Sometimes, especially in the beginning, a painful break-up hurts so bad that you forget what the happiness really felt like—it becomes more of an abstract memory that you know at least was not feeling completely hopeless, miserable, alone, abandoned, wronged, jealous, hurt, broken, choking, want-to-die, can’t-sleep--"back when we were together and things were decent and life had meaning and things were *happening* and there was someone to enjoy it with and help out if anything went wrong."
Now it’s just you and your pain. Pain that is literally all-consuming and you are absolutely SURE—you’ve never been surer of anything in your life actually—that the pain will never end and life is over.
I’ve been there. I mean on the floor, body contracting and trembling with I-can’t-believe-I-can-feel-this-much-pain pain.
Can’t laugh, can’t eat, can’t sleep, I was-put-on-this-Earth-to-suffer pain.
What do you do?
Well, at that stage, you have to do the only thing you *can* do, which is acknowledge that you are hurting, and let it wash over you so that you can let it go.
That level of intensity will, eventually pass (because all things do), and what generally is left is what I call “Attrition Pain”.
Attrition Pain is literally that: pain that doesn’t let up and weighs you down no matter where you go or what you do. Doing anything is hard because you literally feel like you are carrying a heavy load. Which, of course, in your heart, you are; but it feels like a real, physical load.
Attrition pain wears you down.
Attrition Pain is all the worse because it is multi-layered: every wound and trauma you ever experienced has been re-opened and activated.
ALL of it is attacking your attention and there is no escape because everywhere you go, look, hear, smell, taste, and touch triggers some memory that is now potently injurious because of the memory involved.
And those memories trigger memories until you’re suffering from a nuclear-chain-reaction-emotional meltdown.
You’re blaming you, you’re blaming them, you’re blaming your parents, you’re blaming your job, you’re blaming your finances, the dog, the weather, the kids today, the public at large…
But mostly you’re blaming you and you’re blaming them, and the resulting negativity/anger/guilt/second-guessing is toxic enough to be bottled and sold as an alternative to nerve gas.
How do you recover from an internal nerve gassing?
The answer is really one sentence, the same advice everyone gave, ever: “Let go and live your life”, but that is insultingly impossible unless you do the following:
1.) The worst (and most persistent—read: never-ending) kind of emotional trauma from a break-up is the kind where your house (identity) is gone because you built it on someone else.
You don’t know who you are (“Hello, my name is Abandoned”), and your source of strength, happiness, validation, stimulation, love, esteem, security, etc. (which was never enough, but at least it was something) is gone because you didn’t deeply and completely give yourself those things.
This happened to me, and I didn’t understand why. I loved with all my might and being, I cheerleaded, I was up for almost literally anything, I worked hard, I forgave unconditionally, I was always there, admitted my mistakes, apologized (oftentimes just to keep the peace), accepted blame, begged, nodded when everything I said was twisted around and used against me…
I gave and gave and gave and gave of myself and took and took and took abuse.
Why didn’t it work?
Because neither of us could give untainted, generous love and esteem because we didn’t love and esteem ourselves.
If you don’t love, validate, respect, value, trust, and esteem yourself, you 1,000% can not healthily or adequately give OR receive those things from others.
You will be a black hole who is never truly satisfied (my inferiority always made me think my ex- was crazy for giving me "the time of day"—but even so, the good they did was never "good enough" for me because only I—not they—could fix my brokenness). All your actions to compensate will be tainted. They will leave you abandoned or depleted, taken for granted, and doormatted.
People who are self-actualized won’t be able to stand being around you (and will leave), and people who are like you will be similarly trying to have their own emotional black holes filled, which of course you can no more do for them than they can do for you.
You have to be your own emotional house, and the only way to do that is to love yourself. And love isn’t a feeling, it’s a verb. An ACTION verb!
Loving yourself is stopping the constant cycle of blame-beatings, self-doubt with no purpose, second-guessing stagnation, my-superhero-name-is-Defeatist-Man-because-I-talk-myself-out-of-any-personal-growth-and-valuable-opportunities, this-person-didn’t-value-me-so-I-must-have-no-value-just-like-I-always-knew-to-be-true that is the mire of internal lack and dependency.
Love is taking the megaphone back from your fears and insecurities and instead encouraging yourself the way you would encourage a student. You are a student of Life.
Love is realizing your worth by using your talents and tools to build your dream life (however long or convoluted the building process might be).
Love is realizing your worth by no longer seeking validation (such as apologies, better treatment, praise, etc.) from the recalcitrant, impossible, unreformed, unapologetic people who hurt you. Love is voting for those things with your feet, by finding people who give those things whole-heartedly, purely, and generously, no begging or lecturing or millionth-time-explaining required.
Love is cutting all contact (or all emotional attachment/reaction) to those toxic, irascible people in your life who break you and bring you down.
Love is taking care of your body. Love is good manners, including looking and feeling good. It is having a way to feel fulfilled while providing for your bodily needs. If you need a career change, self-love is acting on that need every day until you get where you want to be.
Love is letting go of the poison and pain of past trauma by being aware of and ACCEPTING what you can not change and validating yourself instead of begging those who hurt you to validate your pain by empathizing (which many of them literally can’t even do), or admitting what they did and that it was wrong.
Don’t bother asking the snake that bit you to apply a tourniquet and suck the poison back out.
Living well is the best antivenin I know.
Love is taking care of you no differently than a child needs care.
The more that you SEE that YOU care about YOU, the more that you will actually believe that you are valuable, lovable, worthy, good, and respectable.
The more that you will enjoy the benefits of having your own back and having the truest best friend in the world, who has always been and will always be with you: Yourself.
Think of it this way:
If you constantly:
Stood by and watched as..
Or actively put...
Someone who was constantly emotionally, verbally, and/or physically abused, lied to, and manipulated...
YOU stood by and put them into these situations...
AND continually sabotaged and gossiped about them...
Spread their business all over...
Encouraged or enabled bad habits
If you did all those things to someone who was completely vulnerable and who was going through one of the darkest, lowest points in their life…what would you think and how would you feel about yourself?
No, I want you to re-read that and SEE it happening, as if in a movie.
Well guess what: that person completely at your mercy is YOU. No wonder you have trouble sleeping at night!
You can’t live with yourself if you treat people like that, you will always need something to distract you from the oozing sores on your soul.
*You* are a people.
Don’t treat *you* that way.
2.) Okay, so recovery is impossible without Step 1, but unfortunately, that does not mean that the pain will magically vanish and that you will never self-doubt, feel betrayed, get angry, hurt, etc. ever again.
Loving yourself, and healing, is a life-long CONSISTENT PROCESS, which is a two-word term for: