break-up the breakdown
February 18, 2016 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Give me your tips on getting through the acute part of a break-up.

Details are not particularly important, but if relevant: we are not in the same city; we dated for more than five years; it is fairly mutual and amicable; I feel like I am going to die.

Everything seems to be aimed at people who are able to do things -- exercise, etc. I am doubled over and knocked down.
posted by quadrilaterals to Human Relations (29 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Give yourself a week in Emergency Mode: only do critical tasks like food and sleep and bathing (you won't want to, but showering and brushing your teeth will help you be more comfortable). If you have no choice but to work, do that as best you can.

Distract. Binge-watch or -read something (my last really devastating breakup involved reading the entire James Herriot All Creatures Great and Small body of work) - it doesn't have to be good, it just has to be compelling enough to give your eyes a place to go while the time passes.

It's actually the time that's going to do a lot of the heavy lifting right now. A week from now, you'll be surprised how different you feel than you do right this minute. Two weeks, a month, six months. A year from now you won't even really be able to remember the details of this week.

The exercise will come with the time. Do try to at least get some fresh air and sunlight in your eyeballs (and pineal gland) every morning so you don't give yourself jet lag on top of the rest of your misery.

Treat this like the flu, basically. Hydrate, eat nourishing but soothing food, rest, do the best you can to make yourself comfortable, do what you can to make the time pass, don't push yourself too hard, see a doctor if you're not getting at least a little better every day.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:00 AM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Sleep. Cry. Don't stop yourself from grieving. Eat what you can but don't be hard on yourself about it. Know that there will be multiple waves of grief but that this is the biggest hardest wave and it will pull you under and you will bob your way to the surface again. Flow with that riptide. Cry it out. You don't need to bob back up today. Trust that you will when it's time.

If you have a pet, bury your face in their fur. Snuggle into your bed. Take a sick day if you can. Be gentle with yourself. If sleep is hard, take medicine for it. Let the unnecessary tasks go by the wayside for now. It's okay.
posted by sadmadglad at 10:03 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Funny Youtube videos.

Easy food that's also filling, like soup.

Call or text every friend you have and especially parents/family.
posted by quincunx at 10:03 AM on February 18, 2016

If you miss one bus there is another on the way. It will come. Look for it.
posted by Postroad at 10:13 AM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago. Memail me if you want to talk about it because talking about it (yup sometimes to random internet people) helped me. But in the meantime, here are my tips for Short-Term Survival:

- Exercising and health overhaul is for when you get through the initial grieving stage. For now, eating nutella off a serving-spoon is A-OK, I can vouch personally for this.
- Watch comedy on tv, NOT romcoms or any of that shit, make yourself laugh, ideally at people more broken than how you feel; my despair-comedies of choice were Black Books, Monty Python and League of Gentleman.
- Get outside and Do Weather, if it's sunny, feel the sun on your face and let it sink in. If it's raining, go and get soaked, then come home and get warm and dry and have a hot cup of tea.
- Feed the birds
- If/when thoughts pop into your mind that you know this is for the best, let them form and realise that it doesn't take anything away from your sadness. Know that this is not a blow that you will never recover from. You will come back from this; until then, there is nothing wrong with sitting in the dust for a while. I did, and I'm back and at least 68% more awesome these days.
posted by greenish at 10:14 AM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, I'm dealing with this right now and literally eating cake for lunch right now because it's the only thing that I could even conceive of eating and I haven't had a real meal in days. Take a week or so and just get through it and be kind to yourself. Let your friends come over with ice cream or call them sobbing when you're alone and going crazy.

I've been here before and like others said, it will pass. Later is for exercising and doing things, right now is for just getting through it. I've been into Steven Universe and a little NyQuil at night to get me to sleep. Not healthy but it's not forever, either.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Call in your loved ones. When I was in this place, I contacted friend after friend and said, "Hey, I'm feeling sad about That Jerkface, and I really don't want to be alone right now. Can I come over?" They came through in a big way. We would drink tea or watch tv, and I would feel slightly less wretched, or at least, wretched but safe. Rinse and repeat.
posted by the_blizz at 11:02 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Funny Youtube videos.

