Dear Cait, about a month ago I was horribly dumped by my boyfriend of 4 years. I was blindsided by the breakup and still don’t really understand his reasoning so there’s literally no closure. He won’t answer my calls, I feel like I’m only just hanging in there and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier AT ALL. He is all I think about and I know everyone says “you’ll get over it” but I honestly don’t feel like I will. I just don’t know what to do anymore because I don’t see my life ever moving past this point. Have you ever been in a situation similar to this? – B
Dear B – I could give you the classic spiel about time healing all wounds, but I figure you’re probably sick to death of hearing it, not to mention it most likely feels like a load of crap right now. Rest assured, it’s not. I promise that time will drastically reduce your pain if not completely eradicate it. But when you’re lying on the bathroom floor in hysteria, feeling as though your heart has just been annihilated by a 20-tonne steamroller, it’s not the most well received nor practical advice to give someone. I know, I’ve been there.
Throughout high school, I was in a turbulent on-off relationship with a guy four years older than me – a 6″5, witty, charismatic musician and the most intelligent person I’d ever met. He was the kinda guy that turned heads simply with his aura, and tall, dark and handsome would be an understatement. We fell into sync with each other so quickly and I’d never felt a feeling like it before. I was besotted with him. As in, I would have walked over broken glass or shaved my head to make things work. But like most teenage relationships, it didn’t. By the time I turned seventeen, it was over for good. My entire world caved in… leaving me the most distraught I’ve ever been, in the history of my life. Sorry not sorry for the melodrama – it really was that bad.
To give you some context – at the time, I was also recovering from an eating disorder and the abuse I was harbouring from my childhood had just started to resurface. Unknowingly, I’d become codependent on this guy and the breakup was the last straw, so to say. Plus with teenage hormones running rampant, I was positively suicidal. The only thing I wanted (other than my ex back) was for someone to hand me a roadmap with exact directions on how to get out of that place – and the fastest route possible, please! Unfortunately, no one ever handed me that map and the older I get, the more I am convinced no one actually owns one. So, I just had to accept the hellhole I was in and pray someday I’d find the strength to drag myself out of it. That period of time was almost unbearable. I remember every morning waking up only to be hit by an emotional freight train as my conscious mind became reaware of the situation I was in. Grief permeated my body from head to toe and I’m convinced it would have been easier to swim the Pacific than to face the day (and if you know me, you know I can’t swim, at all).
But somehow, I did manage to swing my wobbly little legs out of bed most mornings. For one reason and one reason only…. I had a dream of breaking into the beauty industry and becoming a world-class makeup artist. It was the only thing I wanted equally as much as I wanted him and in retrospect, I can see how this dream kept my head above water. Day and night I worked relentlessly, chipping away at this goal, pouring every ounce of energy into making the vision a reality. I connected with celebrity makeup artists, worked on freelance projects and by eighteen, was offered a job managing a beautiful cosmetics store, working as a retail makeup artist – I believe I was the youngest manager in the history of the company! At the time, I didn’t see any correlation between this career pursuit and my terrible heartbreak; It was just something I did in the midst of the breakup, without realising it was actually curing my broken heart, day by day.
See despite the fact that there’s no quick fix to heartbreak, no secret trapdoor to exit the hellhole, there are concrete steps you can take to keep your life moving forwards. And that’s really the key here – PROGRESS. So often when we’re in emotional pain, our immediate response is distraction. We surround ourselves with friends, book a trip to Fiji, drink ourselves silly or hop into bed with some guy we met at karaoke night. The problem is that at some point, eventually and inevitably, we will be back at home, alone and sober. When that time comes, the painful memories come flooding back and once again, we’re right back in that ditch, desperately trying to hold our heart together. The reason my career endeavour worked at aiding me through my breakup, is because it wasn’t a numbing distraction… it was something that gave my life purpose and allowed me to make progress. Unlike a one night stand or a boozy night out, each day I woke up feeling accomplished and as though my life was actually moving forward.
B, this is my advice to you – find something that will give you a real sense of achievement and fulfilment. It doesn’t have to be some extravagant elaborate goal, just something that gets you engaged in life again – anything that reminds you your life has purpose. Perhaps it’s a career pursuit like mine, maybe it’s taking part in charity work or simply doing pilates every day to get fitter. Whatever it is, ensure it’s something truly important to you and will leave you feeling as though you’re making progress. Then work at it. Every. Single. Day. I promise you, what comes next is real satisfaction and a newfound confidence to take on life again. And eventually, I think you just might wake up realising that you can’t even recall the last time you cried yourself to sleep. At least, that’s what happened for me.
I did eventually move on from that godawful breakup. And the cosmetics job lead to multiple other opportunities. I now work as a PA for the CEO of the company and help manage their social media and marketing. Looking back I can see the significant progress I have made, both emotionally and career wise since I decided to focus my energy on that dream at seventeen. It’s now over four years on and my goals and career path have changed dramatically, but I still believe in the progress-concept entirely. If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that my most recent breakup was only five months ago. A totally different situation to the last and although I definitely feel I’m handling things with more grace now I’m a mostly mentally stable, twenty-one-year-old woman, I’m still using the same method as last time – except now I’m doing it consciously.
We broke up in February this year and within a few weeks, I’d launched this blog – which I already believe to be the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I’m passionate about it, it gives me a sense of purpose and because I’m investing all my energy into it – every day I see progress. Not only in blog stats and follower counts and letters from my readers… but progress in my emotional state and my life in general. So, what’s the key to curing a broken heart? I believe it’s different for everyone. But the most practical piece of advice I can give you is to keep on making progress in a healthy area of your life. I know right now you may be so far into the heartbreak hellhole that you aren’t even able to see the tiniest spec of light at the end of the tunnel… but take it one day at a time, B. One foot in front of the other. If I can promise you one thing, it’s that the sun will always, always rise again.
You were a dragon long before
he came around and said
you could fly
You will remain a dragon
long after he’s left
– rupi kaur