The Hook Up: How to deal with intense heartache


I know you must have been asked this all the time, but I can’t help but seek advice from anyone at this moment. My girlfriend of four years just dumped me, around a month ago. There were many times that she dumped me before that, but, and I’m ashamed to admit it, I always crawled back. This time she seems more indifferent about it than ever and I’m just too emotionally exhausted.

I really thought this relationship was the one, I was so invested in her I couldn’t imagine a life without her. Things started going downhill a year ago. She was more distant, she started avoiding sex or the topic of sex, she showed little to no affection. But I still remained hopeful that things will turn around. She claimed first that she thinks she’s bisexual, that’s why she has less sexual feelings toward me, then finally she said she might be asexual. I was confused the whole time. I didn’t know what I did wrong.

This relationship really drained me and destroyed my sense of self-worth. I no longer see myself as desirable or worthy of another relationship. Part of me hates her for changing like that towards me and part of me still misses her. Thankfully I have the support of friends, who always told me to move on whenever she dumped me. I’m so glad they are still here and supporting me.

I really don’t know what to do to pick up myself again. I’m getting more depressed with each passing day and it’s scaring me.

p.s. I can’t seek professional help since homosexuality is illegal where I live. The only ones I can express my feelings to are my friends, but I already burdened them enough. Hope you reply to this. Just need some guidance on how to get over her. — Heart-broken Sara

Anna says: There was this moment back in 2010, when the girl I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with told me that she no longer wanted to be with me. I left the apartment we shared in a huff, not knowing where I was going, or even having a single tissue to wipe my sob-filled face with. I just knew that I had to leave right that second, that it was imperative to my ability to cope somehow. While I walked, I continued to cry-hyperventilate, which I found somewhat relieving because the tears were clouding my capacity to see strangers’ reactions to my pitiful and probably upsetting appearance. After several miles of this, trudging up and down the endless hills of San Francisco, it occurred to me that I knew what would fix everything. I knew how to pull my life together.

I thought, I should get hit by a car.

Nothing fatal, or anything dramatic like that, but severe enough for a broken bone or two. Maybe a few righteous scars. If I got hit by a car, I told myself, she would have to take care of me. She would love me again for a little while, and then she would realize her mistake, and things would slowly go back to the way they were.

I’m telling you this story not to give you any ideas, but because grief and heartache have tremendous power over us. They have the ability to derange our minds to the point where we can tell ourselves, in all seriousness, that maiming our bodies in a car wreck is a viable solution to our life dilemmas. These emotions are also partly responsible for statements like, “I no longer see myself as desirable or worthy of another relationship.”

I will tell you right off that that is a crazy statement. Not as crazy as my genius broken bone scheme, but crazy enough that it should ring some alarm bells. You are totally, absolutely worthy and deserving of love. You have to know that. That is the foundation you have to work from if you’re ever going to dig your way out of this pit of self-loathing and move on. And dig you must. I know you say you can’t, but you should start by imagining a life without this girl, who sounds like kind of a drag, if you ask me. Imagine how great it will be when you meet someone who is filled with love and desire for you. You will meet this person only after you chuck those untrue notions you have about yourself, and realize that this heartbreak is not the end of your story. It’s the end of one story, to be sure, but it’s also a beginning.

In the past, I’ve given more concrete tips about how to get over someone, like why you should stop Facebook stalking them and what-have-you. You’re more than welcome to look it over and take or not take from it what you will.

Don’t worry too much about unloading on your friends. They’re your friends for a reason, and that is to be burdened. Just kidding, but only partially. I know it can be difficult to tell your friends the same sob story over and over and expect them to be always as sympathetic and indignant on your behalf as the first time they heard it, but this doesn’t mean they won’t still listen. It doesn’t mean they won’t try to support you as best as they can. Just be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their words and movie nights and shared Tostino’s party pizzas.

I watched this really lovely TED talk by Brene Brown recently about the power and necessity of vulnerability. It’s twenty-minutes long, but it’s worth it. In the talk, she touches on many aspects that you mention in your letter: how to battle feelings of unworthiness, longing for connection, and so on. It might do you some good to remember that many of us are struggling with the very things you’re struggling with right now. Some might say it’s the eternal life struggle. Everywhere you go, there’s bound to be someone smarting from the loss of something they thought they’d never lose. A job, a friend, a life partner. Of course the fact that it’s common doesn’t make it less shitty, but it might also help you feel a little less alone.

This is what we do as humans. We get back up. We move on. We drag ourselves, slowly and piteously, from the mangled car wrecks of our delusions, into the present and away from those parts of our past that no longer do us any good. I can tell you with absolute certainty that you have everything you need to pick yourself back up again. Now you just have to do the work. Day by day. Tear by tear. I’ll be waiting to greet you on the other side, along with countless others, and I’ll be happy to tell you that I didn’t need to break a single bone to get here.

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