The Best Heartbreak Recovery Advice

If you haven’t checked out The Hairpin, you really should. It’s a great website run by some kick ass chicks with a feminist perspective that isn’t insufferable and allows for feminism and make-up, which I’m all about. But I digress. One of their features is Ask A Lady, where readers ask for advice from a rotating set of anonymous ladies that generally give good advice. Last week’s Lady knocked it out of the park completely. My personal formula has substituted my “Dark Liquor & Heartbreaks” playlist and a bottle of Maker’s Mark for the anti-anxiety meds but pick your poison. I would also add that once enough time has passed and you are at a healthy distance from the relationship, it’s helpful to look for the lessons you’ve learned and ways to incorporate those lessons into being a better person BEFORE you move to the next relationship if at all possible.  Anyway, here is the Lady’s recipe for overcoming heartbreak.

Any advice for dealing with total, complete, utter, devastating heartbreak?

Awww, honey. First: I’m really sorry. Everyone has to go through this at least once in order to be a whole human being, but it’s absolutely one of the worst things. Not knowing anything about you it’s hard to give advice, so please take or leave the following suggestions, which will no doubt come across as trite, but have been proven to help.

1. This is going to sound fucked up, but hear me out: If there’s a legal way you can get your hands on some anti-anxiety meds (any of the -pams, but xanax is the best), and you’re not in recovery or something, it’s okay to do that. There’s a reason why they give people sedatives after they’ve been through emotional trauma. It won’t help very much, but it will take some of the edge off while you do the work and wait the time for the healing to happen.

2. (And this is really #1): You can’t have any contact with the person who broke your heart. “Contact” includes not only contact that you initiate, but also contact that the other person initiates, as well as online stalking them. Nothing and nobody can help you if you’re not following this rule, and your friends should police you on it (ask them to!). If you do not follow this rule, you don’t deserve to feel better. Yep, it’s that important. Tough love. (Obviously this does not apply to co-parents, though I would say it DOES apply to pet owners. The one who gets dumped gets the pet/s.)

Especially, be very careful not to fall into one of breakups’ most classic blunders: the “I Must Cover Up the Last Contact With a New Contact” blunder. (Oh, this blunder has happened to us all, and it’s the worst!) Even if the last contact you had with this person involved you hyperventilating, throwing a full glass of water on his or her laptop, threatening to sleep with his or her friend or rival, and then suddenly and inexplicably, I don’t know, crapping your pants in front of him or her and/or his or her new significant other, YOU SHOULD STILL NOT HAVE FURTHER CONTACT because it will still, STILL, make it worse. No matter what. It’s an absolute law of the universe! Maybe today can be the first day of nobody ever making that blunder again. The world would be a much less self-loathing place.

So get a cheap calendar and some foil stickers from the drugstore, and every day that you have No Contact give yourself a gold star. After two weeks of gold stars, you will officially feel better. After one month of gold stars, you will be noticeably Adjusting Well. (Do not let anyone find this calendar. Keep it under your bed.) (Also: I really did this and it worked.)

3. You gotta hurt. This is the worst part, but do you really want to get over this thoroughly and move on with your life and not still be talking about this person many years from now? OK. Then you have to go to all of the places where the pain is and feel every single bit of it. You have to seek out the pain like you’re playing a videogame where you get a point every time you find and deal with another aspect of your heartbreak. You have to tread and re-tread all the neural pathways and smoke it all out and give voice to all of your deepest fears about your loss and then conquer it by telling a new story about it. The story that’s always worked for me is “I was lucky to experience this relationship and I’ve learned from it, and just because a relationship ends doesn’t mean someone failed.” Just kidding, that has never worked for anyone, but try it on anyway because hopefully that’s how you will actually feel in a few months. Only time works, but it always works. You will get over this person. You are NOT the exception to the rule. Feel the pain until it bores you.

And I wouldn’t say this if I was sitting within slapping distance, but you actually can turn this into something you will look back on as a positive experience, with both the relationship and the heartbreak being a step you absolutely had to take on your life’s journey to something better. People, and not particularly strong or wise people, and people who were completely blindsided and doubled-over with grief at their initial heartbreak, do it all the time.

Also: I’ve found that good comedy shows are the absolute best heartbreak distraction. You really cannot cry at a comedy show, especially if you’re sitting near the front. (But for the love of god: not improv! Stand-up.) (Also: big hug.)

[The Hairpin]

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