Lockdown Taught Me What Recovering From A Breakup Really Looks Like

"Think about your last breakup, and the pain that goes with it. Now imagine feeling that pain, without distraction, 100% of the time, and having no choice but to face it head on."

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An author's selfie and her walking in nature during lockdown
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While being able to remain at home and having a home to remain in during the coronavirus outbreak is a privilege, it's hard to deny that lockdown has been a challenge. It tore us away from the comforts of everyday life — the joy of sharing a pint with friends or celebrating a birthday with family. Yet for many of us, the experience has also given us the chance to pause and reflect, to take stock of what matters most. In What I Learnt In Lockdown, writers share what this period has meant for them and what lessons they'll take away as we all begin to emerge from our COVID-19 cocoons.

We deal with the initial stages of breaking up through distraction; this is essentially the biggest lesson I’ve learnt during lockdown. When you get dumped, you go out drinking with your mates. Snog other people to forget. Dance it out. If you’re not a party person, you still cope by keeping busy. That’s what people always tell you do to after a breakup: keep busy. Join a new fitness class. Throw yourself into work. Pack your weekends full of plans so you don’t get a spare second to think about how damn miserable you are that you just lost the person you thought was the love of your life.

But here’s the thing: none of these things are actual coping mechanisms. They’re there to take your mind off your sadness and stop you from dwelling on the pain. In other words, all you’re doing is kicking the grief can further and further down the road, until one day you realise you haven’t actually dealt with it at all.

But enduring a breakup during lockdown is different. You're literally at home, alone with your thoughts, 24/7. There are no friends to come over and laugh the pain away, or people you can hook up with to temporarily forget the one who broke your heart.

My ex and I broke up in January this year, and he moved out in February, right before the coronavirus nightmare really kicked off. Initially, I tried to do what we all always do and keep busy. I took up pole dancing as a new hobby, made zillions of plans with friends, and looked to the future with travelling and new work projects in mind. But none of it was working — I’d come home and slump onto my sofa, feeling just as depressed and miserable as I'd done when the day began.

Fast forward several weeks, and the world was in the grip of the virus, which included a global lockdown that meant seeing friends, attending classes, or even going outside was out of the question. In the beginning, it was hard. Think about your last breakup, and the pain that goes with it. Now imagine feeling that pain, without distraction, 100% of the time, and having no choice but to face it head on, no matter whether you wanted to or not.

I had nothing but time to really deal with what was going on with me.

Soon, however, I realised these were probably the absolute best circumstances for actually grieving, healing, and moving on. Because I had to face those thoughts, feel those feelings, and endure that grief. I had nothing but time to really deal with what was going on with me, my breakup, and my life as a whole.

I started going on long runs where I could think, and attending (virtual) therapy more regularly, to talk out what had actually gone wrong. I cried — a lot. I got angry — a lot. I came to terms with the fact that I had lost myself in the relationship, and acted in ways out of character near the end. I also realised I had really not been treated well at times, and that I deserved better. I started to feel far healthier in my body and mind. And I really thought about what I wanted in a future partner and promised myself I would never settle for anything less.

Had I not been forced to deal with all this without distraction, I believe it would have taken me far longer to get to the place I am now. While I’m most definitely not completely over what happened and the person I was with, I am now beginning to open up to dating again, six months on. This is something I never thought would be possible, but I feel ready, and actually kind of hopeful again.

As well as the realisation that forcing myself to face my feelings head on, without distraction, is the best way to mend a broken heart, I also rediscovered my strength. Having friends to go out with and cry to when things are hard is something everybody needs in their life from time to time. But truthfully, the person you really need to get through hard situations and move on in life is yourself. Going through quarantine helped confirm I am enough to deal with heartbreak on my own and, if and when the next one comes, I will be equipped to tackle it, lockdown or no lockdown.

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