Surviving a Christmas break-up

Let me start by telling you how much I love Christmas. I LOVE it. It’s the holiday season with the best music. I love Christmas trees. I love elaborate light displays. I love the fake snow they sometimes conjure up in the middle of KL. I love that it is time spent doing absolutely nothing with loved ones, except for eating and napping and eating some more.

So when I spent Christmas on my own/with strangers in Barcelona in 2016, I never thought I’d spend another Christmas on my own again two years down the road.

So… why? The answer is simple: I had to.

I broke up with a man who I thought was the love of my life and couldn’t stand being around other people because my body would unexpectedly begin to quake and my eyes would start to well up. Like a hiccup, my sobs would come when I least expected it. (I once hiccupped while having dinner and found a grain of rice climb up my nasal cavity, I had to blow it out as you would if you had a runny nose, which I also had because of all the crying I did last week.) I couldn’t be bothered to hide it from others or pretend I was fine or explain my situation to everyone I met, so I just found a place where I could hiccup/cry/blow my nose in peace. 

I’m lucky to have friends who don’t mind having me stay at their place while they’re home or away so I shamelessly took up the offer to stay in Meiringen over Christmas, and made a plan to pamper myself all week.

When putting together this plan for a week of solitude, I had imagined myself in my pyjamas, with a book, a puzzle, good food and great music. The book and puzzle ended up being replaced by 3 4 seasons of House of Cards. 

I made food with the ingredients he didn’t like, hazelnuts and raisins, which I missed. I played Billie Holiday and Taylor Swift. I journaled. I sat in silence. I cooked for hours. I ate ice cream and chocolate cake. I bought wine. I did yoga. I played Clash of Clans. I let a cat stay over because I found her at 1am in the street. I completed another lesson on Coursera. I planned out the first six months of 2019. I sent pictures of my food to friends and family. I walked around the apartment in warm Santa slippers.

I texted him a few times, I know I shouldn’t have. I watched a YouTube video about going through breakups. I looked at old photos of us. I cried and then cried some more. There were moments when I was overcome by fear, scared that I would never meet anyone like him, or that I would never be intimate with another person the way we were. I wrote a lot about it. I read old notes and old email drafts to remind myself why I left in the first place. 

It’s been 8 days. My tears have stopped now, though my eyes still get a little moist when I come across a joke or podcast or Netflix’s Bandersnatch and I think about how we’d both enjoy together it if I hadn’t ended it. 

I don’t know how long I’ll feel this way, it’s gone from a sharp loss to a dull longing that lingers below the surface. Like, at any moment, I could burst into tears but between serenity and hysterical sobs, there’s a 2-second window where I get to decide if I want to entertain the tears. Yesterday, I stopped myself from crying by telling myself 10am was too early for tears… and it worked! I got out of bed, brushed my teeth, made coffee and sipped it on the balcony overlooking the mountains.

So while I can’t give anyone any advice on how to go through a breakup in a “healthy way”, I honestly don’t think it exists, I do have some ideas on how you can stop your bawling your eyes out whenever your mind starts to unravel. 

I’m mostly writing it for my own sanity, so bear with me. 

Nicole’s cure to stop crying over a breakup

Step 1: Find a place you can retreat to and not be disturbed. 

If you need to be alone, find people who support that choice. Ignore everyone else. 

Step 2: Make plans to do what you love most during this time. Do it for you.

Cooking had turned into a chore. Something I did to stay alive because I had to eat. This time, I researched recipes so I could make something special and fun for myself over Christmas. I made myself a three-course meal and ate it slowly with a glass of red wine. More on wine in Step 7.

Step 3: If you feel like you need a good cry, give yourself space to do that.

I cried watching Ricki and The Flash, a story about an estranged mother and her adult children. I cried at the very end although it was a happy ending. 

Step 4: Write down your thoughts when they seem to be spiralling out of control.

One thing to note about solitude is that you have a lot of time to yourself and you won’t always have things to distract you. Sometimes the mind wanders and it’s hard to come back. Writing everything down (like this blog post) helped me get through all the noise and make sense of the chaos in my head. 

Step 5: Notify your support network and reach out to them as needed.

I called my parents and sister the moment it ended and sobbed so loud, my mother ended up shouting at me over the phone because she couldn’t hear herself over my sobs. 

I also texted my friends to let them know what happened and to give them a heads up about why I probably won’t be as cheery as I usually am for the next few weeks /months. 

Step 6: Don’t forget to eat.

Eat what you crave/love/miss. You can go back to being healthy when your heart and mind is in a better place. By the way, I’m going to have a steak for lunch tomorrow.

Step 7: Have a glass of wine before going to bed.

It warms up the soul even when it’s freezing outside. But first, make sure you have a wine bottle opener on hand.

Step 8: Get outside.

Go for walks alone or go to a coffee shop and people watch. Give yourself a mission to buy something utterly frivolous. Tell yourself whatever you need to so that you get outside at least once a day. Get some fresh air into your lungs and stretch out those legs. 

Note: Taking out the trash for 2 minutes also counts when you’re heartbroken. 

Step 9: Give yourself time to sit still and be sad.

I gave myself a week, no judgment. Now that it’s up, I shall pull yourself together, by which I mean I stop sobbing in public because of the giant hole in my heart, and get on with life.