mental health

My Break Up Almost Killed Me: Maintaining Your Mental Health After A Split

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Jun. 5 2020, Updated 4:03 p.m. ET

Seeking the expertise of Racquel Reid, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, writer Robin Williams discovers the healthy way to get over a breakup. Through experiencing a breakup of her own, Williams learned the importance of seeking therapy when one needs it.

words by Robin Williams

I sat on the wooden floor against a small bookcase, the scent of sage once healing, now brought tears to my eyes. Just 24 hours earlier, I was in a nurturing relationship. Although short-lived, it was intense in both feeling and intention, or so I thought. There I sat, melting into the floor, finding it hard to leave an apartment I hadn’t even known existed three months ago.

The week prior had proven to be a challenge for us. Quite oblivious to the impending train wreck I would soon call my love life, I would scramble to the phone on the occasions when she would call. I had convinced myself that once our schedules synced up again, we would nose dive back into our world of healing crystals, long kisses, and binge eating Caribbean food on Flatbush Ave.

“I can’t give you what you need right now.”

Or something like that. I couldn’t hear clearly over my racing thoughts.

A whirlwind of moments danced behind my eyes as I tried to process her words as she spoke. The calmness and content of her tone had me stuck. The apparent change of heart was both gradual and abrupt.

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The next day, she left the apartment as cool as cucumber. I scraped myself off the wooden floor of her bedroom. Stumbling down several long Brooklyn blocks, I packed all of my clothes into the trunk of my car. The walk of shame of a “Uhaul lesbian.”

When I arrived home, it seemed like I hadn’t been there for months. Getting back to my old “normal” felt like an unfamiliar routine. I had so much to unpack.

She opted out of us to get back with her ex.

The same ex who popped up almost a month into our relationship? Yup.

The same ex who she told me not to worry about? Double Yup.

Well, damn.

Despite that, I still wanted in. I wanted in on the importance I felt in her presence, the feeling of being exalted, being pampered, loved-on in a new way. It was in this partnership I felt fully seen for the first time in 29 years. In such a short period of time I grew accustomed to the healing she provided me. Instilling healing in me that I did not create for myself. Being with her brought validation. The validation of being on the receiving end of love so blinding that I did not realize how much of my emotional stability was tied to it. As unsustainable as that was, I clung so hard to these swiftly developed feelings that only a clean break could release me.

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After the breakup, I moved through the world in a fog so dense that I could not recognize myself. My laugh was empty if it came around at all. My eyes shot down whenever I crossed my own reflection. I called, I cried, I texted. The corners of my psyche slipping away like an ill-fitted bed sheet. There was a slide, then an abrupt slap. The reverberation cracked like lightning, especially at night, when my bed felt unfamiliar and the smell of sage stunk.

Feelings of inadequacy flooded my body, reactivated dating profiles followed. With each left swipe, I sunk deeper and deeper into depression. Working out, reading, even long drives were unsatisfying. Solo self-care was foreign to me so I was left to figure out how all my puzzle pieces fit together without the helping hand of a lover. Disinterest led to loneliness, then intentional isolation.

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Thoughts of “What if I don’t ever find anyone else to be so gentle with me?” led to me not being gentle with myself. Before long, my feelings of isolation morphed into thoughts of leaving this plane of existence for good. I figured it took 29 years for me to be truly seen, and I didn’t want to wait for 29 more. Luckily, with the company of family and friends, I convinced myself that my presence here was warranted and after a few online searches I was able to locate a therapist nearby. Although it took me a few visits to even say the word “therapist” out loud, each visit uncovered something new within me allowing me to identify myself outside of my failed partnership.

“Everyone should seek therapy,” says Racquel Reid, LCSW. Racquel is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who takes a trauma-informed approach to mental health treatment. A member of the LGBTQ+ community, Racquel cites breakups as a leading cause of first-time therapy clients. Versed in several modalities including, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, narrative therapy, and holistic therapy, Racquel encourages partner-to-partner mental health check-ins as well as self check-ins to ensure that you are not relying solely on your partner for your mental health needs and stability.

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If you find yourself experiencing extreme sadness, loss of interest, and/or obsessive behavior after a breakup, there are a few things you can do to maintain your mental health during a break up as well as throughout a relationship that will set you up to win even when you feel like you’ve just taken an L.

Racquel offers some suggestions:

  1. Give yourself time after a breakup. There’s nothing more problematic than bringing unresolved relationship trauma into a new relationship. Spend time in self-reflection, but not self-blame.
  2. Put the phone down! If you find yourself obsessing over your ex, it may be a good idea to take a break from their page. This doesn’t have to mean blocking them or reporting their page (if that’s your level of petty). But create healthy boundaries for yourself especially when your heart is still tender.
  3. Talk to someone. Whether it is a licensed mental health professional or a friend, having someone to talk your feelings through with you is a valuable tool towards healing after a breakup.
  4. Create a self-care routine. Whether it is writing, listening to music, or hanging out with friends and family, surround yourself with a support system that will foster your healing.
  5. Stay away from reporters. Avoid getting updates from your friends about what your ex is doing, let your friends know that you’re better off without the intel.
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During a relationship:

  1. No New friends! Yes, it can be a valuable experience if you and your partner’s friends co-mingle and get along, however, it is important that you don’t merge friends groups. Both parties need separate friend groups that they can hang separately.
  2. Discover a true sense of self. It is essential to be aware of how you show up in the world as well as how you are in partnerships. Take note of ways that you change while in a romantic relationship.
  3. Don’t rely on your partner for your own mental health. Losing yourself in love can mean a very hard fall back to reality if things don’t work out. Be sure to take yourself out on dates, spend time apart, and maintain relationships with loved ones and friends while in a relationship.

When all else fails, take it back to these basic principles and don’t allow your post-breakup mental health to go unchecked.

Originally published in Bleu Magazine Issue #66

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