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A breakup can leave you feeling lost. You question your choices, the things you said, and run through endless questions of “what went wrong?” Recent research even shows that breaking up with a romantic partner can produce a depression-like state, which might make it difficult to find the energy you need to do the things you enjoy.
But it's important to remember that breakups can also be a good thing — particularly if the relationship was sapping your energy or making it difficult for you to engage in self-love.
So, while it’s only natural to feel at a loss when a relationship ends, you can still take proactive steps to pick yourself up and find yourself again after a breakup.
Reaching out to a helping handPhoto by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash
Life is hard enough even when you’re in a stable relationship. It gets even harder when you go through a bad breakup and are assailed by self-doubt and sadness. Many folks mistakenly believe that it's best to just “get on with it” but this mindset can be incredibly taxing on your mental health.
If your mental health is taking a dive, you should seek out a trusted medical professional who can help you cope with a breakup. Psychologists and therapists can provide you with a safe space and will give you the mental tools you need to move on. Additionally, the right physician can help you manage the stress and negative physical health consequences that come with a difficult breakup.
Getting help might be particularly difficult if your breakup has impacted your friend group and caused you to lose friends. But life after a breakup shouldn’t spell the end of your social life. If anything, you should lean on your friends when you’re at your lowest. So instead of turning your back on people altogether, connect with others through community groups and by joining a sports team or book club.
Change the Scenery
Taking in the beauty of it allPhoto by Tyler Reynolds on Unsplash
After a breakup, it’s only natural to lament the loss of a person you once loved. You see them wherever you go and are reminded by their absence through silly things like the smell of pizza, the sweater they left behind, and their favorite songs that still play on your Spotify.
But wallowing in the same physical space will only make you feel more isolated and won’t help you make the positive changes you need to rediscover yourself. Instead, consider changing the scenery and plan trips that help you rediscover your identity and create new memories which don’t involve your previous partner.
If you’re really struggling to move on, it might be worth considering a permanent move for your mental health. Plenty of folks around the nation are moving to lakeside towns or slower-paced suburbias to prioritize their mental health and turn over new leaves. But, before you move to a remote cabin in the woods, remember that you still need good access to healthcare and will probably benefit from being around other people — even if they’re strangers to you.
Art for Identity
Painting as a form of therapyPhoto by dusan jovic on Unsplash
There’s no “right way” to rediscover your identity or create a new sense of self. But art can help channel your feelings and find new meaning in life after a breakup.
A lot of folks are put off practicing art due to the pressure they place on themselves. This makes sense, as you may feel as though your artistic production is a reflection of your self-worth. But this isn’t really true: art just gives you a way to channel your thoughts and feelings into a medium of your choice. So, preempt the nerves around artistic production by sticking to low-stakes artistic methods like journaling, doodling, or photographing your neighborhood.
If producing art of your own seems a little too daunting, you can always look for inspiration from other artists, musicians, and writers who have been through similar experiences. You might, for example, explore ideas about identity and relationships through iconic LGTBQ novels like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando or James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room.
If you do decide to start practicing art for self-discovery, consider spending time practicing “felt sense”. Felt sense is a low-stakes artistic practice that helps connect your body and mind as you discover new ideas about yourself and your identity. Guidelines for felt sense vary, but, in general, you’ll need to find somewhere you can relax and journal about the way your body feels in a particular moment.
Learning to Move On
Getting past the breakup blues is difficult. When a relationship ends, you might feel like a failure and could experience a genuine loss of identity. But you can find yourself again by consulting with therapists and physicians who understand the trauma that comes with a bad breakup and can help improve your overall health while you rediscover your sense of self. You can also take proactive steps to create a new sense after a breakup by visiting new places or developing a low-stakes artistic practice that gives you space to process the breakup and establish a new identity.
