This past week marked two months since my breakup, and I’ve been working extremely hard to get through it, not over it.
The title for this was inspired by a powerful song called ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ by Meg Mac.
In truth, it feels like I’ve been on this journey for months, and in some ways I have. I’ve come a long way since publishing Shrike. When you work through something you process it. When you move over something you ignore it. The latter will come back to bite you.
I realised I was subconsciously preparing myself for the inevitable because the signs were there, I just chose to ignore them. They came in the form of sporadic bouts of severe anxiety, anxious attachment, reoccurring nightmares about my relationship and a couple of panic attacks. My body was trying to tell me something was wrong, and I didn’t listen to it.
I’ve learnt my lesson now, thanks.
Moving back into my parents’ house for the second time in the space of 3 years was tough and I was angry AF, especially being a different person compared to who I was in 2019. It wasn’t just down to the fact that I’ve grown so much in my strength, but have since established a life for myself in Joburg. I have a great job, my own money, more friends, routine and familiars.
When I returned in 2019 I had nothing but a broken version of myself and two suitcases.
I spent the first few days post-breakup in flight mode – running on pure adrenaline, starving myself and packing my things into boxes. I briefly toyed with the idea of going overseas again and promised my mother all of my glass jars and houseplants. Anyone who knows me well enough will understand the gravity of that, and agree when I say that I was most definitely teetering on the edge of temporary insanity to even entertain the idea of giving away my belongings and running back overseas to basically nothing.
Moral of the story? Trust nothing someone who’s just had their heart broken does or says. The only thing they really need is a shoulder to cry on and someone who can make sure they’re eating, sleeping and getting enough fluids. I’m lucky enough to have a support system that ticks all of those boxes, and I will always be so extremely grateful for them for helping me get to where I am today and in such a short space of time.
Heartbreak isn’t something I had really experienced before, not like this anyway. When people tell you it physically hurts, believe them. I didn’t understand this myself until I started having moments over the first two weeks where I literally felt like I was going to die. The pain was at times so overwhelming that I actually thought for a few seconds that I’d rather just die then and there than deal with it.
Even though I was in an excruciating amount of agony I still managed to laugh a lot, but this is indicative of the rollercoaster one finds themselves on during a breakup. It was wild!
Moving into my new place a couple of weeks later brought about a huge amount of freedom and stability, and has allowed me the space to grow in places where I’ve needed to for a long time now. It’s mine, and no matter what happens I have a safe place that rides on me and nobody else. I’m learning to enjoy my own company, that it’s okay to spend a Friday night alone on the couch eating Pad Thai, and if I want to spread myself across the entire bed I can.
I’m learning to be independent again and it feels really good.
Dwelling on the breakup and the what-ifs is utterly pointless on a long-term basis. It’s over, move on.
Realising that’s always easier said than done, I wanted to share some tips on getting through a breakup and dealing with heartbreak, as I really feel my approach has worked. If you’re dealing with this yourself, whether or not it’s fresh or something that happened a while ago that you can’t quite shake, then pay attention.
I started listening to podcasts the morning after I was broken up with.
Best. Decision. Ever.
A close friend of mine shared a link to the Instagram account of an amazing woman called Kendra Allen, who has an incredible platform called Break Up Bestie. Her podcast channel is called Heal Your Heartbreak, and I can confidently say that her podcasts have been huge in my healing process.
She covers all sorts of topics relating to heartbreak, relationships, dating again and moving on from exes. I listened to them religiously in the beginning but not as intensively now that I feel a lot more secure. They were a great source of comfort when I needed something to drown out the noise in my head and didn’t want to aimlessly scroll through social media, wasn’t able to read or found myself awake at 2 am in a complete state. Kendra is like a good friend in your ear telling you it’s going to be okay and helping you make sense of it all.
Another great one is The Love Drive by Shaun Galanos. He’s someone I recommend listening to once you’re over those initial couple of weeks because some of the topics he covers might be a bit premature in those early stages. His approach to love and relationships is very modern, but something I totally identify with.
Therapy is something that every single person should be in. I realise that I’m saying this from a position of privilege where I can afford it, but I truly believe that it should be made accessible to everyone and the stigma around it is complete bullshit. There is absolutely no shame in therapy, working on your mental health and admitting you suffer from things like anxiety or depression, or just need help to figure some stuff out.
I actually find people instantly more attractive if they even utter the words “therapy” or “therapist”, because it proves that they are willing to do the work and are actively trying to make themselves better humans. We don’t always get it right straight away, but the fact that there’s intention speaks volumes.
