it, listen to songs about it but can you see it? What does a person with a ‘broken heart’ look like? Apart from the people hysterically crying, wiping snot bubbles whilst posting ‘I hate my piece of sh*t ex’ posts on Facebook. I would say they are reactions one might expect but what about the people who maintain their usual facial expressions and mannerisms, who greet and interact with people as they always have done, who laugh and joke in a group and who smile and clap with glee after someone announces wonderful news.
I would say that if you approached anyone in either of these states, it would still be impossible to see even a glimpse of what is going on inside that chest of theirs.
Walking on broken glass
“Ok Liz, we get it, you’ve had your heart broken. Big wow!” That’s fair enough and, just for the record, yes I have. In fact, I have just officially diagnosed myself with an acute case of a ‘broken heart’. Looking at my past history, this isn’t my first case of the condition so my symptoms should be clear and easy to assess. I should respond quickly to treatment and be cured in no time.
Makes perfect, logical sense. So why are my symptoms so much more severe this time? Why are there new, additional symptoms? Hasn’t my immune system improved and kicked in yet? How do I treat all this?!
Now I’m quite a logical person (despite my cringey medical metaphors). Not completely rational all the time but I respect the power of reason. I feel I can learn from the past and take my lessons with me to enhance my wisdom. So this observation was and still is horribly frustrating to me.
It would be very easy now to give a long, descriptive account about my very recent break up. A break down of a 5 year relationship. I’m sorry if I disappoint but I wont be giving any details of what happened and why it did. I wont pretend that it was an amicable, easy, lets hug goodbye and wave each other off into the night break up. It wasn’t. But despite the ending, I believe we had a wonderful relationship. It wasn’t perfect but we both loved each other very much and I will never doubt that. I also won’t let myself doubt that, one day I’ll be able to treasure the many beautiful moments we had together. Our moments and our time. So I don’t want to disrespect either one of us by giving the details of how that wonderful thing we built fell apart.
Now this unwelcomed life event was when I really noticed just how loud my brain can be. After the initial break up reactions (I believe Kubler-Ross identified them as shock and denial), I told myself that everything was going to be ok, that I had had my ‘heart broken’ before and recovered and that logically of course, this was for the best. Ok, that’s not bad going for such an early stage. Anger hadn’t even set in yet, let alone sadness. But when they did (I’ll group them both together) it felt like someone smashed me in the face with a rusty shovel. And no I’m not exaggerating but yes you can laugh.
Then it started in my brain… the traffic after a road accident. The cars gradually flying onto the motorway only to build up and get congested. They were stuck causing nothing but clutter, noise and stress. Abrasive sounding car horns from every direction. Me desperately straining to see beyond the mess and ugliness of all that traffic to make sense of what has caused it.
How do make sense of anything with all that clutter. All I could do was feel all of these unpleasant things. I was internally screaming out questions but getting no answers. Getting only the pain of having to ask the questions. Why so many questions? I felt like my insides were jumping around in a frantic manner, just because they didn’t know what else to do. Hundreds of flashing images and noises flying through my mind. ALL of the time. I couldn’t even escape it during sleep. Those pictures and sounds would shoot around in the dark. I’d plead with myself to just get to sleep, to just be unconscious for a while so I could have some quiet and block out the constant, sudden unwanted thoughts. My mind would betray me by giving me such intense dreams, of him. Of me and him. Sometimes so awful that I would wake up already sobbing and holding my breath and once I was sick. I actually vomited (extreme, I know). But even worse, sometimes the dream was so lovely and happy that for a split second when waking up, none of it had happened. Everything was how it was. I would see him asleep next to me when I opened my eyes. That it was ironically all a dream. This is the darkest trick your mind can play on you. To make your day start off that way is nothing but cruel.
I saw his face everywhere. I heard his voice everywhere. I spoke to him when I needed him to hear me. Laughed with him when I watched a show we loved or I thought of one of our daft jokes. I held onto him after I’d turned the lights out.
What the f*ck was all this?! I’ve never known anything like it! The logic is all there and its not complicated. So why on earth am I in this state? Why is all reason blocked by a thick fog? Worst of all, how did I lose control…
Ok so it was clear I was struggling. Did you know research suggests that seeing a picture of your ex activates the area of the brain linked with Cocaine addiction and physical pain? So seeing this picture can actually make you feel the equivalent of physical pain or drug withdrawal.
