Heartbreak Advice from the Heartbroken

You never plan for heartbreak. And even when you do, you don’t. No matter how many times you tell yourself that you’ll be okay, when heartbreak hits, everything crashes down around you. Everything feels lost, muted, dark.

When you think about it, heartbreak is essentially the mourning of the death of a relationship – a relationship that was alive and vibrant and happy. Then, it just wasn’t. It was dead and now you are forced to mourn the loss you never expected.

Everyone will tell you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel; at the end of the day it won’t hurt as much. They’ll all tell you to pick yourself up and go distract the hell out of yourself. They’ll say to go enjoy your life to forget about whoever it was that broke your heart. They will tell you to move on.

And they’ll be right. But they are not trying to survive a broken heart. They are not feeling the emptiness filling your chest, the blur behind your eyes, the lead dragging your heels against the pavement. They aren’t combating the tears threatening to break the surface.

So I’m here to give you some different advice. Because I am doing those things. I am trying to understand how all of the pieces of my life ended up scattered around me. I too, am trying to find the will to pick them up. So here’s what I think you should do.

Let yourself be sad.

Spend a little time on the floor with all of the pieces. Let yourself cry over every single one of them.

Spend an entire day in bed with ice cream and your memories and some free flowing tears.

Don’t ask anyone for advice. Just don’t. They’ll disappoint you no matter what they say.

Don’t brush your teeth. Don’t take a shower. Wear the same dirty grey sweats you’ve been wearing for two days already.

Disconnect from everything. Do not check social media. Do not talk to anyone. Do not answer your phone. Unless it’s your mom. Always answer your mom.

Did I mention cry? Because really, cry. A lot. Get all of those sad tears, all of those tainted memories, everything that makes you sad to think about, out of your head. Let yourself be sad.

And then pick yourself up. Go take a shower. Get dressed. But do yourself a favor, leave the pieces there. You don’t need those broken pieces anymore. There are plenty of whole ones left in you. You will not feel whole again for a while. But you are not broken. You are still breathing every second of every single day. That breathing? That means that you are still alive. You still have things to do. So take your time and let yourself be sad and then let yourself get back up.

Heartbreak Advice from the Heartbroken

Simply and Un-simply, Love.

Love is easily the most complicated part of our existence. I don’t mean complicated like calculus or solving a Rubik’s cube. Love is complicated in the way that it is one of those one in a million chances that happens every day without explanation. It is completely inexplicable why we love who we love. It doesn’t make any sense that every day we fall for the things about another person that we don’t even know exist. It is beyond confusing that love can just as easily save us as it can destroy us. Love is our home. As people, everything we do is based in some form of love. Love for a person, a job, a game, a place, a hobby, ourselves. In the end, everything we do is about this love, this thing, that we have no say in.

Now, by saying this, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. However, every day I am baffled by how much my own mind, body, and soul are controlled by this intangible, unimaginable miracle that runs our lives without permission. Every move that I make can be traced back to this chemical reaction in my brain that I have absolutely zero control over.

I have fallen in love and I have had my heart broken. But it’s not the falling in love or the heartbreak that I want to talk about. It’s that I find the experience completely incredible because no matter how much I reason with myself, no matter how much I tell myself that I have control over my brain and my emotions, the truth is that when it comes to love I don’t. None of us do. That, in and of itself, is the most mind boggling, amazing thing to me.

Our brains do this thing, this life altering, life controlling thing, and we get no say whatsoever in how we feel. I mean, this thing runs our lives and we don’t get a choice. I think that this is the most beautiful idea – that we are so completely out of control when it comes to our life’s purpose and are instead at the mercy of these processes happening inside of our own heads in hiding places we can’t even find despite our best efforts.

I am not a religious person. I don’t believe that there is someone out there determining our fates and deciding whether or not we are living inside of their rules. However I do believe that we, somewhere inside of ourselves are determining our own fates; that we are simultaneously making the rules and trying to live inside of them.

There is something about that notion that is terrifyingly beautiful. That our brains are creating this thing and these rules to live by, and that thing and those rules are simply and so un-simply, love.

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Anxiety is a Liar

Today is mental health awareness day and my best friend and I, who both deal with different forms of anxiety every day, have agreed to each post about our own mental health journeys and share them with the people around us.

The biggest part of mental health awareness day, is just that. It is the awareness. It is the knowledge that mental health is important, it is relevant, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

In February of this year I shared an article about my anxiety and what it feels like to carry around with me every day in all of its excruciating glory. That article demonstrates what my anxiety feels like at its worst.However, every day isn’t the hell on earth I depicted but it absolutely isn’t all rainbows and unicorns either.

