Falling Apart Safely-Guide to Surviving a BreakUp
Now that we have squared away how to get some peace and quiet for yourself, and whom to contact and how, let's move on to the brass tacks of dealing with an initial breakup. You are not yet ready to do a lot of loving things for yourself that will make you feel better and help you inch back toward your prebreakup level of self-esteem or better. You are probably feeling selfdestructive. That's normal. This section is about passing some time safely.
Drugs And Alcohol
You know your limits better than I do, but we both know that your judgment probably isn't at its best right now. For myself, having several cocktails a few nights in a row in the wake of a breakup has been perfectly fine, even great. For you, this might be reckless or worse. So I'm outlining some don'ts and some general ideas that I hope will make you pause and think if you are making decisions about drugs and alcohol use.
Whatever choices you make, remember that it is completely normal for you to be in a lot of pain right now. Also keep in mind that in order to get through the pain, you have to feel it. This is NOT-thank god-an active process. Your brain is at work processing and accepting your heartbreak even as you are lying on the couch crying. But if you numb your brain with mind-altering substances for the next month, it won't perform its usual functions and you won't get any closer to feeling better.
* Don't get behind the wheel of a car unless you are stonecold sober. Even then, you are probably tired and blurry-eyed, so I recommend having someone else who is not in the middle of personal trauma chauffeur you around for a little while. Or take a cab.
* Don't take any drugs that have sketchy origins. You don't know what is really in there. You could be risking your life here. I can't say it firmly enough. This is totally unacceptable under any circumstances.
* Don't take any drugs you haven't tried before. This is not the time for experimenting.
* Don't take more than the recommended doses of any prescription drugs or any over-the-counter medicine you have around. As with any serious thoughts of suicide, if you feel yourself heading this way, take action NOW. You need to get professional help right away (see appendix). This is not the time to concern yourself with what other people might think or whether you yourself hold the ignorant belief that getting professional help makes you "crazy" or any less of a person. It doesn't matter. The most important thing is that when you are feeling horrible, you get yourself help. You will find later that it means that you are brave and smart and love yourself.
* Don't take any drugs if you have a history of drug abuse. You know this better than I do.
* Don't take any drugs when you are alone.
The Hard Stuff
Obviously there are a lot of different drugs out there that do different things. You may do none of them. You may do some of them but would never ever touch others. You may have tried many of them. What I'm saying is this: Don't do them now. What felt good when you were feeling good will most likely feel dramatically different when you are feeling terrible. And by different, I mean completely f- king horrible, horrible when you are on the drug, horrible when you are coming down, and potentially horrible for days after. If you have drugs around and you are concerned about taking them, give them away ASAP or literally flush them down the toilet immediately.
* Don't drive if you've had anything to drink, and probably don't drive anyway.
* Don't drink if you are a recovering alcoholic. Call your sponsor. You know this better than I do.
* Don't drink more than you usually do when alone. It can be dangerous.
Don't mix your drinks. It's just never a good call.
For many reasons, even if you are not much of a drinker, you may feel moved to tie one on under the circumstances. Just keep in mind that your body isn't used to it. You will get the spins and very likely throw up. Even if you are a regular drinker, if you consume more alcohol than usual, you are going to get sick. I recommend not exceeding what you might do on any old Saturday night. You don't want to make yourself feel worse than you do ordinarily.
Unless you have a history of eating disorders, there is probably very little that you can do on this front in forty-eight to seventy-two hours that is going to make much difference down the road.
When I am feeling incredibly hurt, I can barely eat. Normally I eat plenty, so if I'm consuming only Cool Whip and cigarettes for a few days, I don't worry about it. My appetite has never failed to come back when I am feeling better. But there are limits. If you haven't eaten anything for more than twenty- four hours, try to eat something. I find it best to force myself to eat a piece of toast or some pretzels. It doesn't really matter, but YOU don't want to eat so little that you start to make yourself feel light-headed and faint. If you are coming up on forty-eight hours and you still can't get yourself to eat something, you need to tell someone and get help.
