Broken Heart Syndrome is a real thing. Scientists found that a bad break-up can stun the heart and cause the left ventricle to change shape. They call it Takotsubo syndrome, Takotsubo being Japanese for ‘Octopus Pot’, which refers to the form that the damaged heart has now taken. They advise it should be treated with the same drug that’s used for heart attack patients.
Everyone who’s had a broken heart knows the pain. Every moment of every day tinged grey. The gut ache of loss, the waves of disbelief. Mercilessly buffeted with endless unanswerable questions, with nothing to anchor your self worth. Sadness pervades your being, its tentacles reaching out like ink in water.
So where do you even begin to fix a broken heart? Here are just a few things that have helped me…
Stop Hunting For The Answer
Guy Winch, a US psychologist whose TED talk on heartbreak has over 7m views, says that as well as temporarily lowering IQ, heartbreak stops us thinking straight. He says, “Brain studies have shown the loss of romantic love activates the same mechanisms in our brain that get activated when addicts are withdrawing from substances like cocaine or opioids.”
So he theorises that when you obsess over the whys of a break-up and dream up myriad answers, you are getting a fix. This hunt for ‘the answer’, he says, impedes our recovery. Instead, “accept the reason you are given and stick to it”.
Stock Up On Break-Up Books
Oh, how I ploughed through them… The Unexpected Joy Of Being Single by Catherine Gray (mine: no yellowing sheets on one side of the bed, unbroken sleep, watching films with no fighting). How To Fail by Elizabeth Day (candid and reassuring), It’s Called A Break-Up Because It’s Broken by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt (very funny and direct in a way friends might not dare to be).
Visit A Break-Up Retreat
The women-only Tarant retreat in Puglia promises to help you find ‘renewed inner happiness’. It features nightly hair-brushing, dancing to tambourines, healthy vegetable-based food and an embarrassment of spa treatments. (They had me at hair brushing).
You stay at a deluxe villa and are cosseted by a girl gang of therapists, yoga teachers, chefs and, of course, Maria, the housekeeper-cum-hair-brusher. It’s like you’ve gone to stay with your best mates who are intent on making you feel great. Except, instead of kipping in the spare room, you get a luxurious five-star suite. It’s expensive, but here’s the free takeaway: girlfriends are everything.
Book the four-night Borgo Egnazia retreat through Abercrombie & Kent.
Find A Financial Superhero
I am a capable woman with a maths GCSE and the proud owner of some Natwest Pigs, but for some reason I have taken an eyes-shut approach to my finances since my split. Maybe it was because the pooling of money was the ultimate symbol that we were a team. Now the shadow of money has grown to monstrous proportions.
So, through a friend, I’ve found a superhero in a shift dress, Lisa Conway-Hughes, a no-BS blonde with 15 years’ experience as a financial advisor and a book called Money Lessons. She tells me, “Often, the first time someone decides to take a look at their finances is when they divorce or separate. Perhaps this was always the partner’s responsibility, or perhaps life was ticking along and financial planning was always at the bottom of the to-do list. Either way, dipping your toe in is essential. Taking control on your terms will be empowering.”
Meet With The Divorce Coach
Sara Davison is a master neuro-linguistic programming practitioner and chose whose stock in trade is heartbroken souls. Having been through her own painful split, she was inspired to help others. She offers one-on-one counselling sessions, weekend divorce retreats and has a book, The Split, which I found very useful.
Accept It Takes Time
If there were a service that would speed up the healing process I’d sell my incisors. But apparently you have to process it so it doesn’t bite you on the arse in five years’ time. Research in The Journal Of Positive Psychology says it takes 11 weeks to feel better after a relationship ends. Other theories speak about it taking a month for every year you’ve been with someone.
And There’s Always Hope
I can feel hope resurfacing now and even a sliver of excitement for the future. I have learned to stop worrying so much about the future. I’ve rediscovered more of the person I was. The person who had automatically climbed into the passenger seat. Now I am back in the driving seat. Literally and metaphorically. And who knows where the road is taking me?