In my post I wrote a lot about conquering my anxiety, fighting it, beating it to a pulp. But here’s the thing: that is a battle I will never win. I will never “beat” my anxiety. I will never scare it away. It is as much a part of me as my brown eyes and weird pinky toes. It is and will always be a part of me.

Over the past 8 months I’ve learned that anxiety is a strange beast that can make me feel like I do not deserve love and happiness. It can make me think that there is something bad constantly looming over my head. I’ve learned it always shows up uninvited and never comes bearing good news. I’ve learned that it will always tell me what I fear the most. And above all else, I’ve learned that anxiety is a liar. Anxiety. Is. A. Liar.

Anxiety doesn’t get to tell me what I do and do not deserve. Anxiety doesn’t get to dictate my thoughts. Anxiety doesn’t get to have what it wants. I do. I have the power to get what I want. I can tell anxiety to go fuck itself and there is nothing it can do to stop me. Anxiety is a strange beast and it is waiting around every corner. But I know its tricks. I know where it hides. I know its name. And just like all those demons in all those old horror stories, knowing its name gives me the power; knowing its name gives me the control.

My anxiety is a part of me. It isn’t a part I can wish away or a part that I can fight against. It is a part of me and the world I live in. But it is my anxiety and it is my world. Not the other way around. make the rules. choose to get what I want and what I deserve. tell the truth.

And the truth is, I have brown hair and weird toes. I sing too loudly in the car and I have anxiety. I am who I am and that is okay. It doesn’t mean I deserve anything less than happiness. It doesn’t mean anything more than what I let it mean. And that is the truth.

Anxiety is a Liar

To the friend who walked away

As a person with anxiety, and quite honestly even as a person without it, it is hard to find friends who are willing to consistently stay in your life. For one “reason” or another, they just can’t. When those friends walk out, it is devastating. But of course when these friendships end, they do just that: they end. There is no discussing it. There is no trying to work through it. There is just a friendship and then there is not. There is always a reason, however strong or true it may or may not be, there is always a reason. We are told that reason and then that is it. We can do no more. We are left without a friend and they move on with their lives, their hands washed of us and our anxiety. We, on the other hand, are left with a lot of words to say, and no one left to say them to. So here are a few things I would like to say.

You did not love me. You loved the person who was able to have fun and do crazy things with you when I wasn’t suffering from debilitating anxiety. Sorry, but that person is not always me. My anxiety is also a part of me and it always will be.

You began to think I owed you something. As if the time you spent with me was worth favors and jobs that you tried to classify as something friends just “do” – something I was supposed to do. I did not and do not owe you a single thing. Real friends don’t do that.

You blamed me. You made me feel like I am a bad person. You told me that I am too much for you. I didn’t treat you like a friend. I used you. I put too much pressure on you. I asked too much of you. My anxiety and the repercussions of that were too hard on you. I am a bad person. I am a bad person. I am a bad person.

But do you want to know the worst thing? You made me believe you. I believed I am a bad person, a bad friend. I believed I am too much for people. I believed that I’m not fun, that I don’t treat my friends right or do enough for them. I believed that I deserve to be left behind. I believed that I am not a person worth fighting for. I believed that I had truly caused you to walk away.  I believed everything was my fault; that I do not deserve to have good friends. You turned this thing that I already feel terrible about having into something that could destroy me.

But it didn’t. Because you chose to walk away because you  weren’t strong enough. And that’s okay. But I am not a bad person and I will not be treated like one. You did me a favor in walking away. And I hope you never look back.

 

 

 

To the friend who walked away

What happens when you face your beast.

A week and a half ago I wrote an article out of desperation. I was coming down from one of the worst anxiety attacks I have had in months and I didn’t know how to cope. I had hit my breaking point. So instead of doing something stupid and reckless, I used the only power I believe is strong enough to mend me. Words. I sat down and poured everything I had, everything I couldn’t handle feeling out onto the page and I let it morph into something that maybe would help someone else deal with what I was forcing myself to face that day. Who knew that it would turn into the amazing thing that it has.

For a long time, I didn’t think that anxiety was something I could or should talk about. I thought if I told people what I was going through they would think I was crazy or treat me like I had a disability. After all, that’s how I had been treating myself. Why wouldn’t they treat me the same? Talking about the thing that destroys me was a terrifying thought. Now I realize that maybe that isn’t the case at all. Maybe it’s the key.