Oh yes! You have heard the saying “Straight skinny but gay fat” before it was made popular by Will & Grace (and if you haven’t, then I am revoking your gay card!). Meant to be humorous, but little did they know just how much that saying is actually a crippling mindset within our community!
BDD. Body dysmorphic disorder. If you haven’t heard of it, let me introduce you to it. Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health disorder in which a person cannot stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in their appearance. It is a disease that is running rampant within our gay community, yet no one seems to be addressing it. That is because we are so caught up in the everyday enjoyment of it with our endless social media scrolling through boys showing off their perfect ripped bodies and tight abs for a thirst trap moment, that we are blind to the damage that is really going on under this superficial surface of who we truly are!
I mean coming out alone is hard enough in itself! And after surviving the trauma that can cause, we come into a world that is supposed to embrace us... yet we are met with a sickening, unrealistic standard within the gay community that we “have” to live up to? We are hit with the Judge Judy glances in the scene, the toxic Masc4Masc culture, femme shaming, Mean Girl culture that is like walking right into the Gay Hunger Games....and may the odds be ever in your favor...but only if you have abs or a beard!
The gay community used to be such a community mindset. Used to be strong together. Fighting the fight together against all odds. But now look at us. We already have so much to fight against with the breeders hating on LGBTQIA+, why in the world are we tearing each other apart in our own community based on looks and appearance?! It is poisonous and is cancer to our culture and we are in need of some spiritual chemotherapy to rid us of this toxicity.
How do you know so much about this Josh?! you ask. Because I have suffered from BDD myself and know all too well the damage it can do. And I see it on the daily being an Aesthetic Nurse Injector at my studio! And at the end of the day, one of the biggest underlying causes of BDD (not to mention eating disorders, anxiety, and depression in our community) is SHAME. Shame we do not even know we have that rises from all the trials we had to face growing up being different.
Being shamed for who we truly are as kiddos creates in us a shame that we carry into adulthood. The rejection from our families and friends, our church, our community. This creates shame and a desire in all of us to be accepted in whatever way we can get it. To deal with the shame, we turn to things, such as being an over achiever, straight A student, president of all the clubs, leader in sports, get the big jobs, get all the name brand clothing, the dream car and house, hosting the most elaborate parties, spending hours in a gym creating these sculpted bodies, not realizing we are not doing these things to make us happy, but a lot of the times to gain approval and try and prove our worth.
If we are gay, and are not accepted, then we have to go out of our way to show we are worthy. And people can say, But Josh, isn’t this just a driven individual?! What’s wrong with that?! Trust me, I was one of those individuals above (minus the gym part because I love to deep throat Krispy Kreme like it’s my day job LOL) and said the same thing! Until I realized later in life I was STILL unhappy. And years of therapy, and also reading the book The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs (if you have not read this book, cancel your subscription to Behind The Times, go get it and READ IT NOW!), I realized I was carrying around all this shame I had no clue I had that was buried so deep from the younger me not having a safe environment to be myself.
I had to start the journey of uncovering that and truly doing the shadow work on myself, to love myself, flaws and all, to really start the healing process. When you deal with the shame, then suddenly our whole perspective changes, and realize certain things do not matter. We do not need to fear rejection because we do not have a perfect six pack. We no longer seek outside validation with material things because we have self-love that is validating us in ways others cannot. We go to the gym to be the best version of ourselves, not use our bodies like sex currency for approval from Jake the Jock over here that wouldn’t be able to recognize a King of a man because of his superficial blinders on. Suddenly we do not need the like count of a shirtless, wet underwear social media pic to feel good about ourselves. There is no longer a need for your public show of approval. If one continues to ignore the root issue, it will keep you trapped in a miserable sculpted body, instead of freeing your soul from the real trauma that needs the good ol’ spiritual gym.
