Dealing with the aftermath of a break-up: Steps to mending a broken heart…

The phrase break up is exactly what it implies: the breaking apart of two things, and in the case of this article, two people. But, if you’ve been around and on this planet for several years, then you probably already know what break up means!

Whether your first grade crush checked “no” when you asked them to be your girlfriend or your partner of 10 years has just told you that they are leaving you, break-ups (unfortunately) are very real experiences that can become a part of our lives whether we want them to happen or not. Why is this? Because we are unable to control other people and people are often unpredictable. Of course my hope is that every person finds his or her ever-lasting match, but sadly, sometimes we must encounter disappointments along the way.

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“How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode.”

― W. Somerset Maugham

When a relationship ends, the process of recovery and healing can be one of the most difficult experiences to encounter. I’ve heard individuals both professionally and personally referring to the aftermath of breaking up with someone as “feeling like my heart exploded” “feeling sick all over” and ultimately experiencing a deep feeling of loss, or grief.

After all, when a relationship ends, you are ultimately experiencing a loss of sorts. As I have written about many a time before in my blogs, humans are patterned creatures. When a relationship dissolves, we must reset our routines and patterns to not include a person that may have been a part of our lives for months and even years. And when the individual who is no longer a part of your life is truly out of the picture, there can be almost an uncanny feeling of absenteeism, a feeling that something is missing in your life. I liken it to having your right pinky finger being missing, you may be able to function just fine without it, but there’s a strange feeling of knowing that a piece of you is missing.

“i felt her absence. it was like waking up one day with no teeth in your mouth. you wouldn’t need to run to the mirror to know they were gone”
― James Dashner

The process of recovery from a break up takes a different amount of time from person to person. There is no clear-cut formula to when you feel better and often the process is not linear. There may be days where you feel confident and sassy, and others where you don’t want to leave the house and will happily park yourself on the couch for a Netflix binge session of The Office.

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Many people ask me, how do I get through this?

1.      Stay busy reconnecting with yourself.

We are most vulnerable after a relationship ends. Depending on the specifics of your break up, your self-worth and self-confidence can become a little damaged after an end to a relationship and as a result, you feel very fragile. During this vulnerable time, the key to your success is going to be getting to know yourself again. Reconnecting with hobbies and people that empower you. Staying busy engaging in HEALTHY activities.

Always wanted to try stand up paddle board yoga? Now is your time to do it. You see, every time we engage in sometime new, there are little chemical changes that happen in the brain. Typically, a release of dopamine, our “get happy” chemicals are released and on an emotional level, you feel empowered and a sense of confidence or “I did it!” occurs. Very healing for vulnerability and improving self-confidence.

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Speaking to the sense of loss that is often felt after a dissolution of a relationship, a common experience is anhedonia, which is a symptom of depression. Anhedonia is the experience of not feeling interested or deriving a sense of pleasure from activities that once brought you such.

Of course, it is realistic to allow yourself to have “down days” and maybe even a little two-hour pity party every now and again, but ultimately, it is up to you to bring yourself out of those feelings of despair. Remembering that you are in control of yourself and your thoughts is very powerful.

So you signed up for an art class when you were feeling good? Yet today is the day of the class and you feel totally down and depressed? This is the time to push through and engage in something that will bring you out of your current negative state of mind…if you don’t control your mind and your thoughts, then they will control you. Force yourself to get moving, take a shower, and attend that class. You may end up engaging in a creative outlet that inspires you to keep pressing on, giving you purpose throughout this time of discomfort after a break up.

2.      Take a break from dating.

I encourage individuals after a break up to take a time out. To take time to reconnect with themselves and wait a period of time before getting back out there. As stated previously, after a relationship, humans tend to be very vulnerable and this is when we are most often accepting of another relationship that is less than what we deserve—all so that we can avoid feeling lonely.

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The phrase “the best way to get over someone is by getting under someone else” is false! All that you are doing is pacifying yourself, giving yourself a temporary reprieve from the heartache you feel by becoming involved with someone new and opening up your vulnerable self before that sense of confidence and self-worth has been truly reestablished.