I have had dozens of people come to me and tell me how proud they are of me, how amazing and strong they think I am, and how talented and wonderful my work is. I have had people tell me that I helped them through their fight with anxiety and gave them the strength to share their own troubles with the people they love. As it turns out, sharing my anxiety with the world did exactly the opposite of what I imagined it would. It made me less anxious.

Through the tremendous outpouring of strength and respect and humbling gratefulness I have found through sharing the piece of me I had learned to hate, I have somehow learned to love the me that is so much bigger than that small bit. Not only that, but it has given me the courage and strength to really fight this beast and begin the journey of ridding myself of it for good. I never knew I would be able to do something like that.

When I wrote “What we mean when we say ‘I have anxiety'”, I never ever expected it to blow up the way it did. Sure, I imagined my friends and family would read the article and tell me they were there for me; that I was not in the anxiety game alone. Now I have people from across the country telling me how much I have helped them with my writing. I have hundreds of thousands of people reading my work and sharing it with their friends and family to try to help them understand just what it means to suffer from anxiety. I had my article picked up by one of the most well-known online newspapers in the country. I have had responses and appreciation from people I have never and will never meet or even know about. I can’t begin to explain what that feels like or the gratitude I have for all of those people I may never meet.

So I just want to extend the most sincere and deep thank you to everyone who has given me this incredible feeling, this amazing will to fight, and the success that pulled me up from rock bottom. Your support, your praise, your ability to share your stories in response to mine continues to floor me with every word I read from you all. Thank you thank you thank you.

What happens when you face your beast.

What we mean when we say “I have anxiety”

 

For most people I talk to, when I tell them I have an anxiety disorder, they nod their head and tell me it’ll be okay. When I tell them, “I’m sorry, I’m having a bad anxiety day, can we reschedule?” They smile and tell me there’s nothing to worry about and if I just get out of bed, I’ll see that everything is fine. When I don’t want to go bar hopping because I know that alcohol only increases my anxious tendencies I hear, “You’re fine. It’ll be fun. Let off some steam!” Meanwhile, my heart is pounding so fast that I’m afraid it may be visibly beating out of my chest. But it isn’t. My head isn’t actually spinning in circles. My eyes are not crossed like my blurred vision indicates. My knees aren’t wobbling along with the trembling muscles fighting the urge to collapse. My face isn’t pale and my eyes aren’t bloodshot. No, on the outside, I look like I do every day. My hair is clean. My clothes match. I am awake, alive, and breathing fine. So nothing is wrong, right? Wrong. That’s the thing about anxiety disorders. We look fine. Of course we look fine. Our legs aren’t broken. Our tongues haven’t been cut out. We aren’t cut or bruised. Because anxiety is not a physical disability. That however, does not make it any less debilitating. Anxiety is a complex disorder and it is nothing to simply smile and nod away. You telling us everything is okay not only doesn’t help us, but it hurts us more because nobody seems to take it seriously. So here are some things I would like you to know about the struggle with anxiety.

1It is not constant.

There are days when we can make it through without having to stop and breathe or pop a Xanax if we are lucky enough to have a prescription. We can smile and laugh. We can be productive and go to work, go out to dinner, go see a movie with our friends. And trust me, I know how difficult it is to understand how we can be fine one day and the next, not be able to get out of bed. That’s just how it is. Which leads me to my next point. 

2. It comes in waves. 

Anxiety is a strange beast. It will let us have some fun for a couple of days and we think, hmm maybe it’s finally left me alone. Then a few days go by and we wake up one morning unable to even think straight because for whatever reason, the beast has once again emerged and there is nothing we can do to stop it from coming because we have woken up to it sitting on our chest smiling as if we are welcoming it home. 

3. It is completely paralyzing. 

I don’t know if this one applies to everyone but I know it is a very big piece of my anxiety disorder. When anxiety hits, I am frozen. I can get up and go through the motions of my day but my brain is elsewhere, held captive by whatever demon is inhabiting me this time. I cannot think about anything except my inability to think or breathe or feel. Let that one sink in. My brain is literally paralyzed; as if it is stuck in some kind of limbo with no doors or windows or exits of any kind. The worst part? I’m completely alone in there.