Can someone please let Facebook Memories know this please. “This time 2 years ago you were the equivalent of a coke head”. “But don’t worry cos now you’re just a snotty, scrawny mess lying in the foetal position”. I am joking, honest.
Anyway I’ll always try and solve a problem so I’ll try the taking control approach (I say this in present tense because I’m still going with it). I’ll find ways of calming down all this racket and will make myself feel better. Yes Liz! You’re a genius. Girl power!
Right I need some sleep! I love a yoga practice and I know the importance on ‘focusing on the breath’ to clear your mind. Acknowledge your thoughts and then… let them go. Visualise them as floating balloons and gently pop them with your positivity and strength. I’ve been to loads of yoga classes so this will be too easy if anything.
Ok so lie down and deep breathe Liz (imagine this being said in a very soothing, gentle voice). I lie there counting the breaths in…and out, feeling my chest rise… and slowly fall, hearing nothing but my breathing as I inhale through the nose… and exhale through the nose. I’m looking into my mind’s eye the whole time and visualising that light.
(Change to ridiculously annoying, anxious voice) “I wonder if all of this happened because of what happened on this particular date three years ago” NO LIZ! (back to calm voice) Pop that balloon and let the thought go. Breathe in… and out. Chest rising… and falling… relax your face. Be present. That’s it! I’m such a yogi.
(Voice becomes even more annoying and perhaps slightly shrill) “Maybe if I’d have done this absolutely insignificant thing instead of that completely forgettable thing then it all would have worked out” LIZ!!! Pop the bleedin’ balloon. And off the thought goes, the balloon popped with strength and courage… such peace and achievement.
“But hang on, why did that thing happen?” Liz.
“Did that comment actually mean this instead?” LIZ! I SAID BE PRESENT
(The voice frantic and high pitched now) “I bet this whole time he’s been thinking this”. Liz I’m warning you.
“I bet its cos of the way I dress”. For f*ck’s sake Liz!
“I should have known this would happen”. Right Liz well done love, you’ve now got hundreds of massive balloons bashing you in the face. Don’t even bother trying to pop that lot.
Should have just held ‘the breath’ until I passed out. Seems like the easier option.
I’ll listen to some music. I’ve always been fascinated with how much music can affect your present state. Its amazing how the sound of a song can completely transform your mood and state of mind. I have heard songs that have transported me back to a time and place in seconds, ones that have made me smile like a Cheshire cat, songs that have given me goose bumps and ones that immediately make me start dancing like a loon.
I have come across some songs, during this difficult period, that have really struck a cord and directed my thinking in a much healthier and positive way. Sometimes I’ll listen to a song and the words touch me so instantly. They give me an amazing, empowered feeling, alongside a feeling of peace. This inner peace and clarity makes me believe I can get through this alone and I suddenly appreciate how strong I am. That I will be better than ok one day. However I wish I could say this is consistent.
I actively seek out one of these songs when I’m feeling… well feeling like I need to hear them. But this time its different. I can’t hear the words and the melody is muffled and broken. The song has become a dull, generic sound floating through a thick cloud around my head. It is distorted and sounds distant. I zone out and my mind drifts. I try to pull it back and focus on this song, the song that only a few days ago made me feel like Wonder Woman (but with tiny boobs).
Then I sit down and listen to it again from the start, a beautiful song by a wonderful female vocalist. Right! Come on and concentrate Liz. Listen to that calming tune. Listen to her inciteful, inspirational words. She is singing your feelings and melting the pain…
I didn’t intend to lob the speaker up the wall and shout obscenities to the poor woman but it suddenly felt as though this b*tch didn’t know what she was babbling on about. No one could possibly understand what I’m going through and I’m the saddest, most lost soul in the whole world.
I’ll just put Jedward on and make my ears bleed.
I know!! I’ll get all dressed up and go out drinking with my friends. I don’t need no man! (Go girl and all that) There will be no break up talk. Only drinking, laughing, dancing like professionals and me batting off all of the men that will inevitably try and chat me up cos I’ve got that fresh, single vibe going on…
So between the array of questionable shots and the post taxi vomiting, which thankfully I still managed to aim at the toilet, I had a pretty decent time. Without sounding too cheesy I am blessed to have some wonderful friends in my life and I am very grateful. I am especially grateful for the ones who can drink, share a toilet and dance like a prat with me.