BDD is real. And it is rampant. We have addressed other issues face on, like HIV/AIDS, STDs, and suicide rates that make my spirit sad. Yet let’s not turn a blind eye in the community to an evil that may be one of the biggest contributing factors to a lot of our issues. It is time to turn from a competitive, exclusive, and nasty mindset to one of love and acceptance. We need to love and accept ALL of our LGBTQIA+ community for who they are, where they are, and how they are in this very moment. All body types. All walks of life. All skin colors. Bearded lumbersexual or hairless twink. The dad bod or the ab bod. We are all beautiful creatures. And we are a hell of a lot stronger together as a community if we can lay down the judgmental culture, take a look at our ownselves in the mirror, and truly unwrap the inner beauty that is hidden in all of us from stuff that truly isn’t our own to carry any longer.
And there’s the last drop of that tea sweetie!
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Believing that you can stop being affected by Trauma can be challenging. This is one of Trauma’s 12 Common lies it wants you to believe if you have experienced Trauma. You may be replaying the bullying you received as a child and expecting it from people in your life now. You may be questioning if others will accept you for you if you’ve been told there was something inherently wrong about you in the past. You may have difficulty expressing what is going on within yourself. You may be afraid others will criticize you for being yourself. You might wonder if your past pain will always define you.
One way Trauma stays in your life is by having you believe your past is how your future will be. You may be hearing the words replayed in your mind that things will never get better. You may be questioning whether you can stop being pulled back from what you’ve already experienced. You may have reached out for help and gotten no results. All of these can make this lie feel true if you expect the past to reflect what the future will hold for you.
Trauma wants to keep you questioning whether you can change your life. It wants you to wonder if you will be able to move on. It does this so it can stay in your life. It’s pervasive. The more influence it has, the more power it has. By keeping you questioning if things can change for the better, it keeps a presence in your life.
One of the fastest things you can do to change this voice is to recognize it. If you find it swirling around in your thoughts, you certainly aren’t alone. There are many people who have these same thoughts. Interestingly, this could possibly just be a thought that arises when you feel a certain way. If you can think of a time that you weren’t so low, did you have the voice then? If you can remember a time when things went well for you, even for a day, did you have the thought then?
These thoughts do not have to be a fact about how life is always going to be. This inner voice may be related to a feeling of what you are currently experiencing. When you are feeling low it’s easy for Trauma to sneak its lies into your life.
However, feelings are not permanent. How you are feeling within can and will change. If you can consider this might be a feeling rather than a fact about how life is going to be, it can help deflate the power of Trauma’s Common Lie #1.
What Trauma doesn’t want you to know is as you change your life will change. You must do things differently to get different results. That means you have the power to change your life and this belief. If you can notice how things have changed for you in the past, it can be a massive help with silencing this voice.
Part of breaking free of Trauma is recognizing what it is telling you might not be factually true. As you understand your feelings might not be all that life is and notice how you are behaving differently now, this lie can stop dominating your feelings and thoughts. You can trust that you can define your life, not Trauma. It just takes consistent small changes to break free of Trauma’s first common lie.
This is part of a series on trauma and the LGBTQ community.
About the Author
Amelia Harshfield eradicates the effects of Trauma’s lies. She teaches driven and ambitious people how to release themselves from the effects of Trauma’s 12 Common Lies. Amelia works with clients to help them move from living a life of scarcity and unhappiness into the life they want so that they can lose the chains of Trauma and be free from their past experiences. After working with Amelia, her clients can trust themselves and others, believe in themselves and their worth, and know how to love themselves. Connect with Amelia Harshfield here: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Amelia on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/confronttraumaslies or visit www.ameliaharshfield.com
With the majority of us now working at home — and really, entirely living at home — I think it’s safe to say that we’re all dealing with novel mental and physical challenges in this unprecedented time. As if self-care wasn’t hard enough for many people when the world was quasi-normal, climate change, COVID-19, and now Putin's war, have thrown a figurative atom bomb into the wellness equation.
