In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!
I went through a terrible breakup almost 2 years ago. The relationship hardly lasted one year, but I am still grieving. That breakup consumed every inch of good that I had and left me feeling empty and void. I am embarrassed to admit that I feel hatred, envy and am less grateful than ever. I’ve lost myself. I hate who I’ve become and I don’t know how to go on with life while loathing myself. Every minute is a struggle when you despise yourself. Please help me. Where do I begin?
It sounds like you’ve gone through a great deal of emotional turmoil, and I’m really feeling for your experience right now. Break-ups can be extremely difficult, and bring up a great deal of emotions. At the end of the day, no matter how bad a break-up is, it’s still a loss. In a relationship, we form an attachment and this person regularly features in our day-to-day lives. When it ends, it changes things. You’ve now lost someone who meant a great deal to you, and that is tough. Let’s see how we can help you take care of yourself during this time.
Take your time, stay with yourself.
Anon, grief has no timeline. Things can take a while to heal, and that’s alright. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s important to stay with whatever you’re feeling and make room for that. Give yourself space to be angry, envious or whatever it is you need to feel. Remember, our emotions are trying to tell us something, so take a minute to hear them out. Ask yourself:
- What am I angry about?
- What is it that this person is doing/has done that’s bringing about this feeling of envy?
- Am I giving myself the space to allow myself to feel these emotions?
There’s no wrong way to feel.
Something I’ve noticed is how often we feel that we “should” feel a certain way. There’s a lot of shame around emotions like anger, jealousy or envy. Depending on what was modelled to you over the years, you will have a certain kind of relationship with emotions. If you’re told to hide/contain or dismiss your anger or sadness, there’s a sense of “it’s not okay for me to feel this”. Having those messages and thoughts makes it hard for you to really process your grief with compassion. It’s important to remind yourself that at the end of the day, you are human and these feelings are there for a reason.
Strengthen your Voice of Compassion
Anon, as I said before, break-ups or losses of any kind are hard. They can take a huge toll on us, and it’s important that we take care of ourselves during that time. The line from your message that really struck me was “I don’t know how to go on with life while loathing myself.” I can only imagine the inner dialogue that must be going on for that kind of belief to even exist, and how unhinged you must be feeling. I wonder what it would be like for you to practice some self-compassion, or to create safe and positive spaces for yourself to really reconnect with yourself?
- Surround yourself with people who are positive, and who make you feel safe and accepted: Sometimes when we struggle to find our grounding or when we feel disconnected from ourselves, it can help to be around those who support us and listen to us openly with compassion.
- Notice your negative self-talk and work to change it: Being aware of what we say to ourselves can help us recognise and challenge certain thoughts. Negative self-talk is learnt through life experiences, and it’s important to be mindful of those thoughts and try to replace them with feelings of compassion and understanding. Here are some examples:
- Negative thoughts: I’m never doing anything right.
- Balanced, reflective thought: I didn’t get it right this time, and that’s alright. I have done a lot of things right before. This is just a learning experience.
- Negative thought: I’m sad all the time. I’m weak.
- Balanced, reflective thought: I’m going through a tough time, and it’s okay if I’m sad. Sadness is a natural emotion.
- Talk to a therapist: One of the best things you can do for yourself, especially through a time of grief, is getting yourself to seek help from a therapist. While certain life events might seem like the main triggers of emotions, chances are that this event brought up certain feelings associated with past experiences. Your therapist will be there to provide a safe and accepting space for you to explore whatever you need to, and help equip you with practices and exercises to help you feel more grounded.
- Journaling/Gratitude Journaling: Whether it’s to talk about what happened in your day, or to simply write down things that you’re grateful for, journaling is a great way for one to explore their thoughts and feelings and make sense of their world.
- Create a Roadmap of the person you would like to be one day, AND be okay with where you are now: As humans, we have goals. Some might be professional, others personal. What helps is having a clear idea of what you want. Sometimes there are certain traits that we would like in ourselves, and that’s great. It’s good to initiate growth for yourself, but it’s also important to accept yourself as you are now. So, while you’re working towards this ideal self, honour your journey regardless of how it goes. You’re you and that’s more than enough.
Now, ask yourself: what traits would I like to see in myself? How can I get there?
Anon, remember that your journey is determined by YOU. You are allowed to grieve, you’re allowed to be angry and envious. The best thing you can do for yourself is make room for that process and allow yourself to be alright with it. I hope you find clarity and grounding in your journey. Take care and stay in your power!
The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.