4. It ruins relationships.

Not just romantic relationships, but a relationship of any kind. Friendships and relationships alike can be destroyed by this silent killer. I have experienced both and it is the most devastating kind of loss. Why? Because it is not our fault. It is a disease that, without the knowledge of how to care for it properly will explode in a matter of months. Eventually, it becomes too much for someone else to carry around with them. If they become close enough to you to experience firsthand the effects of your anxiety and the neediness that comes with having someone who is not a low maintenance friend or significant other….often it becomes too much for them and they sever the ties for their own mental health. And it hurts like hell but you can’t blame them because if you could choose to stay as far away from anxiety as they can, you would in a heartbeat.

5. It makes trust nearly impossible. 

I know it sounds awful to blame trust issues on anxiety but in all honestly, it’s not placing blame, it’s placing responsibility. Anxiety will never fail to make you think the worst of every situation. If someone doesn’t answer your text well then that’s it, they no longer like you. If someone doesn’t text you first, they don’t think about you. Someone is busy? Forget it. They just have better things to do with their time than spend it with you. I sound ridiculous right? Welcome to the dark side AKA the anxiety life. We do not have cookies, sorry, but can I interest you in crippling loneliness at a table for one? No? Didn’t think so. 

6. We DO NOT want this.

Do you really think that if we had a choice we would choose to let down the people who love us because we can’t handle a simple outing? Do you think that we want to be so afraid to get out of bed that instead we call in to work and cry to Grey’s anatomy for 13 hours in a row and don’t eat because the kitchen means leaving the safety of our covers? Probably not. Would you choose that? Doubtful. So when you tell us that we’re being dramatic and just looking for attention, take a second and think about what you’re saying to us. Nobody, I repeat NOBODY, wants this. 

7. We wish every day that we weren’t like this.

Not a day goes by that I don’t have that little voice in the back of my head telling me just how great my life could be if I wasn’t this way. If I could just not have anxiety, everything would be okay. I could actually be happy and trust that the happiness was not a joke or a trick; that the other shoe was not in fact, ever going to drop. There is no other shoe. But that’s not how we are. To us, no matter how many times we tell ourselves that everything is okay and we are being ridiculous, nothing is ever just “alright”. In fact, even the smallest things are a disaster. And we hate ourselves for being that way. Again, let that sink in. Imagine hating yourself because of something that is a permanent resident of your brain. Not a pretty thought huh? Most of ours aren’t.

8. There are treatments and we are willing to try them all.

Almost everyone who is diagnosed with anxiety is immediately put on medication to control it. Most of the time, it works to take the edge off and make us a bit more functional in every day life. However, simply using medications usually isn’t enough. I have tried going to the gym. The endorphins usually help immensely. A lot of people take up yoga and breathing exercises. Those are supposed to help, I haven’t tried them yet but they are next on the list. I do a lot of things that make me happy. For me, writing, singing, and coloring in my adult coloring books are very comforting. In addition to all of these things, I have found talk therapy to be the greatest tool and worth every penny. Having a therapist who is constantly on your side and there to just let you talk without ever once judging you or blaming you for the condition you’re in, is the most freeing experience. I highly suggest it to anyone struggling with an anxiety disorder.

9. We WILL overcome it.

But it will take time. Fighting anxiety is a never-ending battle with frequent slip ups and breakdowns along the way. I am still in the process personally, and it is not easy. At all. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. And I have been through a lot. Anxiety however, takes the cake. Learning how to fight my own brain and reroute my own thoughts is by far the most difficult task anyone has ever asked me to complete.  But these thoughts, the ones that are not truly yours are poison in your soul and they will destroy you if you don’t overcome them. But on those days when you can mark a check in the win category, you feel like you can take on the world. That’s what the fight is all about. We want every day to feel that way and we won’t stop until every day does. 

So here’s the thing. Anxiety is pretty heavy and scary stuff. It is not a visible injury but that doesn’t make it any less legitimate. We need people in our lives who are willing to help us and support us and understand that we need a lot of that help and support. We won’t think any less of you if you don’t think you can handle the commitment of being a part of our lives, but we do ask that you do not get our hopes up and let them down. So when we say “I have anxiety” here’s what we really mean. Treat us nicely. Be patient with us. Support us. Know that everything we do, we are thinking about how it effects you. We are fighting for our lives every day, understand that. We are a handful and we know it. We are not always easy to have in your life but if you let us, if you choose us, we will always be there for you. We will never forget the way you held on when most people would let go. When we say “I have anxiety” we are both warning you what you are in for and thanking you for choosing us anyway.

What we mean when we say “I have anxiety”