I awoke in the morning with the memory of having an inebriated smooch with a handsome young man. Well look at you Liz! You’ve still got it after all.
Yes I remember him now, he was very good looking. Good for you Liz.
He seemed very keen. Well of course Liz, why wouldn’t he be?!
Erm…. did he say he was studying something maybe? Well… maybe. He’s probably a mature student doing a Masters.
No… he looked pretty young. In fact, he looked very young. Ok Liz, lets cut to the chase. You snogged a lad and you were literally old enough to be his mother. Nice one div.
Although I wish I’d got a photo (and perhaps some I.D) now I’m back to getting a grip and acting my age… although that was a nice little boost.
Well in all seriousness, this break up happened about 4 months ago. It is still early days in the grand scheme of things. I still feel pain every day and I still have battling conversations with myself. Like “I feel like sh*t today” but “we have one life so don’t waste any of it by feeling like sh*t”.
But my logical brain and I have been working hard, for the good of myself and the poor sods who have to listen to me drone on. So this is basically what I feel I have learned or come up with. I’m not going to make out I’m some sort of wise break up Guru (seriously, who do I think I am) but I do believe we should take what we can out of any given situation, learn it, apply it and use it to help others.
The ideas in this little list I’ve constructed have helped me and I hope it can help someone else because losing someone you love really, really isn’t nice…
- Don’t let anyone hug you– you’re walking on dangerous territory here. If you’re at work, in a shop or restaurant and you tell someone “we’ve broken up”, take a big step backwards (literally I mean). Do it because they’re going to be coming at you with their empathetic facial expression, arms outstretched, chest warmed up ready to crush your pathetic face against it and a sympathetic “ohhh nooo”. Don’t do it!
Before you know it you’re letting out an embarrassingly loud and a bit weird sob in the middle of Co-op and soaking that damned, comforting chest with your tears and slobber from open mouthed crying. Children are pointing, old people are trying to manoeuvre their scooters round you, the shop assistant is trying to stock the eggs up right where you’re letting your soul bleed.
Take my advice and just gracefully decline the hug. Or just tell them via text.
- Stay away- one thing that I have found hard to stomach is going from having him there all the time; chatting, physical affection, sending something to him that I think will make him laugh, drinking in the sun, seeing his and my family to… nothing. Gone. No longer a part of my life. That painfully sudden transition is gut wrenching.
We have spoken post break up but then it became apparent that I needed total distance. I would hang on is every word and analyse it. “Maybe that means that he’s missing me”, “maybe that means that he now owns a Playboy Mansion” and the saddest one “does that suggest that he still loves me”. I was damaging my own sanity. The outcome would always be the same but the constant, unnecessary wondering was torture.
Seeing the face you once loved, in a completely different way, is worth avoiding. It’s like seeing a different person and you doubt whether you ever knew them at all. Maybe one day I’ll figure that one out.
Stay away from the potential of finding upsetting things out that you don’t need to know. It’s always tempting but it never ends well and you’re the only one who suffers.
Be careful with social media. If you need to unfollow then unfollow. Think about it to avoid acting out of anger or hurt but do it if you know that its right (for you, no one else) to have that distance.
- Look after yourself and do what you love– sounds a bit cliché but this is probably the best thing I have done for myself so far. Eat good food. I don’t mean go on a crazy diet just to lose weight cos “that’ll show them” because actually no it wont and they really won’t care. There’s enough going on without adding miserable hanger to the list. Eat healthy stuff, glug water and take good quality vitamins! I swear the difference you feel in everything you do is massive.
Find a way to keep active that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy running then don’t run. If you have always wanted to go to the gym but you’re scared of people looking at you. Trust me, no one cares what you’re doing. Be brave and get in there! And please try yoga! Everyone should try Yoga.
Don’t fall into the trap of what I call the ‘heartbreak diet’. The method is basically having as few calories as you can manage and dropping as much weight as possible, as fast as possible. Sounds great right? Its not. That’s me speaking from experience. I’m not going to bang on about food but this ‘method’ is not good. It makes you feel and look like sh*t and makes you very ill. Then you spend a long time trying to undo the damage you have caused your body. Trust me on that if nothing else!