I have three very important youtube search phrases for you to keep in your pocket for when you need them:

"goats screaming like humans"

"animals jumping on trampoline"

"video game glitches"

Sometimes what your very sad brain needs is something that pokes it in the absurdist lobe, and even when I am desperately miserable the goats and the glitches seem to push a button that releases one of those beneficial neurochemicals. Really great/awful puns, funny signs, and grammatical humor (like misplaced commas or misheard lyrics or mad libs or stuff like the Anguished English or Sniglets books) hugely push those buttons for me. And even goat videos I've seen dozens of times will still, even in my worst moments, at least make me snort.

(The animals on trampolines are just either cute or surprising.)
posted by Lyn Never at 11:19 AM on February 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

Comedies may help, but for me this is a time to watch the really sad, dark movies. The holocaust movies, sad documentaries, any critically acclaimed film you've heard is "important" but sounded too dark to watch on a date night. It may help you cry and find some perspective. Call a hair salon and make an appointment for a hair cut next week. Don't get a drastic style change - (unless mayyybbbeee if you have a trusted stylist who really recommends it). But do get a haircut and tell the stylist you're going through a break up. Say you don't want to talk, you just wanted to look nice. It can be really comforting to have touch from someone and when you look polished you may feel a bit better. If you can afford a massage, do that too. Schedule one every week for the next month if you can swing it! Rub some lotion into your feet and calves. Prop up the iPad on the toilet, pour a drink and take a bath while you watch the new Hannibal Buress special on Netflix. Or Broad City. Don't call or message the ex. Erase their contact info and block them on Facebook if you need to. You may be friends later, but right now you're grieving and contacting them will make it harder to heal. I'm sorry! I've been there, we've all been there. It's hard. Memail if you want to talk.
posted by areaperson at 11:26 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Marathon computer gaming. I like Simcity and Master of Magic.

Surf the best of Craigslist. It has good odds of making you feel like your personal pronblems are small potatoes.

Read Texts From Last Night. This is also likely to make you feel like you have your act together, and the entries are much shorter.

Watch tear jerk movies and cry your eyes out. Just sit there and ball like a baby unapologetically.
posted by Michele in California at 11:28 AM on February 18, 2016

Comedies may help, but for me this is a time to watch the really sad, dark movies. The holocaust movies, sad documentaries, any critically acclaimed film you've heard is "important" but sounded too dark to watch on a date night.

Similarly, in a similar situation I devoured shitty thrillers and dark true crime stuff. This may sound awful to you; the point is just that this is a time to indulge in whatever sounds good or at least neutral. If that means leaning into your sadness/anger/whatever, go for it.

Try to eat 2x/day. This may be really hard but it will help you maintain until you're through the worst. At least one of those times should have some protein and fat (scrambled eggs, a taco, whatever.) Try to remember to drink water every couple of hours.

If you have to be functional at work and you have access to them, anti-anxiety meds like Ativan or Xanax can help you stay upright. For a while, I found it calming to even just have the option.

Try not to bite peoples' heads off when they tell you it will get better (they're right, but it's completely normal and expected at this point to not believe it.)

I'm sorry!
posted by superfluousm at 11:42 AM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

You'll feel better in a few weeks. I always believed I was going to settle down with my true love and breaking up meant these men were not my true loves- but the first couple of days I would have a Valium in the evenings.
posted by catspajammies at 12:49 PM on February 18, 2016

Binge watch all of Dr. Who, starting at like, the David Tennant years.

Brush your teeth. Shower. Do not listen to music on the radio all of it is about relationships.
posted by slateyness at 1:11 PM on February 18, 2016

Best answer: A small mental trick that helped me a lot in my recent breakup was this: I thought to myself: "This is going to hurt a lot. But the pain is not a sign of anything; it doesn't have any meaning. I would hurt whether or not the breakup was the right decision, or whether it was a mistake. When a five year relationship ends, you hurt, and it's right that you hurt. The pain is just pain, and regardless of how good or bad the relationship was, it will come, and then it will pass."

In the past, I think I feel into a kind of spiral where, the more I hurt, the more I felt that my pain was a sign of how meaningful the relationship had been. That's not what it is. Don't read into it. It just is.

