The advice to keep busy after a breakup or during a hard time has never really felt right to me. Something about it didn’t sit right with me, but everyone says it works so I did it. Every time.
I find it so easy to distract myself and numb the pain with distractions. It is so incredibly easy. I am a driven person so it is easy to be really busy with work and projects and hobbies. I am so good at it that I don’t even realize I am doing it.
I think I am just doing the things you’re supposed to do after a breakup. When your heart hurts aren’t you supposed to go out and drink too much? Aren’t you supposed to find some random dude to make out with? And then you call a fall back dude from years ago and hook up a few times to feel the rush again?
Aren;t you supposed to watch your favorite sappy movies and the silly TV shows and cry?
Isn’t this all what “fake it till you make it is all about?”
I thought so. I thought those were all the things that were normal that led to healing. It made sense to me: if you do the things you normally do, maybe at a heighten level or a slightly more frantic pace, then you will get over the hurt faster and you will be healed before you know it.
I think I started practicing these habits when my dad died when I was 14. I decided the best thing I could do would be to keep pushing forward and doing my best, because that would have made him proud. I went to school after my dad’s funeral because I didn’t want to ruin my perfect attendance streak. I played three sports that year, I got straight As. I got my first boyfriend. Nothing was knocking me off my track.
I remember a guy I dated in my early twenties that didn’t treat me well. He left me guessing all the time. He cheated on me with his ex girlfriend. And I think that is when I started numbing with alcohol, constant TV and keeping my friends around me all the time.
And I thought that it actually worked. Because I would eventually stop crying and I would eventually stop thinking about the pain and the memories. Eventually it all fell away.
But those things don’t heal anything, they numb. And just like anesthesia, the numbness wears off and you have a choice. You can re-numb or you feel the pain.
For as long as I can remember, I have chosen to continue to re-numb. I found it was always easy to find some kind of escape. It was immediately available at my finger tips.
The other night I had a moment of clarity. Where I suddenly saw all my habits for what they really are. They weren’t hobbies, they weren’t a good time, they weren’t bonding opportunities. I was running from my pain, pushing it away, burying it, trying to numb all the deep pain and fear I feel.
So that night I decided to face it. And the amazing thing was that I identified the pain, I sat with it and it passed so quickly. Granted, I have been working through and feeling this pain for a while. But there was something incredibly healing about seeing the pain clearly for what it was that allowed me to move past it. It was as if I could actually feel the scab form over the wound.
I’m not saying I am completely healed, but it feels very different. It feels like forward movement. It feels like I don’t need the girlfriend dates to distract me from the lonely weekend nights, I don’t need the exes to sleep with me to make me feel something again, and I don’t need to drink too much to feel a high.
Cupid’s arrow has been sticking out of my side for a long time. I’ve been walking around with that thing, and because it’s still there I keep re-injuring myself and it never heals. I finally pushed it through. Let the healing begin.