And sleep!! Get a new routine. Go to bed early and wake up early (if you can). Do whatever you need to do to get more sleep and make it a priority. Being well rested makes everything in life that bit easier. I think its changed the whole look of my face and totally rejuvenated how my brain functions at work.
- Make yourself useful- there are a lot of negative side effects from a break up. You can feel useless, unattractive and maybe worthless. No one is worthless and break ups don’t affect every element of your life. Or they certainly shouldn’t.
Put your focus somewhere else and reap the rewards. Maybe you couldn’t focus on other such things when you were in a relationship for whatever reason. I’m fortunate to have been successful in a job interview not long after the break up. I had moments of thinking I wouldn’t go for it but then I knew I would be sabotaging my own life. That would be my fault and no one else’s!
But I did go for it and I have truly been able to give it my all because my time is my own, I’m sleeping well, I’m eating well and I’m doing what I love doing. You might say “well good for you Liz, do you want a medal?!” but all of those things are on me and have been controlled by me and only me. So yeh, I’ll take the medal thanks.
- Feel it, accept it and give it time– I’m writing that as though I can look back and say “ah yes, I did that well”. No no, I’m still not out of the woods. Its easy to do or say anything to help shove those feelings under the carpet. I really do think having that positive outlook as a foundation is the key. However, sometimes you just have to feel sad. Sit on your own, wear crap clothes, eat what you want, put ‘your’ songs on and cry like a 2 year old. Get it out of your system then get yourself cleaned up and jump around to Spice Girls! Wear a bra for that though.
There’s that ‘give it time’ phrase again. Everyone says that, its like they don’t know what else to say. But its actually annoyingly true. I know one day the pain will be gone… but I want it gone now. Or at least have someone give me a date when it will be that I can pop in my diary.
- Stay alone!- I’ve put this last because this is the one I want to place the most emphasis on. If I can give anyone just one piece of advice it is to never jump straight into another relationship or romance.
These few months have been some of the hardest of my life. Every day has been a struggle in some way and to some extent. My brain has been busier yet more exhausted than its ever been and I have gone through so many emotions, I have been physically exhausted and numb. I have lay in bed feeling like I’m wrapped up in barbed wire. I have had sudden moments of such intense sadness that my whole body sags. It sags like all the energy has just fallen out. There are times when I feel like I’ve swallowed a stone and it wont budge. Even times when I need to scream or cry or do anything but nothing happens. Like something is in there ready to burst out but its stuck so just eventually gets dispersed.
I spend my free time trying to keep well, reading books, slowly nodding along to Facebook positive quotes with a reflective look on my face (I must look so annoying) and doing things that I know will make me happy. No matter what the circumstances, anyone can do this if they take responsibility for it.
BUT the biggest part of this, the part that would make me give myself a jolly good pat on the back if my shoulders were even slightly flexible, is the fact that I’m doing it alone.
This isn’t taking anything away from the many people who have been nothing but supportive to me. My family, my friends, my work colleagues and even people I wouldn’t have expected it from. I always have them and have so much love and gratitude for them.
I mean knowing I am riding it out. Just me.
It would be easy to put my attention and energy into looking for another man. A fleeting romance or even searching for a boyfriend to force into being my husband. This would certainly be a distraction from all of the above. But distractions don’t help in the long run (as I have experienced). You can’t truly focus on dealing with the breakup and then unresolved personal issues never heal.
If life flowed as it is and I met a man who liked me and I liked him, I wouldn’t push it away. Like I previously said, I wouldn’t sabotage my own life. But I certainly won’t look for it. I will meet someone when I know that he will be the only man in my thoughts. Sounding a bit cocky here aren’t I, like I can just magic myself up the fittest of all the lads with a click of my fingers when I’m finished sulking.
But my main reason is knowing that not only will all of these thoughts and feelings some day be memories, not only have I simply achieved that but that I can be proud to know that I achieved it on my own. I can honestly and sincerely say with complete conviction, that is an absolutely amazing feeling.
So thank you for reading a post full of me spilling out quite a lot of depressing content. I hope you can see why I wrote it and I really have enjoyed writing it. I reckon my Mom will love it.
So to quote one of the songs that I have had a love/hate relationship with;
“Even when you can’t imagine how
How you’re ever gonna find your way out
Even when you’re drabbling in your doubt
Just look beyond the clouds”
The Sun is Rising by Britt Nicole.