So you just got dumped. Oh, Lord, here they come, all the symptoms of a broken heart. The crushing weight in the middle of your chest, the unpredictable episodes of ugly, snotty sobbing, the inability to think of anything else. Your life has just been totally derailed, and no one has ever been as truly, deeply miserable as you are right now. You might be dying, really. There's just no way to know for sure.
I recently found myself in this disastrous state. I was lying in bed, clutching my cell phone to my chest - because, of course, any moment he might call and take it all back, and everything would be sunshine and rainbows again - and it occurred to me that I had no idea what to do next. How was I supposed to get out of bed in the morning? How could I possibly go to class, to work, and act like a functioning human being? I wasn't functional. I was a mess.
When I turned to the internet to find tips about surviving the horror of my crushed, broken heart, I read a lot about spending quality time with myself. Suggestions that I take up knitting or racquetball were rampant, and it was apparently very important that I ate well, drank lots of water, and exercised.
Okay. That sounded great. But I hate knitting, so I needed a different way to go about things, and maybe you do, too.
Tip #1: Unless You're Wearing a Tiara, Forget the Stiff Upper Lip
Yes, the ugly, snotty sobbing is deeply unattractive and maybe a little self-indulgent, but you're not a British royal and you don't have to impress anyone. Let it out. Cry until your eyes are puffy and your head hurts, if you feel the need. Wail into your pillow, call you mom and weep about how unfair the world is, whatever it takes. Let it out early and often. You'll feel better afterward. You might want to shut your door first, though. This isn't something the rest of the world needs to witness.
Tip #2: Stop Talking to Your Brand New Ex-Boyfriend Immediately
No texting, no late night phone calls, no "oops, I dialed your number accidentally, and by 'accidentally' I mean with absolute deliberation," no emails. This is the toughest part, but the most necessary. You have to learn, as quickly as possible, how to get through the day without your ex. It's true that you might be friends someday, but right now, you're not friends and you're not dating, so why should you talk? After someone tells you they don't want to be with you anymore, what else is there to say?
So what if he calls, emails, or texts you? That must be a good sign, right? He's missing you and thinking about you, and maybe if you talk just one more time, you can fix things.
Don't do it. Just don't. Don't take the bait, because really, that's all it is. Maybe he misses you the moment he sends that text, but don't forget that just a short while ago, this guy decided his life would be better off without you in it. So delete his number, block his incoming calls and texts (Verizon lets you easily do this online, I imagine other phone carriers do as well), and redirect his emails straight to your trash. It sucks, but it's the right thing to do for yourself.
Tip #3: "Girls Gone Wild?" Yeah, Bad Idea
There's always a well-meaning friend who thinks you can drink away your pain. While leaving your house and being social is a great step, watch yourself. Getting sloppy drunk and falling down in front of the bar is embarrassing; it's a million times worse when you're already feeling vulnerable and humiliated.
Drinking will also make it much more likely that you'll end up sleeping with someone way too soon. In your desperate quest to reaffirm that you're still desirable and attractive, a scrap of attention from a cute boy at the bar might seem like it's exactly what you need. It's really not. Remember that part about feeling vulnerable and humiliated? Don't make it worse by getting naked with another guy just because you can. I could tell you to wait three months, or six months, or a year, but there really isn't a set amount of time that works for everyone. You'll know what's right for you.
Tip #4: Give Your Friends a Break
Your friends are invaluable during a break up. They'll hold your hand and remind you that there are a lot of people in this world who love you just the way you are. They'll listen as you sob about how awful you feel, and how your ex is the worst person in the world, or the only person you'll ever love.
Don't go overboard; after awhile, even the best of friends will grow weary of your constant tales of woe. Let your friends talk about their lives, too, and really listen to what they're saying. If this proves impossible, and you find yourself unable to talk about anything but your ex, see a therapist. They'll let you whine forever, and they might even have some valuable advice for you.
And do let your friends know how much you appreciate their support. Take them to lunch or send them a card; expressing gratitude makes you realize how much you have to be grateful for.
Tip #5: Eating Well Actually is a Big Deal
You'll probably react to your heartache in one of two ways: you'll eat everything in sight, often without bothering to chew, or you'll stop eating altogether. Neither option is a great idea.
You can't eat your feelings, so be conscious of what you're putting in your mouth, and try to choose a handful of almonds over an armload of Twinkies. I'm not saying that devouring a pint of ice cream won't feel like the only reasonable thing to do on occasion, but if you find yourself eating beef jerky and cookies for breakfast, it's time to make some changes.
On the flip side, you can't starve yourself happy. This is what I usually do, and it's pretty self-defeating. Not eating leaves you fatigued and cranky; don't pile it on to your already volatile array of emotions. Choke down something easy: yogurt, soup, fruit, toast, and be sure to add a multivitamin to your diet.
Tip #6: Get Used to Being Alone
Yikes, that sounds harsh, and maybe it is. I'm not saying you need to steal a shopping cart and start hoarding cats, but let's be real. It might take awhile to find a new, fabulous relationship, and in the meantime, you might have to attend a wedding solo, or be the odd numbered guest at a dinner party.
It's not easy at first, but like everything, it gets better with practice. Go to a movie by yourself, take a day trip with only your iPod for companionship, go out for dinner alone. After awhile, being single won't seem so daunting, and you'll begin to appreciate the perks, like having the whole bed to yourself.
Tip #7: Take a Deep Breath. You Will Not Die
You may feel like you're dying, but you're really not. Take a look around; everyone goes through the pain of heartbreak at some point, and somehow the world keeps turning.
When you find yourself feeling utterly overwhelmed, take a deep breath and recognize that you are going to make it. You're going to wake up tomorrow morning, wash your hair, and get yourself to class or work. You're a grown up, and that's what we do.
Maybe you really, really wanted the relationship to work. The reality is, it didn't, and odds are a magical reunion isn't in your future. Take your time accepting that fact, but do actively work to accept it. You successfully lived most of your life without your ex, and you can happily live the rest of your life without him, too.
By the way, your ex? Probably wasn't that great. Let him go and find someone who is.