It’s been less than 48 hours since my boyfriend and I broke up so it’s still hurting – a lot. But I’m seeing so much progress in how I’m handling the pain and the feelings of loss, compared to how I used to, that I felt prompted to record it.
I don’t have the definitive guide to break-ups. We’re all different. But what I do have is a growing sense of what works for me – and what doesn’t.
In the past – in the years when I was stuck in an eating disorder and other self-harming, compulsive behaviors – I’d do anything to escape my feelings. I’d binge on food and then feel ashamed and anxious about my weight, providing me with a distraction from the deeper pain inside. I’d starve and run for miles, punishing my body, and once again avoiding the real feelings. I’d go back to him, setting myself up for another dose of pain when it all had to end a second or third time around, or I’d fixate on other guys. In short, I’d do anything to keep the hurt at bay, worried that if I let the darkness in, I’d never make it back to the light.
But years of recovering from addictive behaviors have taught me to sit with grief rather than run from it. And years of learning about self-care have shown me how to soothe my pain and nurture my bruised heart.
Here are a few things that have helped in the past days:
Therapy – I was fortunate to have a session already in the diary the day after the break-up. In that hour, I could share my pain with someone who understood, who didn’t try to make it go away, and who could help me see how much I’d grown in the short relationship – how I’d committed to it, worked through my difficulties in a healthy way, engaged in emotional intimacy, and had a lot of fun.
Simple pleasures – I took myself to a bookstore on London’s vibrant Southbank and bought two novels – I hadn’t read fiction in ages – and a pocket-sized book as a gift for a friend: The Little Book of Confidence by Susan Jeffers. I then sat on a deckchair outside, watching the world go by, reading Jeffers’ nuggets of wisdom, and enjoying some ‘me time’. It was one of those ‘everything is going to be OK’ moments. The sitting still was such a contrast to the running I used to do.
Friends – I met one of my closest friends for dinner in a colorful Mexican street food restaurant. We shared, laughed, encouraged each other, and ate great food. I have another friend coming by later for more of the same.
Work – I’ve taken it easy today but I made a call to a magazine to try and line up some feature writing and carried on improving my website. This reminded me that, despite the loss, I have dreams and aspirations for my life that are very much worth pursuing.
Flowers – I bought myself some yellow roses to go in my red vase. I love buying myself flowers at any time but when I’m grieving, it’s particularly important.
Good sleep – I wrapped myself up in a duvet and surrounded myself with pillows, cushions and a cuddly stuffed dog. I must have got a good eight hours.
Meditation – I sat on my bed and meditated this morning. This helped me get in touch with myself, with what was really going on inside, and with what I needed to do to take care of myself today.
Tears –There have been plenty of those. But I know it’s good to let them out.
Phone call to mom – In the old days, when I wasn’t healthy and didn’t understand emotional intimacy, I couldn’t talk to my mom about boys. But in recent times, she’s been a real help, comfort, and voice of reason.
DIY – Not my strong point, but I got out some tools and started doing one of those jobs I’ve been meaning to do for ages, and one my friend will help me with later. He was good at DIY, but my friend and I will manage. It feels good to do something practical.
Service to others – When I’m hurting, I’ve learned it often helps to take the focus off myself. I bought a condolence card for a neighbor who’s just lost her step-dad to cancer, wrote it and popped it in her mailbox this morning.
Gratitude – I’m grateful I tried, I committed, and I gave it my best shot. I’m grateful we got so close, we were honest with each other, and we realized, sooner rather than later, it wasn’t working out. And I’m grateful that, despite the sadness, I have faith in myself, in life, and in love.
Katherine Baldwin is an independent journalist who writes women’s lifestyle, real-life, and first-person features for newspapers, magazines and websites around the world. Topics include dating and relationships, body image and eating disorders, personal development and spirituality. She also writes about women’s rights, humanitarian affairs and social entrepreneurship. Katherine is writing a book, called The Baby Gap, about the large number of women who are reaching the end of their fertile years, still hoping to have children and wondering what to do about it. You can find out more about her work at katherinebaldwin.com or read her blog at fromfortywithlove.com.