Also, I used my recent breakup as an excuse to occasionally not shower and wear more eyeliner than usual and be kind of grumpy and a mess, and while you obviously shouldn't take it to extremes, that was more helpful to me than immediately putting a bunch of pressure on myself to Get Revenge By Living Well. Do that next month. This month, let yourself get away with some shit. Five years is a LONG time.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 1:40 PM on February 18, 2016 [16 favorites]

- DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LISTEN TO ANY MUSIC YOU LOVE or you will taint it forever and won't be able to listen to it ever again without cringing or sadness and/or regret. I ruined The Breeders Last Splash and ALL of The National. Like a Fool.

-The flip side is DO actually set aside an album that is This Breakup's album. I found that something pop and dispensable was good, I did Taylor Swift and Adele. It lets me revisit memories of That Guy and those feelings but they're not songs I usually listen to so I can keep em separated.

- I liked crying to romcoms like Love Actually and About Time. I generally liked watching things that helped me bring on the crying, like Hachiko.

- Yes, eat whatever the hell you want.

- If you can, go outside, go for a run, at least sit in the sunshine for a bit. It's what you probably don't feel like doing but it really will help you feel better. Call in sick. You are.

- These are from previous Metafilter answers and they soothed me a lot. This by Aaron Bleyaert on Medium. And this, The Missing Piece and the Big O, by Shel Silverstein.

And here is a virtual hug from an internet stranger. Take care of yourself.
posted by stellathon at 3:17 PM on February 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

Things I did that in my normal state I would have been dismissive of, but they did help:
*Made the lockscreen of my phone a quote that I wanted to remind myself of and that I found comforting (I was dumped from a 5 year relationship over skype after he left me for someone he’d assured me nothing was going on with, so a bit of a different story; I made my lockscreen a photo of a card a friend had given me “better to have loved and lost than to have lived with the prick the rest of your life”) . This also helped with the no-contact.
*Joined an internet forum focussed on breakups to post and rant a little. I joined loveshack (I think there’s reddit equivalents too, not sure what they’re like). The forum was no way like metafilter in terms of feeling like you’re around a group of supportive lefties I’d probably get on great with/be in awe of in person (apologies for stereotyping), but it was full of a varied group of other ridiculously heartbroken people who largely had empathy for each other’s heartbreaks and who were in such a similar state to me (barely being able to get out of bed, still so totally in love while trying to convince myself I wasn’t) I found it comforting to be able to vent anonymously.
*Being honest about the pain I was going through with friends and family. I’m seen as pretty tough and self-sufficient and I naturally put on that front no matter want. It was incredible how receptive and supportive people were when I made it clear I was really, pathetically, not ok (and how much they’d been through it too- I found it comforting to hear their stories of heartbreak).
posted by hotcoroner at 3:28 PM on February 18, 2016

An immersive game like Neko Atsume is an easy thing to do when you feel panicked/overwhelmed with sadness, or an urge to contact your ex. I was used to exchanging emails/text throughout the day from my ex and it was such a helpful distraction those first few weeks (Neko Atsume in particular is good because it encourages you to log in as many times as possible throughout the day).
posted by veery at 3:57 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Specifically re: the feeling like you are going to die, I take as my mantra the words of Leonard Cohen:

"They don't let a [wo]man kill you, not in the tower of song."
posted by 8603 at 3:58 PM on February 18, 2016

Eat ice cream and cry. Sometimes that's what "Dealing with it" looks like.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:47 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

During my last difficult breakup, I did following things:

- read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- cried like I hadn't in years
- clean the house like I hadn't in years
- listened to Astral Weeks by Van Morrison
- took mushrooms

Your mileage will vary.

If you have issues from the relationship that you're trying to work through, I recommend reading A Guide To Personal Happiness by Ellis and Becker. Also, please eat something.
posted by roll away the dew at 7:40 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh it is hard. It is so, so hard.

Rastafarians have the concept of one love. In past breakups I thought a lot about the opposite.. the empty, blinding pain and grief that follows the loss of a relationship. It's damn near universal. It's as human as breathing and pooping and fighting and fucking. Maybe you can take a tiny sliver of solace in feeling part of something bigger.

Just go be a mess. If you are laying on your kitchen floor sobbing and looking at your phone right now, keep on keeping on. All of the rest of the stuff they say to do post-breakup.. walking, exercise, binge watching trash TV... you don't have to do it yet. You're just too damn sad, and that's ok.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:51 PM on February 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Comic books & horror movies (i binged on 80s and 90s horror for weeks).

You know anyone with a dog? they are the best to hang out with when you dont feel like talking to anyone but could do with the company. uh, like the dogs, not the owner.

