How To Get Rid Of Anxiety And Depression Caused By Your Ex
At some point during this period of enormous loss, you might well decide that it would have been easier for you if your partner had died, rather than left you. You may even find yourself envying individuals whose relationships have ended in a death – especially if such people felt massively loved by their dying partners rather than abandoned.
In a sense of course there are very real similarities between losing someone through death and losing them in life. For a start, both situations are incredibly painful. And people in both categories are likely to go through very complex emotions, and various stages of grief and mourning.
These emotions and stages are dealt with in greater detail in books on bereavement. But I am also describing them here, albeit briefly, because those of you who have been dumped by a partner will experience some of them – and you may feel frightened by them, or even suspect that you’re going mad.
This article should help you see that all these confusing emotions – though horrid – are normal.
Naturally, people vary, but most individuals who have been rejected go through the following stages:
In fact, it’s not uncommon to realise that you’ve been going through some of these feelings even before the split.
Who hasn’t felt isolated or angry as a prized relationship lurches towards disaster?
Indeed, on looking back, many adults realise that they’d started grieving for the end of the relationship long before they finally accepted it had to end.
I’ve already discussed shock at some length in previous articles, so let’s move on to Denial.
Denial tends to happen quite early on in the process of grief, but it can crop up at any time during the period of recovery.
In the early days, as I’ve already said, it’s common to think that what’s happening to you is a nightmare from which you will suddenly waken.
You may also comfort yourself with the thought that there’s been some terrible mistake. Even though your lover may have walked out on you – perhaps to go to another – you will have moments when you become convinced that the power of your love will prove too strong and that he or she will realise it’s impossible to go on without you.
You may even fantasise about your ex stumbling through the door, throwing him or herself at your feet and begging forgiveness.
Of course, sometimes this does happen – particularly after a short term affair during a long-term marriage. But usually it doesn’t, and it is far better for you if you now convince yourself that you’re really on your own rather than daydream about some unlikely happy ending.
There’s another form of denial that can make sufferers feel that they’re going insane. It’s a sort of hallucination.
They will ‘see’ their ex on every street corner. And all sorts of images will suddenly seem to strike a stunning resemblance to the beloved. You may look at an advertising hoarding and suddenly ‘see’ that the model photographed there is the double of your missing loved one. Strangely, if you venture this opinion to anyone else, they will not see the similarity.
You may also become convinced that if you go, right now, to a bar you once went to with your ex, he or she will be there waiting for you.
Amy, a top television producer, took herself off to a country hotel one weekend – a place she and her ex-boyfriend had visited in happier times. She checked in and waited for him to ‘tune into her wavelength’ and realise she was there and that they were meant to be together. Of course it didn’t happen.
This is the sort of thing that most of us never divulge to our friends or family. So it may come as a bit of a relief to you to realise that it happens to many of us.
You see, just as falling in love alters our perspective on life, and removes us – to some extent – from reason and reality, something similar happens when love ends. In truth, we often become quite irrational for a time.
It’s very hard to reason with someone who is in the grip of this process. But if you recognise yourself in what I have told you about Amy, then believe me when I say that this kind of behaviour is not uncommon, and not insane, but that it will solve nothing. It’s a kind of waking wish-dream and is nothing to do with being in tune with someone else, or about the stars, or about fate. It is just about grief, and is a peculiar manifestation of it.
Panic – sudden, raw panic that seems to come at you out of nowhere – is very frightening. But it’s important to realise that it is part of the grief process.
You may suddenly be assailed with panic that you have to face up to a future which is about being single and alone. You may be terrified at the thought of going to parties as a single person, going on holiday, or getting through Christmas.
But you are not in a fit state at present to make serious plans about this uncertain future. So the best thing you can do right now is to deal with these sudden panics by holding on to something and breathing deeply. In a few moments, the panic will pass. And you’ll begin to remember that being single has many, many good points. They may not add up to the best of being a couple, but they certainly beat being part of an unhappy twosome. And if your relationship had been really happy, well, it wouldn’t have fallen apart.
If panic becomes a big problem for you, you might like to contact one of the support groups that can help. In Britain, a good one is Anxiety UK (www.anxietyuk.org.uk)
Isolation can be very real – particularly when your love was a forbidden one, or when your relationship cut you off from friends and family.
But isolation is one of the things we can actually do something about. It will take some effort, of course, but once you’re out of the worst of the shock, you can contact old friends, make new ones, throw yourself into activities that you always enjoyed and never had time for. And you can also use the Internet and access useful organisations.
It’s beneficial if you establish some kind of balance here. Of course, you need time and space to yourself so that you can grieve properly, but you also need to be with people – and this is the time when you should establish a new social life, if your previous social circle centred almost entirely upon your partner.
Anger can come out of nowhere, and when you least expect it.
You might feel hugely angry at yourself for mucking up this special relationship. You might, in your grief, suddenly feel murderously angry towards your parents for not giving you better looks or better social skills, or a more positive example of what a relationship ought to be like.
You will probably feel angry with other people who seem to have happy relationships.
And you will feel angry with your ex – which is usually a good and healthy sign. In fact, it’s much more healthy than sitting at home crying and telling yourself that he or she was perfect and you’ll never get anything as great ever again.
Your partner has hurt you, maybe cheated on you, discarded you, failed you, let you down, and so on. So be angry. Admit to it. Let it out. Get a large cushion and pummel it and cry. You’ll feel better afterwards.
But what about anger leading to revenge?
This is very tempting – and many people claim to have felt greatly cheered up by getting their own back in some way.
There are apocryphal stories around about women who pick up their partner’s passport, find the section labelled ‘ANY DISTINGUISHING MARKS’ and write: ‘Very small penis.’
