There’s no science here, to what to do once things have really fallen apart (start here if you’re wondering why I’m talking about this). This guide could seem like a waste of time to you, but this is what worked for me. Try what sounds like you, and leave the rest.
1. Admit that things suck right now. I wasted so much energy trying to put on a happy face when things were bad. Once I finally admitted that I felt sad, lonely, worthless and confused about what I was doing with my life when it all fell apart, I felt like a weight was lifted. This doesn’t mean wallow in it—it means admit it and use it as a point to move forward from.
2. Remember who you are/were. There’s that classic part of the movie Runaway Bride where she has to figure out how she likes her eggs and in the end, realizes she loves eggs benedict. One of the hardest parts of losing what I knew and loved was that I felt as if I’d forgotten who I was before. I spent a lot of time re-claiming those things that were close to my heart: I read, wrote, started blogging, did crafty things, cooked, went to hot yoga and hung out in coffee shops. I did the things that made me tick and I started to feel a lot better.
3. Get on a schedule! If you’re anything like me, when you’re down, you spend a lot of time alone, in front of the TV, eating, moping and doing nothing. I used to set a daily schedule of what I’d do after work. I tried to set small goals like, “Tonight, I will bake cookies and wash my sheets.” When I felt like I had something to achieve, my alone time seemed less alone, and more purposed.
4. Reach out. I kick myself over and over again for not reaching out sooner to the amazing family and friends I have for help during the struggles and end of my marriage. I know that there were many times I didn’t feel like talking but I wanted company. If you do feel like talking about it, find a few people you can trust and confide in. Be vulnerable and don’t bear it alone. The truth is, everyone’s going to be in a bad spot sometime, as awful as it sounds. If that’s overwhelming for you, find some people online to connect with. Go hang out in a coffee shop or bar just to be around others. Don’t hide.
5. If you’re overwhelmed and stressed, figure out what’s MOST stressful, and fix that first. For me, this was financial. I’d been very naive when it came to paying bills, because my ex had done it, my job as a massage therapist was incredibly unsteady and I loved to spend money. I finally came to the conclusion that my expenses to live were more than what I was making, so I moved in with a roommate. If you hate your job, work on changing that; if it’s a relationship, get out. Tackle this like you would any good to-do list: do the toughest, biggest one first.
6. Get over yourself. Gandhi says, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Find a way to do something that’s not just about you. For me, working at the group home and being a teacher got my head out of my own issues and on to others. So did caring for my cat, and yeah, I know that’s lame. Some people choose to volunteer. Basically, do something outside of yourself to get your mind off your own stuff.
7. Try new things. I did a million different things when my heart was healing. I took Nia classes, went to figure drawing, went to lunch/dinner/movies by myself, went out dancing at clubs for the first time, and tried to experience as much life as I could. Some of it is stuff I’d never do again, but I did discover a new love of watercolor paints, the club and doing things alone. Try to re-frame this time as a time of discovery and adventure where you have few things or people holding you back.
8. Take good physical care of yourself. Eat well, get sleep and break a sweat regularly. Oh, and let’s be real: don’t drink too much! I ate well for awhile, and then slowly got caught up with eating poorly and going out waaayyy too much. When I finally got it together physically, I felt like a huge cloud was lifted.
9. Sit with your feelings. If you feel sad, let yourself feel sad, no judgment. If you feel angry, feel angry. Don’t beat yourself up for having emotions. I think we waste a lot of energy feeling bad about feeling bad. I know I used to tell myself that “I should be over this by now” or “I’m stupid for letting this affect me.” Pretty sure that those feelings just mean that you’re human. That’s it.
10. Don’t run your mouth about the other person/situation. I think it’s really tempting during a divorce, break-up, firing, loss of a friendship, etc. to want to bash them to anyone with ears. But seriously? Don’t. It gets blown out of proportion and makes you look like a jerk. I don’t mean don’t tell anyone: believe you me, I’ve shared “the rest of the story” with a lot of people, just be smart. Don’t be that person who brings down everyone’s night at the bar by whining about your horrible ex. Also, remember: what goes around comes around AND it always gets back to the person.
11. If you need help, get it. I realize this is a cliche, but if you’re depressed and feel like you can’t climb out of it, than get professional help. It used to humiliate me to admit that I’ve seen a therapist, but the truth is, therapy and meds saved my life. Depression is part of my story (and something I’ll likely blog about in the future) but even if you’re not sure that you have the disease, there’s nothing wrong with talking to someone unbiased and objective to sort things out.
12. Get out of the bitter barn and play in the hay. Many of my journal entries from this time are simply lists of the good things going on. Even small things like, “I found matching socks” or “I’m still alive” can get you thinking about all the good things. Try and find whatever good you can, even if it’s small. It’ll change the way you think.
13. Take the long view. Look to the future. Circumstances are short, really. They don’t last forever. Use this time as a springboard to create the kind of life that you want. I did a lot of dreaming and planning and list-making about how I wanted things to be different. And then, I tried to put them into action. I’m still working on some, but my life now looks a lot more like the life I’ve always wanted than the one I used to have. Look ahead, and vow to yourself that you’ll learn, and do better. Because now you know what you’re worth and what you want, and hopefully you’ll be figuring out how to make it happen.