Immediately after a break up it is very common for us to go through a difficult time. We may feel stunned and disconnected from reality a bit. We may find our passion for things is greatly reduced. We may not feel excited about things as much and notice our energy level is much lower than normal. People describe wanting to sleep more, not sleep at all, drink more, eat more or not eat at all, and a loss of interest in day to day activities.
On paper these symptoms mirror depression in many cases. For most of us these feelings are short lived and slowly we find ourselves regaining our spark and re-engaging with our life. But for a few of us the symptoms linger. We go months and months with no real relief and our friends and family begin to comment on how we’ve changed. We may not be performing the same at work and most concerning we might not even care that things are different.
We may feel that we are faking it well. We go through the motions. We get up every day and go through our routine but inside we know we are struggling. Friends may suggest we need to “get back on the horse”, start dating again, stop wallowing in our pain, and just get back out there. However, the thought of seeing someone new isn’t even an option for us. We have zero motivation to begin something new and are firmly sitting in the past relationship’s pain.
This is something we need to take notice of. Whether it feels like we just can’t get past the pain or we are confused about what happened, we may be stuck in a place somewhere between the past and the present. We can’t let go of the pain and are ruminating about the relationship and trying to figure out where we went wrong. We can’t live in the present because that would signal we have moved on from the relationship and although the pain is hard, we remain attached to it. And we can’t look ahead because we can’t see a future without the relationship we are still hurting over.
No one knows how deeply the pain of the breakup hurts each of us. Although breakups happen all of the time and chances are it has happened to most of us, it doesn’t diminish the deep sadness that can linger for some of us. Perhaps we have been broken up with before and this is just another wound in an already overcrowded damaged ego. Or maybe this is a new experience and we don’t know how to handle the severe hurt and long lasting effects of the breakup. Either way, knowing when the behaviors we are experiencing are lasting longer than what seems helpful is vital to our recovery.
Asking friends or family for help may be in order at this time. Getting a loved one’s opinion about our reactions and allowing ourselves to be open and honest is vital if we want to begin to heal. Sometimes friends or family can provide that support and listening ear that helps us begin to move through the pain. With their support we can begin to see ourselves through their eyes and challenge the unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.
Maybe we still spend hours stalking the ex on social media, obsessing about who they are with or where they are going. Are they dating again? They look so happy! We can allow ourselves to wallow in self pity, blaming ourselves for not being good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. Or we may be angry at the ex and the relationship and find ourselves short tempered and rude to others. As these thoughts become habits, we can become locked in a destructive cycle that has no exit door. We circle around and around in our head, over and over, until we are so frustrated we feel as if we need to do something. This is a dangerous time when people make decisions from a place of raw emotion. You know all of the movies when the partner realizes he has made a mistake and rushes to the airport to catch her just as she’s at the airport ready to board the plane? This isn’t based on reality and unfortunately leaves many of us feeling like the impulsive, irrational gesture is good for us in the end.
So if your pain has persisted and it feels as if it has become a problem, you may need to seek out some additional support. Perhaps this breakup has triggered memories of previous neglect or abandonment that feel just as raw as when it happened however many years ago. Previous unresolved issues can be re-aggravated like a tooth that aches when you drink something cold. You’ve managed to dampen those hurt feelings down for years but now everything is mixed together and feels stronger than ever.
Take care of yourself. Make yourself a priority and don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help if you need it. We’ve all been there and it is difficult to manage emotions that rise up from a breakup. It is difficult but not impossible if you are willing to acknowledge how these emotions are impacting you, allow others to help you make sense of it and eventually begin to emerge from the muck.