I try to be a positive person. I look to see the good in people....even when those people have failed me or hurt me. As I have been recovering and healing from my broken heart and broken marriage, I've had to fight to move forward. Some days I find myself replaying the highlights from the past 22 years. (Thanks Facebook memories and old photos) Holidays and big events with the kids can be especially difficult and send me on an emotional roller coaster.
As I look back at photos, I idealize the relationship and the person I cared for. My mind plays tricks and begins the "what if" game. This game never leads to healing or moving forward. Instead it leads to depression and feelings of despair and failure.
A few months back, I came across a TED Talk video by Guy Winch entitled "How to Fix a Broken Heart". In this video he talked about the trauma of heartbreak and balancing the idealizing with the truth about the other person. He shared that brain studies have shown that the withdrawal of romantic love activates the same mechanisms in our brain that are activated when addicts are withdrawing from substances like cocaine or opioids. So every trek down memory lane, every text that you send and every second spent stalking your ex on social media is just feeding the addiction, deepening the emotional pain and complicating the recovery.
You think you're searching for answers and apologies and closure. But you're just getting your next fix. No apology...no answer can make what happened okay. Instead of searching for closure you have to choose to let it go. Let go of the anger and the need for answers. Let go of trying to figure out the endless "what ifs" and "if I had only". You have to fight hard to move forward by stopping the idealizing of the relationship.
In the video Guy Winch says, "Don't just remember the things about them that made you smile. Remember the things that made you frown." He advises people to compile an exhaustive list of the ways the other person was wrong for you. And to keep this list on your phone. Anytime there is a hint of idealizing or a whiff of nostalgia, take out the phone and read the list. Your mind will try to tell you that they were perfect but they were not and neither was the relationship. And you have to remind yourself of that frequently.
I needed to remind myself of that often, especially as the divorce was final and I still had so many unanswered questions and very little closure. I was feeling stuck as I saw my ex continuing to move on with his life with ease and no looking back. So I decided to compile my list...on paper first.....then I added it to my phone. I wasn't sure if I would actually read it or not but I figured I'd give it a try.
It didn't take long before my mind started a journey down memory lane and the "I wish's" began. I pulled up the list on my phone and began reading it. As I read the truth about my relationship, I stopped wishing that we were still one. I stopped wondering why things were broken. I stopped idealizing...at least for that moment in time.
I've read the list several times since putting it on my phone. I've been quite surprised at how helpful it has been for me. It's been a great tool for separating image from reality, what I wanted from what I lived, and the truth from the lies. Reading that list has helped me learn more about myself and what I don't want for my future. The love we shared was distorted and costly to my self worth. There were great moments and wonderful memories but so much of what I lived was not genuine or Christ-like love.
The list puts the past memories into perspective and takes away their power over my mind and emotions. It shows me while there was some personal growth over the years, the most important thing never changed. The respect and value for me as a woman just wasn't there. There was nothing that I could have done differently to make that happen. There's nothing that I can do now to change the past or someone else's choices. Every time I forget that, I can read the list and remind myself.
Now with this list you have to be careful and not let it stir up anger and hatred towards the other person or yourself. That definitely will not help your healing process. That's where grace comes in....grace like a flood. And that's the next piece of the healing process that I'll write about in the next blog.
I've learned a lot about myself over the past year as I've been on a journey towards healing my heart. There hasn't been one magic solution to take away the pain and anger. It has been a combination of different advice, Biblical counsel and self-talk that has helped me move forward and not get stuck in the deep pit of depression and despair. At times my progress has been really slow. But God continues to show me new things and reminds me of some things that I had forgotten.
I know that there are many people who are stuck in the pain of heartbreak and can't break free and move forward. So in the next few blogs, I'm going to share some of the things that have helped me keep moving towards healing.
The first thing I learned was that I would experience a wide array of emotions on my journey and I needed to feel those emotions. Really feel them. Embrace them fully as they hit me. Don't bury them or ignore them or wish them away. I needed to feel the emotion and then give it to God.
There were days that I cried a lot and felt deep sadness. Other days I was more angry than sad. One of the best ways for me to process my emotions was through journaling. Writing has always been therapeutic for me. When my mind and heart were overwhelmed it really helped to put the thoughts and feelings down onto paper. Some of those writings I shared on my blog but many were just for me. As I go back and read old journal posts I can see the progress that I have made.
Another way that I embraced my emotions was through music. Some days I listened to the "you don't deserve me" girl power songs or the sad country love songs. Praise and worship music helped lift my spirit and remind me who I was. Singing Scripture help dispel the lies that filled my mind, Lies about being forsaken, forgotten and rejected. Music is still a powerful tool in my healing journey. God uses it to speak His love over me.
It's ok to be emotional. I think too many people think it's a sign of weakness to be hurt or sad when someone betrays them. For some reason we think that we have to just buck up and put on a strong front. But all that does is delay the complete healing of the heart.
There will be good days and there will be rough days. You just have to face each day as it comes. Don't get overwhelmed with looking too far ahead. Don't get depressed by continuing to look back and ask "Why me?" Start each day thanking God for the progress that you have made so far. Ask Him for the strength and courage to make it through the day or just the next hour if it's a rough day. At the end of the day write down the things that are on your mind. Write your fears, your questions, your victories for that day. Write it all down. Get it off your mind and onto paper. You will be amazed out how freeing it is to just dump it all out.
Once all the junk is out, then you can replace it with truth and healthy self talk. It's a slow process but over time you will begin to see signs of healing.