Ask The Therapist: I Just Came Out Of A Long Relationship …

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues such as 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 serves to aggravate the individuals suffering. For the women who cannot seek out full-time therapy, or simply need advice about their problems, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained counsellor. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

I just came out of an 8-year long relationship because I felt like he wasn’t being loyal. How can I keep myself from falling into self-pity or wondering if it didn’t work out because I wasn’t worthy enough or pretty enough?” 

What you went through is one of the most difficult experiences anyone can go through. Eight years is an incredibly long time; a huge portion of your life to share with someone. You feel the pain of heartbreak in your body, you feel the pain inside.  

Often in these situations, it’s easy to think ‘it’s my fault in some way.’ Even if you were the one who was wronged, it’s normal to wonder, ‘maybe I wasn’t good enough,’ or ‘what is it that they saw in another person?

This is exactly what you are doing by indulging in self-pity. The most amazing thing is that when someone cheats on you, it reflects so much more of what they are and everything that they are actually lacking in truth. Recognize that cheating is a reflection of their insecurities. Don’t let that amplify your own. The person who cheats is the one who is at a loss. Feel sad for them because they lost someone who would have never given up on them. They lost someone who truly loved them. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. If they have cheated on someone that is willing to do absolutely anything for them, they have actually cheated themselves out of loyalty. Cheating on a good person is like throwing away a diamond and picking up a rock. It’s so important for you to understand this: people don’t cheat because they don’t respect their partners, people cheat because they don’t respect themselves. 

There are so many feelings we experience when our heart is broken. Sadness, anger, loneliness, nostalgia. All of them have to be met head on, face to face. Feel every emotion to its fullest. Suppressing unpleasant feelings feels like the most natural thing to do, but avoiding your emotions will stop you from moving past them.

Sometimes the lessons people teach us are the lessons we didn’t want to learn.  Sometimes they give us growth we feel we aren’t ready for. Sometimes they leave us with a question instead of an answer. Of course, it hurts. Oftentimes when we are in a relationship we don’t realize how dependent we have become on someone, and may lose ourselves along the way. 

It’s so easy to doubt yourself and believe that you weren’t good enough. As I mentioned earlier, this is a clear reflection of who they are and their insecurities. 

Relationships are often the place where we get to learn the most about ourselves.  When they end, it is an opportunity to be able to reflect on ourselves, our patterns, our strengths, our weaknesses, and help us identify where the work we need to do on ourselves really lies. If you want to discover deeper awareness about your patterns, therapy is the place that will aid you. 

Use this opportunity to get to know yourself. You have to fall in love with yourself before anyone else. We try to learn other peoples interests before we fully learn our own. Do you know yourself? You need to take care of yourself before anyone can take care of you. Learn to converse with yourself – the most important meeting of the day is with you. When you’re able to communicate with yourself, understand your emotions, and navigate your mind freely, you’ve begun getting comfortable alone. Instead of finding another person or thing to get attached to, you need to learn to be comfortable and at peace with your own thoughts. If you don’t learn to be alone, you will always feel lonely. 

You need to learn to value yourself and understand that your feelings come first.  Why beat yourself up for his mistakes?

This is your opportunity to chase personal growth, to chase your own development, to chase your dreams, your passions, your full potential, and your purpose. You will need to turn the focus around onto you. 

There are some things you can do to start that process.

  • Create a gratitude list. Painful breakups can cloud our thinking, making it impossible to see beyond the immediate feelings of pain and loss. You may have trouble focusing on the things you’re grateful for because you are so focused on the negative. 
  • Work out! Get outdoors. You need to get your endorphins pumping!   
  • Start a new hobby – discover a new interest or maybe even something you forgot you love to do. Maybe there was something in your childhood that you have now left behind. Maybe there’s something you used to turn to that you have now forgotten about. Recreate that, relive that. Bring it back into your life. Learn to live with deeper intention – why are you doing it and what purpose does it bring to your life?
  • Practice mindfulness/meditation.
  • Journal how you are feeling.
  • Inner work – you must want to reconnect with your soul.  Becoming aware of your patterns, your needs, your defense mechanisms.
  • Let them go – unfollow on social media, delete their number, and don’t spend time in circles where you are surrounded by the same people. Instead, surround yourself with people who have a positive impact on you and uplift you.

You will have to feel the pain to heal the pain. You will need to stop looking for happiness in the same place you lost it. You will need to learn to love and respect yourself more than you loved him. It will take time, but will help you in your future relationships.

“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.” – John. W. Gardner 

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.

We at Mashion realize the sensitivity and widespread nature of issues like this and have a committed interest in bringing more awareness and exposure to topics and stories like these. Haya Malik is a certified Humanistic Integrative Counsellor and psychotherapist. She will be answering mental health questions weekly on Mashion, to send in your questions, email support@mashion.pk. All questions will remain anonymous. 

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