While you don't want to make yourself feel sicker than you probably already do, feel free to indulge yourself in any cravings you have. One friend of mine likes to eat cartons of chocolate frozen yogurt out of the containers while sobbing. My friend Samantha's favorite man-hating meal is liverwurst and Swiss with tons of mustard. It doesn't matter. Eat whatever you want. Two or three days of it isn't going to affect your weight in the long run. Remember, takeout can be your best friend during this time of need.
You've been crying. Maybe you've been drinking. Maybe you are extremely hungover. Any which way, you should drink some water. Extreme dehydration probably isn't a serious concern, but even low- level dehydration will make you feel worse than you already do. Also your skin and hair need water to look their best. Do yourself a tiny little favor and drink a few glasses of water every day.
If you are not a smoker: This is a bit dicey. I've seen several friends smoke a few or many cigarettes during the first few days of a breakup and drop it easily when they are feeling better. You know yourself better than I do. I will caution you that when I was nineteen, I had never smoked until my boyfriend dumped me while I was staying With him in Washington, DC. I had only one friend there, and she was having some serious problems of her own and was never around. It seemed comforting to have a few smokes. It reminded me of my girlfriends who were away for the summer. It's been twelve years now and I still haven't quit. It's not that I don't love smoking, but we all know that it's horrible for you. If you indulge during this time, try not to let it go on for more than a week because you could end up spending the next decade smelling like an ashtray.
* If you have recently quit: God, love you. I know it's rough, but if you can avoid starting again, you will be your own personal hero. If you do start, promise yourself that you have exactly one week to smoke and don't break that promise. He's just not worth destroying your tremendous accomplishment.
* If you are a smoker: Smoke on, baby. This is not the time to quit, and a few extra cartons aren't going to make it or break it with lung cancer. Sure, quitting could be in your nearish future, but another few weeks of smoking probably won't make any difference. If you decide, because you are superhuman, that you want to quit now, get help doing it because it's hard enough even without already feeling like hell.
You may be one of those intimidating people who have to exercise every day and have been doing so for decades. In that case, you (a) frighten me and (b) should probably go sweat it out. But if you don't think you can handle it, that's totally cool too. A few days of skipping the gym won't make the slightest difference in the scheme of life or, more important, to your fine physique. If you are not prone to working out regularly, do not even think about forcing yourself to start now unless you are bizarrely moved to, as in an out-of-body experience. It can't hurt, but keep in mind that you are in a "no- pressure" zone.
You may use manila envelopes at work, but did you realize how handy they can be in a breakup?
Find everything that he's given you, or that belongs to him, or that reminds you of him, and put it in a manila envelope with his name written on it. This includes letters, printed out E- (if you have a lot of E-mails from him on your computer and aren't ready to lose them forever, print them out and then delete them all so you won't have to see them whenever you go to check your mail), photos, mix tapes, slim volumes of poetry. This process ensures that every time you turn around you won't see his face and also means, if you are as thorough as I am, that you won't be innocently going about your moping and stumble across that "love postcard" he wrote you when he was on vacation with his family in Florida. Then take everything that doesn't fit in a manila envelope, including that snuggly sweater, his boxers, the Kiss albums, and put it all in a garbage bag. Then shove the garbage bag in the back of a closet.
I find this activity extremely helpful, and it also helps pass the time. Of course, it can be a tad more challenging if you lived together. Obviously that hideous sofa will not easily fit in the envelope and you will need to plan some trips to the dump with your brother and his pickup.
You have now successfully ex-boyfriend-proofed your place. If you are like me, this means that you can now breathe a little easier.
Imagine a place that is a safe happy place for you. It can be your grandmother's attic where you used to play with your cousin. It can be your fantasy of a thatched hut on a tropical beach as the sun is setting. Now, how does it smell? What is there besides you? A hammock, a quilt, a pina colada? Get acquainted with this place. And then go there in your mind whenever you start feeling panicky or overwhelmed with grief Go there when you are sitting on the subway, when you are in a crowded elevator, when you are at home alone and feel as if you are falling apart. Stay there in your mind until you feel a little better.