While human beings are biologically social creatures, you must be able to stand alone and be happy with yourself before becoming involved with another person. Being independent is probably one of the most empowering experiences you can have. To know that you don’t need anyone else is a testament to your ability to be self-sufficient and okay just “being”. Try it… Remembering that you must learn to look inwards and to your Higher Power for validation instead of relying on other people to give you your sense of self-worth.

“If you truly want to be respected by people you love, you must prove to them that you can survive without them.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

3.      Keep your lifestyle healthy.

In order to function at our best capacity, we must eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of rest. Refraining from using alcohol is also a necessity when you are already down.

Alcohol is a depressant and what most people do not realize is that when you drink, you are literally depressing your central nervous system! It’s no wonder people become emotional when they are drinking and even feel down the day after, you have just consumed a depressant.

So watch what you are putting in your mouth after a break up. If you’re feeling depressed, alcohol will only compound that feeling. Not too mention that inhibitions become lowered and you are more likely to engage in behaviors that you wouldn’t otherwise engage in if you were sober. i.e. texting/calling your ex to lament your relationship and ask that they come back, sleeping with someone that you wouldn’t otherwise want to sleep with, lashing out at a friend because you already feel sad and drinking just allows those mean comments to come out more easily— these are just a few of the many things that can happen when you’re under the influence.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to live a healthy life, eating healthy foods that will help nourish your mind and get plenty of rest to allow your brain to heal from the trauma of a break up.

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Bringing it all together…

With all of this information, I encourage you to find what works for you in your life after a relationship ends. Whether you were married and you’re at the divorce stage, or you dated someone for a year and thought they’d be the one, only to find out that they weren’t who you thought they were, take comfort in knowing that the pain you feel will eventually subside.

Be gentle with yourself during this time. Recognize your strengths and the pieces of you that you could improve upon but watch out for those negative, self-deprecating thoughts! Seek out a therapist to help you through this time and to gain better perspective of who you are and what you have to offer the world.

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Although the length of recovery time differs from person to person, marked by periods of highs and lows, you will be able to recognize when you truly get your happy back. Practicing reconnecting with yourself, taking a break to stand on your own two feet and be independent, and living a very healthy lifestyle will all aid in your recovery process.

Always remember that no matter what, you are worthy of finding a partner in life that is your other half. A partner who treats you the way that you deserve and encourages you to be the best version of yourself. You are a unique being with plenty of characteristics and positive traits to offer the world.

Focus on the relationship you have with yourself, and the rest will follow.

Wishing you healthy relationships with others and most importantly yourself, today and everyday,

Rachel Ann

People are the ultimate designer drug: What is your poison?

The [addictive] process of abusive relationships is complicated. Here I discuss the reasoning behind why some get addicted to the highs and lows of unhealthy partnerships and the powerful impact that actions and words can have.

We all know the mind-altering effects of drugs and alcohol, but have you ever stopped to consider the mind-altering effects that the people in your life have on you?

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Think about it. Anytime you meet someone, there are definite biological components at play. Research suggests that when a person falls in love, there is an increase in dopamine and a desire to be with that person—the “I can’t get enough of you feeling” that is all too common in the initial stages of dating.

Like taking a drug, however, after meeting someone and beginning to have them in your life consistently (i.e. you are in a relationship), that “shiny penny” excess-dopamine phenomenon begins to plateau and you begin to develop a tolerance of sorts. You’re left at the same place you were before you met the person. The “high” is gone.

Perhaps this is the reason why so many friendships and romantic relationships fade. After the dopamine levels out, the tolerance builds, the excitement or newness dwindles—the decision to separate from that person becomes more attractive. So what could be the reason behind a person deciding to remain in a relationship that is unhealthy or causes the proverbial hangover that seems to linger on and on?

Love addiction.

Two powerful little words that are quite prevalent in our society.

The “rule of thumb” to knowing if you have an addiction is evaluating whether or not the person, place, or thing is causing you significant distress and impairing your ability to carry out activities and functions of daily living. We typically think of male-female romantic relationships when we consider domestic violence, however, emotional and physical abuse comes in the form of many different familial and even platonic relationships.

Take for example a relationship between mother and son. The mother constantly tells her son that he is failure, will never amount to anything, and he is a disappointment to all. As a result, the son feels worthless and no good. However, as in most abusive relationships, there are periods of “sobriety” where the abuser refrains from the abuse and the relationship appears hunky dory. It is during these times that a very critical part of the cycle of abuse occurs:

The honeymoon stage.

Or the part where you fall back in love with your abuser because he or she is acting the way that you had always hoped or “knew they could”! Your abuser may apologize and profess their undying love for you, vowing to “never do that again”. Your love for them becomes even more reinforced, thus the cycle is able to continue and you hold on to that honeymoon period thinking that “I know he/she will get back to the person that I fell in love with again”.

With each revolution of the cycle of abuse, we become more desensitized to the abuse, and our emotional states start to become dependent on that other being—or as I believe—the emotional aftermath we’re left experiencing, until our tolerance builds up and we are but a shell of who we once were.

People experience emotional highs and lows throughout the course of a relationship—romantic or platonic. And I believe that the addiction becomes not to the person, but the feeling that the person elicits within you. Feelings and thoughts carry a very high amount of weight in a relationship. And the rollercoaster of highs and lows can at times, become what people become addicted to, or in some strange way, comforted by.

 

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The joy, the passion, the fighting, the making up…one big blur of experiences that can make you feel like you’re riding the cyclone (but not having fun).

 

Take the woman that is being abused by her partner. She knows deep down the signs that the explosive and destructive emotional outburst is about to occur. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, she also knows that there will be the making up and “best behavior from the abuser” parts to the cycle that she so desperately craves. Thus, there begins the pattern, and because human beings—whether you want to believe it or not—are patterned creatures, a sort of comfort or acceptance of the situation is derived.

Human beings have flaws and certain people in our lives know how to bring out parts of you that are the best and alternately, the absolute worst. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to decide how you are going to allow another person to treat you, when enough is enough, and realize that your self-worth is more important than accepting abuse.

How much another human being can affect another human is an amazing phenomenon that truly makes the world go ‘round; or with regards to the darker side of human kind, causes a person to start to lose sight of who they are and how they feel about themselves.

Think about it…The pretty girl smiles at you and your morning is made. You receive a sweet text from your partner and your bad morning turns to good. Your parent calls to tell you how proud they are of you and for once, you start to feel proud of yourself.

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Alternately, your spouse comes home from work and wordlessly flings their belongings on the floor, instilling a sense of fear in you. Your girlfriend slaps you across the face because you asked what time the movie starts, causing you to feel idiotic, embarrassed, and angry.

Humans and our word and action choices are very powerful forces in this world. Our ability to cause a stir is palpable and ever-present. Consider the recent Trump/Kathy Griffin debacle. One decision probably forever (negatively) changed that comedian’s career. The actions of people have very serious consequences. Much like choosing to drink too much, deciding to infringe on another person’s boundaries and taking the joke too far can have very serious implications in life.

Tying it all together…

We are beings that have millions of neurons interacting together, thrive in relationships, hurt each other’s feelings, and inadvertently and sometimes consciously choose to cause harm. The only person that you can ever truly control is yourself.

I challenge you to make healthy choices and treat others with kindness. You never know how you will affect someone else…what joke will push someone over the edge (think bullying) or conversely, what kind word will cause someone to want to remain a part of this world.

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Choose the people in your life that give you a healthy “high”. A high where you feel good because you are cherished and respected. The high that comes after a shared experience of laughing and talking with your partner or friend. Not the emotional high that comes during the honeymoon stage in the cycle of abuse. Pick your poison carefully…every person has the ability to affect others in a positive or negative way.

Be the positive light and force that others desire to be around. And most importantly, be someone that YOU want to be around.

Wishing you positive interactions and healthy choices today and everyday,

Rachel Ann