Even if you’re not wanting it to be a long-term thing, get yourself into a therapists office and let it out. I went for 4 sessions during the first month of my breakup and it was a tremendous help when it came to bouncing a few things of someone who was able to look at my situation objectively, as well as help me unpack a few things.
Exercise and Meditation
I grouped these together because I feel like even though the one involves increasing your heart rate and the other sitting or lying down quietly somewhere, they both assist in drowning out intrusive thoughts and ultimately leave you feeling more relaxed with a better sense of clarity. The added bonus with exercise is that your body becomes stronger while seeing physical changes, aiding in giving you a major self-confidence boost.
There is something phenomenal about a post-breakup glow-up and using heartbreak as a means to form healthier habits when it comes to taking care of yourself. You do it for YOU, that’s it. Doing it for someone else just gives them power when they don’t have the right to hold any of that anymore.
I thankfully got back into exercising 4-5 times a week before my breakup, but I’ve definitely pushed myself more and my stronger body compliments my stronger mind. I joined JEFF and am currently on my 4th challenge, which has been amazing. I’ve met some incredible women through it and have a strong support system within the accountability group I’ve been a part of for a few months now.
I meditate at night before I go to sleep, as this is an area where I’m still struggling. I’m either not able to fall asleep thanks to my very active mind or I’m waking up between 4 am and 5 am. I was prescribed sleeping pills for the nights where I really suffer, but so far I’m not using them as often as I was in the beginning because the meditation is doing such a great job.
I’m a big fan of Headspace and listen to the ‘Rainday Antiques’ Sleep cast every single night. The other night it was pouring in Joburg and I opted to fall asleep to that instead – it was probably one of the best night sleeps I’ve had in a long time!
Friends & Family
Surround yourself with people who love and care for you. I want to emphasise this in the hope that more people will start opening up to their friends and family and stop suffering in silence. I’m not saying you need to involve every single one of them, because there are definitely those who you can and can’t deal with this kind of stuff, but it’s important to identify those who can and allow them in.
I have friends who literally checked up on me every single day for the first month, which was totally unexpected but also an absolute lifesaver. I was able to tell them the truth when they asked me how I really was, without judgement. They listened to my teary voice notes telling them how much I was hurting, and how I never felt like I’d ever feel whole again. In turn, they were able to tell me some hard truths and help me see the wood for the trees.
My youngest sister basically became my emotional support animal and I can say with absolute certainty that 50% of the reason why I bounced back as hard as I have is because of her. In the past two months, she has become one of my best friends and proof that beautiful things can come out of painful situations. I lost one relationship and gained another one that will last a lifetime.
It’s okay to be honest about not being okay. There is so much strength in your vulnerability.
Music has been a tool I’ve used to cope with all sorts of things for many years. I’ve spent hours making various playlists that I can listen to depending on what mood I’m in. There’s nothing quite like popping your earphones in, lying down on the couch or bed and zoning out to music that allows you to feel a range of emotions. Embrace it, let go and just be.
Dance by yourself as well.
Here are two of my current playlists:
A permanent stack of books sits on my bedside table, compromising a good mix of self-help, fiction and non-fiction. I’m not always reading them, but they’re there.
Three books I highly recommend:
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle
- The Unexpected Joy of Being Single by Catherine Gray
- Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – And Keep – Love by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller
This needs to be a standalone post but I wanted to touch on it briefly here. Healing from a breakup isn’t linear and doesn’t come in the form of a specific time period. There are no rules, everyone needs to do what works for them.
I needed to convince myself that there were still single men in the world, so I downloaded Bumble around 2 weeks after my breakup, which was a terrible idea and far too soon for me. It resulted in a total meltdown and crying for hours on a Friday night, feeling like I’d cheated on my ex even though we weren’t together (I also hadn’t even gone on a date with anyone, it was sparked by a random in-app conversation with someone).
A month later I was in a better place, a lot stronger and decided to give it another shot. Happy to say I’ve been going on a few dates and using them as a way to practice securely meeting people without diving headfirst into another relationship. As my sister put it – I need to date without thinking that we’re going to get married if it goes well.
Dating is a great way of meeting new people, reminding yourself that future love is possible and that your relational potential is still there. You’re also never going to figure out what you want if you’re not dating. As long as your intentions are there and you aren’t going to end up repeating old patterns, then get back out there!
It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking how distance and time can give the insights you’d never be able to see while in the thick of things. Once the dust and shrapnel have settled, you’re left holding on to whatever parts of yourself you have left and you do what you can with them.
Roll up your sleevesMeg Mac
And roll up your sleeves
Everything is gonna be alright
Oh everything is gonna be alright