Now pick your favorite place in your home. For me, it would have to be the bathroom with the bathtub running. For you, it might be sitting in your favorite chair by the window. And then decide that this is your safety zone. That means that when you go to that place, things are all right, things are going to get better. Nothing bad happens to you in that place. The next time YOU start feeling really bad, go to your safety zone. As many a late night infomercial will tell you, it's amazing how you can get yourself to feel better by using the power of your own mind.
Lying in bed in a fetal position. Sometimes you've just got to do nothing and be a miserable wretch. Try not to spend more than one complete day doing this. After twenty-four hours of said behavior, you should try to mix it up a little.
Walking ... for five minutes. You may not feel ready to get out of the house, but a superbrief walk around the block and a little fresh air might be a manageable break from sobbing on the couch. Be sure to go incognito-a hat and sunglasses will do.
* Movies. You may not feel up for going to the movies, but at least it's dark in there so no one can see your puffy eyes and red nose. Also, going to the movies during the day pretty much guarantees that you won't run into anyone you know since they are toiling at the office. (Sunglasses in theater optional.)
If you don't have a VCR or DVD, I feel for you. You should try to get your hands on one right away. Forcing yourself to watch and possibly cry through movies is very therapeutic. Of course, avoid movies that are going to remind you of him and make you feel even worse. Anything tragic and all serious dramas are out. This is not the time to see if Kramer vs. Kramer was as harsh as you remember. Stupid comedies are good and so are golden oldies.
Watch my recommended movies from the list on the next page, watch some other movies. It doesn't really matter. just force yourself to sit through a few movies, and inevitably time goes by.
TV. It is essential to watch a lot of TV-especially bad TV-when you feel that the bottom has fallen out.
More than likely, you are not capable of doing much beyond what I've suggested in this chapter during the first few days following a breakup. If you feel you can do more, you are doing better than me and all my friends and you can move ahead to the suggestions in the next chapter. If you can't, don't worry. The complete emotional turmoil of what you are going through right now will pass. My friend Hannah, when she was really bottoming out, said to me that she wished she could just be in a coma for a month. But she and I both knew that being in a coma wouldn't really help. She would wake up from it as tortured as she was when she conked out. You just have to live through these dark days. That's it. And if you can just hold on, you will feel better despite yourself.
Top 5 Movies And TV Shows to Distract You
Top 5 Movies to Distract You
1. Airplane: This is one of the funniest movies of all time. Whether you speak jive or not, it's sure to crack at least a smile.
2. Nine to Five: The only problem with this classic is that the theme song is so infectious you may never get it out of your head. The combination of Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin is pure joy.
3. Private Benjamin: Who can resist Goldie Hawn's goofy charm? And, as my friend Emily pointed out, you may have it bad but at least you don't have Captain Doreen Lewis breathing down your neck.
4. The Thin Man: This is one of my favorite movies of all time. The only old-fashioned thing about it is the extraordinary amount of booze consumed by Nick and Nora Charles. William Powell and Myrna Loy are perfect in this dynamite combination of comedy and mystery. You won't find wittier dialogue anywhere.
5. Fletch: Yeah, you've forgotten about this treasure because you've probably forgotten that Chevy Chase was ever funny. But he was, and nowhere was he funnier than here. Check it out.
Top 5 TV Shows to Distract You
1. Magnum, PI: It was great then, and nothing has changed. That's because it's all reruns.
2. Charlie's Angels: Not the movie, silly! Yeah, they're somewhere inside your TV in reruns. Find them. Whatever trio you tap into, remember that the girls are your friends.
3. Friends and Seinfeld: Not my personal favorites, but everyone else likes them so maybe you do too. I think collectively they are on about seventeen times a day, so if you can use your remote control you should be able to watch them.
4. Ally McBeal: I am not a big fan of this show, but if your mind is not already numb from pain, this should do the trick. Also, Ally is always getting dumped.
5. Sex and the City: I watch this show and I like it a lot. MY brother thinks it's offensive to women. As I pointed out, however, not half as offensive to women as when he sleeps with them and doesn't call them again. Anyway, it's about four broads with a taste for expensive accessories, doing trendy things in New York, who are chronically dealing with breakups. There's at least one breakup per episode. But it's smart and lighthearted. If you don't have premium cable, this may be the time to spend that $12.95 per month.