It’s been a while since I had a pretty serious injury.
I fell off a mini motorcycle on a gravel driveway once. Pro-tip: don’t use the front brake going downhill. It hurt like crazy. I managed to get to the bathroom and narrowly avoided throwing up from the waves of pain coming from my knee. Nothing was broken (I think).
Over the next few days, the pain went away, or so I thought.
For the next several months, child’s pose in yoga class was impossible. It put all my weight exactly on the injured part of my knee and even though no sign of damage remained, it just hurt to do child’s pose.
But even the pain during child’s pose went away eventually. It’s been years since I thought of that injury.
Then I ended my five year relationship with my fiance.
That was a big ouch. I remember crying, my head on his chest, thinking why the fuck was I going to let someone else’s head lay on his chest, let someone else listen to that heartbeat. That sound was mine. But I went through with it.
A year passed. I felt great, shitty, okay; moved apartments; felt lonely, dated new people, saw friends, was alone; adopted a third cat; thought I found love again and was wrong.
Then I was furloughed because of COVID-19. Suddenly I had so much time to think. I couldn’t see my friends. I couldn’t go out. I descended into deep cat lady territory.
I had had moments of sadness and mourning for my lost relationship before. Not just having a love, but the five years of telling my best friend everything and experiencing life with a partner. But after furlough, it hit even harder and I couldn’t avoid it anymore. What is wrong with me? I thought I was okay. I’ve grown so much in the last year and I wouldn’t trade that for the world, so why am I so sad? I didn’t know what to think.
I had been able to ignore the pain by staying busy and when I couldn’t keep busy, it was usually just for a night after work. I could always make it through one night of loneliness.
Quarantine was forcing me to grieve.
I was also given a huge gift. I tore a ligament in my ankle. Suddenly, I remembered what recovering from a physical injury is like and as it healed I realized: nothing was wrong with pangs of sadness over my lost relationship. I was healing, and healing isn’t linear.
Healing isn’t without occasional pain. Pain doesn’t mean the healing isn’t progressing.
Science backs it up. The brain interprets heartbreak very closely to physical injury. But unlike pain from a physical injury which usually fades very quickly, heartbreak can linger for weeks or months (or honestly longer).
The injury to my ankle has taught me some valuable lessons that I have applied to my heartbreak. I share them here, hoping that maybe they’ll help you recover from lost love.
…hopefully without any broken bones or torn ligaments.
I was running when I tore the ligament in my ankle. There was this loud pop (crack?) and I buckled instantly. As soon as I heard the noise, I knew it was bad before I even hit the ground. The pain was so intense at first, I was instantly in tears and breathing hard.
Anyone who has gone through heartbreak knows that the pain is indescribable. You may have low grade unhappiness that causes the break, but that moment when you are no longer with that person– yeah, pretty similar.
I had to call a Lyft home and hopped to the waiting call. I masked my pain with humor, joking with the driver during the ride. Similarly, for the first few days of the break up, I poured energy into my job and my interactions with others. It helped take the edge off of the absolute devastation.
When I got home, I posted up on the couch, popped some Advil and iced that bitch. The painkiller and the ice helped lower the inflammation and get me through the most painful first few hours.
After my breakup, I numbed out.
I numbed myself with friends, with occasional alcohol and with busyness. I once had a rule that I never drink alone. It was during these months that the rule went out the window. What was interesting is that sober me wanted to call and make up. Tipsy me could make it through the night.
I’ll never recommend turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, but I share this because I think it’s important to also be gentle with self judgment and expecting perfection from yourself during this painful time.
Now, when my ankle does hurt, it’s never to the point that I need to take something.
My heart doesn’t hurt as much anymore, at least not to the point where the pain was so acute that I thought I’d just be crying all night. There was a point that I thought that was impossible.
When I sit on the couch and I position myself wrong my ankle twinges. Or when I am typing at my computer but start to zone out and stare out the window, I become aware of a dull ache.
When I am moving and doing things, it hardly ever hurts. I can go for a run with no pain when it’s still aching when I lay in bed at night. Same thing for my heart. When I’m sad, I’ll go for a run. Even after a couple minutes, I feel way better. By the end of the run I will be bobbing my head to the music and ready to make it a great day.
Regardless of how or why it is hurting, the pain always passes. Always. I can now almost fully point my toes which was unthinkable a month ago. I can think of my ex without pain. Heck- I can write this blog! It took me some time to get here, and it was far from linear, but I’m here. And it’s only going to get better.
You’re here. It’s only going to get better.