Also, making popcorn the old school way - its like a mini break from your brain - you gotta focus on that shit so you dont set off all the fire alarms.

And i thought this doc, Human was really stunning.

keep your head up. hugs!!!
posted by speakeasy at 11:38 PM on February 18, 2016

Get a bar of chocolate and melt it for 30 seconds in the microwave (poke to see if gooey and repeat if necessary. Gooey warm chocolate helps me with grief.

I'm also a fan of making a change to my living space when something big happens. Rearrange, buy new bedding, box up stuff that is only associated with your relationship. This takes some energy but it feels good.

When I can't sleep because of unwanted feels, I go to the funny section of imgur and scroll through stupid, funny shit until my eyes droop closed.
posted by toomanycurls at 11:40 PM on February 18, 2016

If possible:

- Order comfort food. Like, your favorite, favorite meals. You probably don't have the energy to cook, and you're going to need to eat.

- Give yourself permission to feel all the bad feelings and know that it's completely okay and normal and it will pass.

- Journal: if you can muster will, try to write down how you feel

- Volunteer: Even if you're crying and a mess.. This helped me a lot during my most excruciatingly painful breakup. I didn't try to hide the fact that I was sad and upset (I went to the bathroom a few times to cry and when people asked what was going on, I told them) - but focusing on other people in need helped curb my pity party. I still felt awful but I also felt like "Geez, it could be worse and there are other people besides me in the world who are suffering and it feels good to think about them and try to help."

- Find a friend to process with.. a very patient and wise friend.

- Go to therapy. During that awful breakup, my therapist helped convince me that life would go on when I couldn't see a way forward.
posted by Gray Skies at 6:02 AM on February 19, 2016

Best answer: Mourn your love. Mourn it like a death, because that's what it is. You have lost someone. yes, new someones will come, but they will be different someones and you don't want that right now. let yourself mourn this particular special one and this moment in time you shared that can't be replicated. You got everything you were going to get but what you got is always yours. No one else will get that special thing you got the way you got it. you get to keep it forever.

keep your moments bite sized. When you feel overwhelmed, choose an increment of time that feels doable to you, whether it's 1 day or 1 minute, and give yourself permission to just get through that and re-evaluate when you've passed that milestone. You are at the beginning of a long journey. Your goal now is to just take the next step.

Get massages. Let someone touch you, nurture you, without question or expectation.

Seek tiny islands. Strangers. Places that make you feel anonymous but not alone. Where you can watch life happen but no one asks you how you are because they don't care.

Best of luck to you.
posted by amycup at 7:03 AM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If you have to work, here's what helped me in a similar situation.

Open your inbox (or wherever your tasks live).
Pick one that looks kind of important.
Do the first step, whatever that is. Need to write an email? Open the blank email.
Pause. Grieve. Freak.
Type in the person's email address.
Pause. Grieve. Freak.
Type the first line.

Etc. Basically just do one small step at a time. You won't be as productive, but you'll at least get one thing done a day, which will carry you until things start to improve.
posted by RogueTech at 8:52 AM on February 19, 2016

Do not listen to music on the radio all of it is about relationships

Absolutely 100% true. Only the infatuated and broken-hearted really notice this. I remember yelling WHY IS EVERYTHING ABOUT PEOPLE AND THEIR STUPID FEELINGS at the radio several times post-breakup.

You're going to be a raw, exposed nerve for weeks and there's nothing to do but let it gradually heal. However, try and take the time to notice when that raw, exposed state lets you enjoy things more than you would normally be able to do. I have a clear memory of being absolutely fucking delighted to unexpectedly see a squirrel while I was dejectedly charlie-brown-walking around my neighbourhood. Try and let things like that drag you out of your head and into the moment when you can.

Unrelated: Here is a cat in a monkey suit.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:08 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Knowing I wasn't the only person in the world to go through a terrible break up helped. Knowing that everyone eventually gets through a horrible break up also helped.

I leaned heavily on my family and friends. My mom really helped me by forcing me to get out of the house and going to movies and lunch with her. I couldn't eat anything for weeks after the break up, but getting out really helped. Finding someone who wouldn't judge me for crying and ranting on about how unhappy I felt also helped a lot.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:39 PM on February 19, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you, all, so much.
posted by quadrilaterals at 11:57 AM on February 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

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