How writing helped me heal from heartbreak
"The pain lasted not weeks, not months, but years. I would dread that pain returning repeatedly, like a tide coming in and out." | Photo credit: ©ThisDesign (Generated with AI) / Adobe Stock
How writing helped me heal from heartbreak
Waves of Pain: Lost in a sea of grief with writing as my raft
In 2021, I had the worst breakup of my life. I am embarrassed to say it's one I am not yet fully over, though I have made tremendous progress on it. It was the kind of breakup that had me questioning my faith in life and my spirituality. "How could you send me everything I ever wanted in a person only to take him away?" The breakup came suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly, so much so that I had five white hairs overnight. "Oh, that's just aging. Don't worry, I have them too," friends would say, not realizing how much that stung given that his family made him break up with me because I was 12 and a half years older than him. The fact that my eggs are frozen fell on deaf ears. The five-thousand dollars, grueling hormone injections, and egg excavation meant nothing to his parents. The fact that he was the first person who ever felt like home to me, nothing. The way that no one has ever come remotely close to making me feel the way he did, irrelevant.
I found his parents cruel, hostile, and merciless. I handled it entirely wrong by being so offended that they wouldn't even meet me, that I immediately bought into the war they had waged. This threw him into becoming a passive ally to both sides, stretching him until he broke. One could say I should've seen it coming, but he had reassured me time and time again, "We'll work together and find a solution. I'm not going to abandon you." He told me many a time that I was the one for him and that he was going to give this "120%". Until one day, he suddenly decided not to. It came down on me like an anvil. I was absolutely shattered. The five white hairs cropped up the next day, physiological evidence of serious emotional shock and trauma.
That shock and trauma, combined with the pain of losing him and this love that I had felt I had waited my whole life for, would thwart me with waves of pain that would go on to last for years. It got to the point where I felt I had no one to turn to about it anymore.
My friends were sick of hearing about him, my family couldn't be bothered anymore, and all the psychological literature suggested I should've moved on years prior. I did things too. I did all the things. Individual therapy, group therapy, a relationship workshop, a life coach, a nutritionist, a personal trainer… the list goes on.
It lasted not weeks, not months, but years. I would dread that pain returning repeatedly, like a tide coming in and out. And when the waves would surge again and again, I knew I would be relentlessly beaten into the sand over and over with incessant pounding and ferocity. Why can't you just leave me alone? Why won't this pain ever go away? I was happy before. It would take me years to figure out why God, the Universe, Source Energy, Spirit, or just plain old life, call it what you will, would do this to me. I just couldn't wrap my head around why this had to happen the way it did.
I tried dating. Believe me, I tried. Not only did that not work, but I was unable to enjoy sex again. Sex with anyone but him felt wrong for years. I hadn't meant to become so devoted to him. It had just felt like the most natural thing in the world. I recall when we met, we both felt it was moving too fast, but we also both felt like we had no real choice in the matter. The attraction was so magnetic and profound. Like finding a long-lost friend, it had been a reunion of sorts. I would end up going through guy after guy - the bachelors starting out as great catches and slowly dissipating into low-quality potential partners. I wasn't sure if it was self-sabotage or the result of starting to feel extremely down on myself after years of getting beaten by this pain.
"I tried dating. Believe me, I tried. Not only did that not work, but I was unable to enjoy sex again. Sex with anyone but him felt wrong."
As the years went on, my imprint in that sand deepened, and the waves of pain would not stop their incessant returns. I would have periods of calm seas, focusing on myself and trying to be better. But then, I would suddenly feel how alone I felt without him, how much I missed him, and how I seriously questioned if I would ever fall in love again. Over the years, it became harder and harder to envision a future not alone if I could not be with him. Not as an act of defiance. Truly, I was yearning so badly to love and be loved again. But simply because it was like he had taken a piece of me with him. A big piece. The central fixture. I prayed in earnest… Will I ever feel like myself again? Please, God, let me feel like me again.
