This time last year, I was completely heartbroken. While there was a lot of pain over many months, for me, there was a very specific breaking point. It was a Friday afternoon. After a few glasses of champagne in a beautiful restaurant in London’s Soho, I went to Fenwicks on Bond Street. There was a particular red lipstick I wanted from Bobbi Brown. I wasn’t in a good state when I arrived. I tried the lipstick, bought it, and walked out towards the underground station at Oxford Circus.
The tears started falling pretty much as soon as I hit Oxford Street. I’d been crying fairly regularly by this point, but this time it was different. It was more intense, and inside I felt panicked. A real sense of chaos. I tried to hold the tears back a bit on the tube, but without much commitment. In truth, I didn’t care too much if anyone saw. I was in deep pain, and that narrows your vision. You care about the reality of your internal emotions more than your external surroundings. What matters changes. Strangers don’t matter. The opinion of the vast majority of people doesn’t matter.
My journey was about 30 minutes. When I got home, I went straight into my room and started sobbing. Or maybe heaving is more accurate, like my entire body was crying, and I muffled my face with my tears. It was a horrible night. I cried solidly to the point of absolute exhaustion, but I could barely sleep.
It was my mom’s birthday the next day, and she’d come up to London to have a special family lunch. I got dressed and looked in the mirror—I looked like a ghost. I was so pale, with flakes of dry mascara on my cheeks. Despite makeup being quite an everyday part of my routine, I just couldn’t bring myself to put any on. Like the effort of presenting positivity was too hard. I just put my lipstick on, wiped my eyes, brushed my hair, and left.
When I arrived at the house where my parents were staying, my mom noticed pretty instantly. She looked at me inside the house and asked how I was. I said, “Not great, I’m struggling a bit and I can’t stop crying.” The tears started again, but I tried to shove them away, joking, “But happy birthday! Tell me about you.” She took my hand, looked into my eyes, and said, “Oh darling, tell me…”
There was something in her voice that was so hard to hear. Like she saw my pain and felt it too. I broke down, sobbing and shaking as she rubbed my arm and said, “I’ve never seen you like this.” It was true, I hardly ever cried before this period of time. But I’d never felt like that before.
I’ve heard a lot of people talking about heartbreak say it feels like you can’t live without that person, but I never felt like that. I always knew I could live without him. I’m very independent, and even if I wasn’t great on my own, the years of my life spent happily without him were evidence enough. No, I definitely didn’t feel that my life was over.
What I felt more was like absolute exhaustion, and intense anxiety, colliding. Like a stress level I hadn’t experienced before. And there was an emptiness, a kind of void of joy, which may sound like a cliche, but it felt like that. As though panic or a slight darkness was the only real emotion there and happiness, entertainment, and laughter didn’t have a place.
I knew I would get out of that place in time, but when you feel that way, days are long. Very long.
For the next three months, I cried more or less every day. Generally on my journey in and out of work. Sometimes at intervals through the day, where I would slip off to the bathroom and try and take a silent moment. I read somewhere that when you cry, you release manganese, which is good for you. I took comfort in that—that this process was part of a slow healing.
There were many things that got me through, one being optimism and a belief in the future—whether that was with or without the heartbreaker. I knew that I would get through this patch and into a new phase of excitement and joy. I made plans for my future and worked hard, taking comfort in the things which were in my control. I was determined to make this ending a good part of my life story.
Close friends and family were my backbone. What a gift! I got better a lot faster than he did because I was an open book and exposed my emotions and myself to a couple of people every day. When I felt like l was boring my friends and family, I transitioned to journaling. Journaling, or writing letters that you never send, is a really great way to process your feelings. Ultimately, when you’re in pain, your perspective and focus is quite warped and you can become quite self-absorbed and people are likely to lose interest in your pain before you’ve healed properly. Might sound a little harsh, but it’s true. Writing things down is another way to clear out the inner-monologue.
I also found reading and listening to other people’s experiences really helpful. Heartbreak is an incredibly isolating experience because your emotions are on a different plane than everyone else’s, as well as the fact you have to stay away from someone who was a big part of your life. A couple of books I found helpful included:
The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater by Alanna Okrun – “Just like I hadn’t known what it was to be loved, I also hadn’t known that the other person was allowed to stop loving you.”
Secrets About Men Every Woman Should Know by Barbara De Angelis – “We expect men to be competent in skills for which they have absolutely no training — the very skills, it so happens, that women are best at — the ability to express emotion, to be intimate, to nurture, and to love.”
How to Heal a Broken Heart in 30 Days by Howard Bronson and Mike Riley – “The truth is, no one knows what’s best for you. And there’s a very good reason for that. No one really understands your personal experience like you do.”
Something no one ever talks about positively but that really helped me was porn and eventually sex. While I understand it doesn’t do it for everyone, I have quite a high sex drive, and not having the release that sex gives intensified my emotions. Porn was helpful before I was comfortable and willing to be intimate with other people, then when I was ready, I did. This was very powerful in moving on; nothing flips your chemistry like sex does.
One thing I learned through my heartbreak is how exposing it is to love someone and how many little decisions you have to make about what love means to you. I truly believe it is about giving, not taking. That’s why it’s so painful when it ends, because you wanted to give so much. It can be about the giving though, and it can bring out more kindness and forgiveness in you than you new was possible. If you aren’t being treated right, you owe it to yourself to walk away, but you can maintain a kindness towards the other person despite how they’ve indirectly made you feel.
My ex started messaging me again last week, and it was the first time I realized I was over him. That while I still care about him, I’m not in love with him anymore.
If you’re struggling, trust in time and the future. Recovery from heartbreak is a long road, but at some point you are on the other side, and you really can be a kinder, stronger person when you get there.