Many of my clients have reported critical disruption to mental health, physical movement, nutrition, stress management, and other vital components of wellbeing. Let’s talk about some ways to stress less, move more, and take better care of ourselves during the virus era:
Keep your routines and schedules. It’s imperative that we all keep as close to a routine as possible right now — for things like showers and hygiene, getting dressed for work, eating and drinking at the same times, working out at the same times, etc. As an example: I am working from home right now, but I will drive around the block before “clocking in” to give my mindset an opportunity to shift into work mode. It’s a no brainer that hygiene, rituals of comfort, and basic nutrition will boost productivity, focus, and feelings of wellbeing throughout your entire day, at work and beyond.
Read or watch the news once per day and check your sources vigorously. Beware, the mountains of misinformation piling up by the second regarding the virus. You simply cannot trust hearsay of “he said, she said, I saw this new law going into effect tomorrow invoking Martial Law, etc.” Bluntly, I simply do not trust what people say verbally anymore until I’ve read it as a government mandate or an explicit CDC guideline. There is simply too much exaggeration, critical misunderstanding, and, frankly, bullshit circulating faster than the virus itself right now. Check the news once per day to get the facts; and then go about your day as normal. Think critically and check your sources.
Avoid hoarding. Does anyone understand the toilet paper hoarding? My gosh, people. Enough, already! Verified sources report that supply chains and production for essential goods is working seamlessly, and there’s no need for hoarding. Stockpiling goods produces unnecessary panic. Panic and stress are not just abstract topics — they’re biological, meaning they have serious consequences on your wellbeing. Stop the negativity where you can — and hoarding is an easy corner to cut. Shop normally, please.
Call your friends and family. Widen your e-circle. It’s indisputable science that humans are social creatures. We are not meant to be in isolation. Take advantage of the technology available right now to video with one, or several, of your favorite people all at once. Set weekly meet-ups. Play games via apps where you can see each other. Check in with your loved ones, regularly. Together, we can get through this and to the other side.
Commit yourself, fiercely, to being productive, helpful, and positive during this time. This is a choice. It is easier, and feels better, and bestows benefits on other people as well, when you emit positivity. Yes, this is a difficult situation. Yes, many people will die, and many people will go bankrupt and worse. I am not recommending burying your head in the sand and pretending we’re sliding down rainbows riding unicorns, right now. However, as a motivational professional, it’s essential that we stay determined to make the best of this situation and to help others when we can, and to work through our own negativities and adversities for the greater good.
Keep appointments with your team of mental health professionals or consider establishing one. Therapists are riding the digital wave of offerings and are more affordable and accessible than ever. If you’re struggling, reach out to a professional who can help you de-stress and cope in healthy ways.
Find a structured program to suit your goals, equipment, and skill level. Online training has never been so affordable, accessible, and effective. The best trainers in the world right now are working overtime to produce lucrative, ass-kicking workouts with little to no equipment right now. Find a routine, sign up for it (don’t just vow to follow it, add an extra layer of accountability with an actual human being), bring some friends, and get to work.
Set reminders for nutrition, hydration, and supplements. It’s tragic how easy it is right now to forget the basics, and, unfortunately, nutrition and hydration are among the first to go. As mentioned above, try to stay as much on your regular schedule as possible. And, consider setting reminders on your phone, or downloading apps to do so, to ensure that you’re taking care of yourself physically. If you’re not putting enough fuel in the tank, there’s no way your machine will perform for you when the time comes.
Prioritize your physical health to feel your best mentally, emotionally, and beyond. Embrace the new environment, skills, and challenges of your new routine. New = fun and exciting. Learn to conquer pushups, handstands, and pistol squats. Get creative with props around your house or consider starting to construct your own home gym. Attitude is everything, and the more you fight the changes right now, the harder things will be.
It’s more important than ever to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. The sooner you can find your new normal, the more quickly you’ll adapt and the faster this time period will go — for you, your loved ones, and all of us. Adapt, adjust, and move forward.