This week, my 4-year relationship ended. It was arguably the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make, on par with breaking up with my eating disorder three years ago (and then again, six months ago).
Because of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want, need, and deserve in life and from a partner. I’ve felt incredibly sad, relieved, hurt, confused, guilty… but throughout the ordeal, I’ve known that I was making the right decision for my future. The same was true for choosing recovery.
Here’s how breaking up with a partner and breaking up with an ED are similar, and how to get yourself through both tribulations:
1. You don’t want to do it.
No one does, but it has to be done. For the sake of your sanity, your health, and your future, the negative relationship (with a partner or with your body) needs to end.
2. It’s hard to be selfish and do what you know is best for you in the long run.
Break-ups hurt both people. The emotions can often be overwhelming; anger, hurt, guilt, betrayal, confusion, and a sense of helplessness or hopelessness are all common… and justifiable. This is also true of ending your relationship with an eating disorder. As difficult as it may be, you owe it to yourself to end the abuse.
3. All of your friends and family tell you it’s the right decision and that you deserve better.
It’s hard to believe this, even though it’s coming out of the mouths of people you love and whose opinions you respect. But keep in mind, these are the people who know you the best and who are outside of the situation, which gives them a unique perspective (and hopefully, some objectivity). Sometimes, other people really do know what is best for you.
4. In the beginning, you just need to distract yourself.
Everything is going to make you cry. Keep yourself busy or create a “fresh start” project, like redecorating your room.
5. You need to find ways to take care of yourself despite having no motivation to do so.
Raise your hand if you want to wallow in your grief and your pyjamas and eat nothing but ice cream and cereal (or eat nothing) and stay in bed for a week. Feeling this way is normal and okay, but try to force yourself to go about daily life (i.e. shower, get dressed, see your friends) anyways. It will help remind you that life will go on and return to normalcy… and so will you.
6. You need to reach out to your friends for support, even if it’s the hardest thing in the world to admit you need help.
Your loved ones are your loved ones for a reason. They want to be there for you and be part of your recovery. They want to wipe away your tears and distract you and show you that life can still be fun. Don’t be afraid to lean on the people closest to you.
7. Remind yourself that it’s okay to not be okay.
It’s normal. It’s expected. It’s healthy, justifiable, understandable human behaviour. Don’t apologize for it, and don’t try to force yourself to be okay. It will take time.
8. Move on.
The great thing about relationships is that there’s always room for new ones, whether it be making new friends, finding a romantic connection, or improving your relationship with your mind and body. Get up, dust yourself off, and get back in there. The game’s not over yet.