Whether this kind of thing ever really happens, I’m not sure.
But something that very definitely did happen was the revenge exacted by spurned and humiliated wife, Lady Sarah Graham Moon, against her cheating husband.
She raided her husband’s wine cellar and delivered two bottles of expensive wine to every doorstep in the village. She cut off one arm of every Savile Row jacket in his wardrobe and she splashed paint all over his top-of-the-range BMW.
But did it help? Well it probably did help at the time. And of course, Sarah – who now calls herself Sally Moon – achieved a kind of fame as a consequence.
That was almost 20 years ago. But when I interviewed her on a television programme not long afterwards, she told me that while she did not regret her actions, she wouldn’t recommend them to others, as they didn’t actually help her situation. At that time she was very down and very poor, and feeling hugely neglected. She also believed she had no future. But she was wrong. Indeed, she became a fine advert for the fact that time heals, and also that you can build a new life, no matter what your age.
So should you seek revenge?
I can’t pretend that you wouldn’t get some kind of excitement and satisfaction from it. But I can’t recommend anything drastic. Quite apart from anything else, you might end up being charged for criminal damage.
It’s entirely normal to be angry if your lover has left you for another. But, strangely, most individuals reserve their greatest vitriol for their ex’s new love, rather than the ex.
I never quite know why that is. Probably it’s safer for people to believe that this other, malicious, devious and unscrupulous person led their ex astray. But the truth is that no one can prise someone away from a perfect relationship. So, you have to face up to the reality of your situation – which is that your relationship wasn’t perfect, and that your former partner may well have made the first move in the new relationship, and if not, that he or she was keen to make the second one.
I know this sounds harsh, but you need to accept it if you’re to get over your current sorrow.
So, anger against your departed partner is justifiable and healthy. And you might well manifest it in writing furious letters, bundling their belongings unceremoniously into bin bags and so on.
But, please do avoid all physical violence or wilful destruction of property. These kinds of acts might even land you in prison and could well seriously damage you or someone else. In the end, this will work against you, not for you.
Stalking too is a crazy way to seek revenge or to vent your anger. You may claim that you simply want to get a glimpse of your beloved, or find out what he or she is doing, but this kind of action can become quite addictive and it won’t aid your recovery. Furthermore, stalking is a criminal offence. So vent your anger, but be careful how you do it. A session at the gym might help; you can get rid of your aggression and get fitter all at the same time!
One last word on the subject: during your recovery you may find yourself getting totally and unreasonably angry with someone who is nothing to do with your problems.
You may have a temper tantrum at work. You may scream at a ticket collector if your train is cancelled. Or you may find yourself on a very short fuse with friends and start telling them home truths that cause offence.
Most people will understand that you’re not quite yourself. But you owe it to them to make an apology, and to offer some explanation of why your emotions are so out of control. There is, after all, no reason why you should hurt someone else’s feelings just because they happen to get in the way when you’re having a bad moment.
Guilt – another of the acknowledged stages of grief – is very common in bereavement, or after a relationship ends.
After someone dies, it is quite usual for the spouse to feel that he or she might have done more, or should have been more patient, or kind, or loving.
After the break-down of a relationship, the feelings of guilt are rather different.
A person who has been dumped may have little or no guilt – though some rejected individuals may feel guilty that they were ‘not enough’ for the other person, or that they ‘failed’ in some way. These feelings are uncomfortable, but they are part of the process of grieving that we all have to go through.
Guilt is much more of a problem however for someone who chooses to end a relationship. Even if you have been longing to get out for a long time, there is always guilt when you do: guilt for having given up on past promises, and guilt at hurting your partner.
This guilt may lead to all sorts of rather over-the-top financial gestures, in a bid to salve the bad feelings.
I have known countless people, friends and clients, who, when they finally got out of a long-term relationship, left virtually all their possessions behind in the home they’d shared with their partner – just taking with them a few books, CDs and clothes.
It is certainly right that you should ensure your ex-partner is adequately taken care of financially. But the fact is that no amount of generosity takes the guilt away. So don’t go mad! Guilt is normal in these circumstances and it’s appropriate that you should feel some. But giving away far more of your worldly goods than is wise, doesn’t stop the bad feelings, and may prevent you from getting your financial act together for ages.
One rather more effective way of dealing with guilt is to write a letter to your partner explaining exactly why the relationship has to end. He or she may not be ready to hear or read these things, but you will feel that you have stated your case.
Usually in a break-up, the person being rejected will claim that no explanation was given. Sometimes that it true. But frequently they didn’t want to hear one when it was offered. By putting everything down in a letter, you can make sure that your own motives are clear to you and to your ex, and also that there is no misunderstanding about what went wrong and why the relationship is now untenable.
Depression is often the final stage of grief. But it is frequently difficult to decide where normal misery ends and depression begins.
Obviously if you have a history of depression, a traumatic event such as the end of a relationship may well spark it off again. But this isn’t always the outcome. Sometimes, depression can be caused by being in the wrong relationship, and getting out of it can encourage better mental health.
As I’ve already said, most adults do not plummet into a clinical depression as soon as they break up from their partner, though most men and women are excessively miserable.
But if your split happened more than ten days ago, and if you are constantly crying, unable to work, or sleep, then you should consider yourself to be depressed. And if you are suicidal too, then as well as seeing your doctor, please tell someone close how bad you are feeling, and also, if you are in the UK, call the Samaritans – who are on-call 24-hours a day every day on 08457 909090.
And you may also find it useful to look at the health website called Netdoctor (www.netdoctor.co.uk). They have an extensive section on Depression, which you’ll probably find very helpful.