The only thing that could make me feel remotely like myself was writing. I had always loved writing. For me, it is a true lifelong love. And yet, before him, I seemed to always manage to get distracted. Much like the cycles of the waves of pain, I would have periods of deep engagement with writing, only to put it away before it could ever be shared with the world and become successful. For the first year we were apart, I tried returning to my old ways, but that soon proved futile. Indeed, there was a before him and an after him. I finally stopped feeling hatred towards his parents once I could accept that this breakup had changed me and that my life had indeed needed a change. I was happy before, but my happiness was founded on the kind of things happiness shouldn't be built upon - getting the perfect body, serial dating, getting attention from random men on social media, going out with friends, material objects, and money. In a nutshell, I felt happy when shrouded with distraction upon distraction.
This breakup cut through all of that. It let the light shine through the cracks, to lean on Cohen. But to be entirely honest, when that light first pours in, it stings the eyes. It feels unnatural and uncomfortable. I had wanted to stay in my little bubble of ignorance. I had wanted to stay in the dark about things too painful to look at.
That light involved changes too - many sudden changes. Just think about the effect light and heat create in our physical reality. Light grows plants, dries out soil, induces chemical and physical changes, and even generates tidal forces. When light combines with other chemical elements, it is nothing short of a transformational elixir. When it broke into my life, it was harsh and merciless - much like his parents and the breakup itself. But it catalyzed rapid changes that needed to take place. The tides needed to turn, even if it absolutely crushed me in the process.
During those years of feeling crushed, beaten, and manhandled by the truth of a new dawn, I began to find love again in the only way I could - by writing. Writing was, and still is, perhaps the only thing that I love more than him. And how silly I was to have been taking it for granted pre-breakup. You see, I had many fears around writing that got desecrated in the massacre of my heart. The fears lost their power and sort of evaporated in the light. They were suddenly irrelevant, much in the same way that his family had viewed me and my efforts to stay with him.
They hurt me deeply by not even giving me a chance; by discarding me so carelessly. But in doing so, perhaps they allowed me to face my greatest fears of rejection, abandonment, and not being good enough. Indeed, those were the same fears interrupting a steady commitment to my lifelong passion of writing, and there's something liberating about finally being shattered by the weight of your worst fears. No matter how hard they come down on you, you will survive in the rubble because they aren't real. They're just fears.
"Writing was, and still is, perhaps the only thing that I love more than him."
I wish I could end this story by telling you that I have moved on and found a great new love; that I am happily married with three beautiful children, and my expensive egg fertilization got to be used in the process after all. But not every story ends the same way, and perhaps that is the most interesting part of writing. The waves of pain still come, but fewer and further between. No one has yet held a candle to "him," and I continue to feel "happier" alone than with someone who feels inauthentic for me. Therapy continues as I still seek to feel like myself again.
I judge myself less for feeling this way years later. I am gentler, kinder, and more accepting of my feelings. And, it's rather beautiful that I got to experience a truly true love that seems to never be able to die - no matter how hard I have tried to smother, sedate, and surreptitiously subdue it. My heart still breaks and screams as I write this. I feel it twisting in my chest cavity, and I feel the pit of my stomach growing with nausea as it copes with yet another earthquake above. But the writing itself consoles me and helps ease all the pain.
I write every day now, for survival. I do the only thing I know how to do, and no amount of fear or pain or trauma can stop me from that now because my writing has become my life raft in this sea of pain. In the past year, I have finally started writing my novel series on a regular basis, in addition to writing several articles and excerpts every week. I am now shadowing a successful freelance author, entering writing competitions, pitching to publications, and planning to write for my school newspaper in the fall.
"I write every day now, for survival. I do the only thing I know how to do, and no amount of fear or pain or trauma can stop me from that."
Since I was a little girl, I have had no greater dream than to become a successful author. And yet, since the inception of that dream, I had felt paralyzingly intimidated by my own desire - until the breakup. That breakup. The one we know all too well, that changes us forever. That breakup that lets the light sear our eyeballs after having been unknowingly living in a dark and damp cave for most of our lives. That breakup where the light is so intense it invokes irrevocable changes that will echo throughout the rest of our lives.
That breakup that will always break and re-break our hearts like the cycles of a tide. That breakup that reconnected me with my love of writing by obliterating my life and heart to reveal a doorway through which I could face my deepest fears and see myself, albeit painfully, emerge from the devastation on the other side.
“It's rather beautiful that I got to experience a truly true love that seems to never be able to die - no matter how hard I have tried to smother, sedate, and surreptitiously subdue it.” | Photo Credit: ©Adrian Grosu / Adobe Stock