Depression after a break-up

Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

Author: Emiliya Tsaneva

You think you have found the person to spend your whole life with. You are happy and want to be together all the time. But all of a sudden this bliss fades away and you start fighting frequently – misunderstandings happen often, you are constantly displeased, even the blame game begins – you start believing all bad things are your partner’s fault or vice versa. You start talking about a break-up – maybe it would be better this way or maybe the relationship can still be rebuilt. You spend months without making a decision, it’s painful for you and you often worry about the outcome. Then one day the break-up happens – one of the two gathers their stuff and moves out. In another scenario everything seemed to be going well, you understood each other wonderfully or so you thought and then out of the blue one of the two wants to break up. And in other cases the relationship was simply just another disappointment – you are trying so hard to find the right partner for you, but you have already been through so many relationships that didn’t work out, each more difficult than the previous one, that you start losing hope.

No matter which type of situation you were in, whether you went away or your partner decided to put an end to the relationship, whether you were together for a couple of months or a couple of years, break-up shatters you – it does influence the way you see life, yourself and others. After the initial shock you might experience different emotions – sadness, anger, fear, sometimes even joy and relief. Everything is so intense and tiring, that you don’t seem to have the power and desire for anything – you don’t feel like working, you don’t want to meet people, there is no sense in anything, only pain.

To react depressively after a break-up is totally natural. Your close ones are important for you, they have a tremendous influence on you and take an active part in your life, this is why when a break-up happens it is so heavy – as if you’ve lost a part of yourself. You need time to get used to the new situation, to accept things as they are now and stop feeling sad that the other side of the bed is empty. Separation is a process, your soul was intertwined with the other person’s soul and now step by step it needs to let go – this happens gradually. This is the reason why the mechanism of depressive reaction appears – its role is to slow you down, to make you go inward, to help you separate from the other person from within as well, to make you give yourself time in order to find yourself again. The depressive reaction makes you do less and give yourself more calm moments and it also stops you from taking unnecessary risks – right now your entire energy is focused on restoring yourself, you don’t really have the capacity to face other difficult situations in the outer world. As if someone pulled your inner brake in order for you to stay still until you’ve managed to accept things as they are and adapt to the new situation.

The depressive reaction after a break-up is actually something useful, although going through it is not pleasant at all. Things, however, become more complicated if on top of the current separation there is a previous suppressed loss and/or overly critical attitude towards yourself. In this case the natural way of the depressive reaction stops and you get stuck in the middle of a depressive swamp. And there it is no longer a matter of low mood for a while, until you gather strength and adapt to the new situation, it’s more a matter of sinking even deeper every day. And while the natural depressive reaction to separation dissolves gradually and you only need to give yourself time and space to recover, in case there are complicating factors, it is necessary to take timely measures.

What could be of help if you notice yourself sinking into self-pity, self-criticism and lack of meaning after the break-up? Here are some ideas:

  • Structure – the natural impulse when a person is in a low mood is not wanting to do anything at all. Just lay in bed all day and cry. Yes, emotions need to get an outlet, it is not a good idea to suppress them, it is important, however, to let them go through you, not to drown in them. In the case of depression, since there is something that weighs on you and pulls you down towards the bottom, emotions don’t go through, they get stuck. This is why it is important to add some structure into your day. Yes, it is necessary to give time and space to your emotions, but it is also useful to take action regularly, even if at the moment you are not particularly productive. To do something while having depression, is as if you are walking down the street with 100 kg on your back – of course, you are slower than usual and each step is very difficult. However, it is important to keep doing something. So no matter how hard it is, keep up with some light routine, even if it is walking in the park for 30 minutes every day. Keeping structure will help you get better and more stable.

  •  Give yourself support – even the most wonderful person has gone through a separation at some point in their life and even the most unpleasant person has managed to find someone to love them. The fact that you are going through a break-up does not make you a bad person. Separation is a natural part of life, it happens to everyone and this doesn’t say anything about your value. Nobody is perfect, everybody has their flaws, although most people hide them quite well. The fact that you are going through a break-up, does not make you broken or unworthy, it is just that sometimes two people walk a certain path in their lives together, then at the crossroad they choose different directions. This does not say anything about your worth as a person. I can imagine how difficult it must be for you at the moment and how thoughts like: “If only I was better, if only I didn’t say/do this or that…” are constantly going through your head over and over again. In this case, try to redirect your thoughts towards what you can do now in order to take care of yourself. Think about how to be more gentle and nice towards yourself. You have enough wounds from the situation, you need to bathe them and let them heal, not constantly put your finger on them and make them bleed again.

  • Contact a psychotherapist – you need support. To talk about it with relatives and friends could help, however, they often say something inappropriate and although they mean well, they could give you some destructive advice – it hurts them so much to watch you suffer, that they want to distract you and stop the pain as soon as possible. But this pain needs to go out, exactly now you need to let the emotions out, not to suppress them as you’ve done so many times before. With depression it’s good to contact a psychotherapist, who will assist you in going through those heavy emotions, in finding the meaning in life again and reinventing yourself by learning to love yourself and enjoy what you have. 

Depression is actually a gift. Well, in a thorny package, but it gives you the chance to take care of your old wounds and to learn how to be nicer and more gentle with yourself. Which could help you enjoy what you have and create a more beautiful relationship in future. You can cope with this, I know it.

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