Ex-Obsessed: For When You're Emotionally Devastated and Driving Yourself Insane
For when you’re in the break-up zone that causes you to obsess over the person you just broke up with.
If you prefer to listen, here's the podcast version of this post:
This is for anyone who has just been broken up with or broken up with a person that they felt they loved – and now you’re obsessing and even Facebook stalking this person. Maybe you know this is not helpful but you can’t stop wanting to know what they’re doing, who they’re with, who they’re seeing now and what that person looks like. And that is hurting you even more! But it’s an obsession and you can’t stop.
Firstly – I am so, so sorry you’re here! It's painful but it's temporary. This time will end. You are in the hardest part right now – and the more you can do to be self-loving and be nice to yourself, the faster this will end. I’ve been here myself and it blows. But you can half the time you suffer if you do everything in your power to do what you know is best for yourself. And that includes some healthy tough love when it comes to policing yourself and what you allow your focus to rest on.
This kind of a break up is way worse than most because it’s tied to different chemicals. It's not just about love and loss, it's about a salve: a reliance on an addiction to a soothing part of your life. Because it's chemical, it's hitting you on multiple fronts. With all break-ups, time is the greatest healer – but in addition to that, I want to empower you with some insight into your “why” so that you can begin to separate from the process you’re victim to, currently: the obsessing and salting the wound. So you can see the difference between the kinds of suffering: and see what is NOT truly coming from love.
As usual there are three parts. The what the why and the how – the tools.
This is for Chelsea. I heart you girl! Hang in there. xox
Part 1: The What
Does any of this sound like you?
• You crave seeing who they’re with and what they’re doing – you want to understand intimately what is going on in this person’s life. If you could you would read their thoughts about you – you want to witness the very essence of how they felt about you, how they feel about you now – if they talk about you. If they’ve moved on, how far they’ve moved on – whom with. What that person looks like when measured up next to you, how they are together, whether or not your ex has said the same things done the same things, whether the new person has met their family.
• While in your relationship, You always preferred to be around them and often chose them over your friends. You felt at the mercy of this person’s mood for your own happiness. You were only truly NOT distracted when you were with them – even hanging with friends was not fun because you were constantly wondering what they were doing. This person had the power to make your entire day terrible – maybe you even fought all the time, but you couldn’t bring yourself to break up with them.
• Maybe you hung on their every call and waited for it like it was the most important part of your day. When things were good they were the best thing ever – you felt so loved. But when you look at the relationship as a whole, you know there were real problems or voids between the two of you – you didn’t get all of your needs met.
If that sounded familiar at all, it’s likely because you had an addictive and codependant relationship. All that means is there was an imbalance you both completed in one another – one that caused you to feel painfully attached.
Part 2: The Why
The obsession is caused by something other than love. I am not saying you didn’t love them, I am saying you did – but you lack the part of your personality that allows you to love while keeping a healthy, self-protective distance. There’s a really important layer that keeps you safe and self-loving, above all else. And that’s something you need to grow before you can go into your next relationship. It’s what you need to find “the one.”
Your relationship was founded in part because you felt WHOLE with this person when you didn’t feel whole, yourself – alone. In falling for them and immersing yourself in them, you lost You. You lost yourself in broad terms but also in your worries and pain, which is why it felt so good. You likely took on thinking about their life, their problems – everything was You plus Them, and never you solo, which takes a whole lot of pressure of your life – because you’re forced to blanket it with half-someone else.
A natural progression of this kind or reliance implies to be without them is unthinkable – like cutting off an arm. No matter how imperfect or little you get from this other, they are a salve – a happiness-giver, who soothes what you feel is lacking or scares you in yourself. Through this relationship, you filled your voids, or because you were IN a relationship, your voids came out and reared their heads. The voids might be things you are completely unaware of- sometimes they’re from early life events that had a powerful affect on us. Things like a fear of loss, a fear of abandonment, or an old painful reaction to being refused or unloved. If you had an aloof parent, it might be caused by a strong desire to be accepted by someone, to feel attractive or to “have someone” no matter what. Maybe you even had a past trauma that created in you a fear of loss – now you are reeling in great part because of that trigger.
Whatever the root – this is your time to look within and discover your pattern: what is the pain I feel and where is it coming from?
Because of the bigness of the pain attached to this bond, you likely had an incredibly powerful fear around this separation, one that prevented you from taking any action – even if this relationship was bad, or unsatisfying in a lot of ways. What I am saying with all of these examples is this pain and obsession is about YOU and not this relationship. It’s a trigger for a lot of pain or fear inside, and to avoid it you’ve grown attached to a host.
The “Why” I want you to focus on…
This is about more than your relationship. This is about something bigger and deeper related to yourself. Relationships like this are a loss of a relationship, yes – but it’s more about the loss of an intoxicating drug that has been covering something bigger, up. So it’s the cutting off of the supply that is much more powerful. THAT’s what is making you insane. Because of that, I want to treat this like an intervention you stage with yourself. In your moments of pain you need to try to sober up and orient yourself to your own wisdom. You must choose – against your pain - to act in alignment with your own best interests. What this means is you have got to know you are suffering the addiction and attempt to help yourself medicate it as much as possible – WHILE stopping yourself from giving in to the unhealthy patterns that prolong this pain. This part of your healing is the hardest – show yourself how strong you are by continuing to move in a positive direction. Think of this as a rehab stage. You’re going to look and feel like crap, but it’s temporary and whether or not you believe it – this is the best thing that ever happened to you. This is a very special opportunity – because of this shock, you are in a window for growth – a time when you can grow to love and know yourself far beyond what you believed was possible before. I know that sounds like bullshit right now but it’s not. You must INTEND to move through this in a healthy way and resist the urge to be self-destructive and wallow. Why? Because it will prolong your pain and even reset a cycle that got you into this place in the first place.
This relationship was probably not ideal to you in the first place, and the real reason you’re in so much agony is it was something that happened before you were “ready” or expecting it to or you didn’t expect them to move on so quickly – so that’s triggering a whole lot of awfulness inside you. The unexpectedness is often the truest cause of pain.
Most important to know is that in order to be attracted to this person, you had to arrive at this relationship without being whole. That means your healing process is going to take a two-pronged approach: healing and growing yourself into a whole. Which brings me to ….
Part 3: Tools
You’re going to be battling the chemicals associated with your ex with positive actions, therapy – either with yourself or preferably with a professional, and aggressive self-care soothing practices. You’re in a tough spot so number one is be super nice and gentle with yourself right now. In general, you should cut off all contact with this person. Yes, only YOU know what’s best for YOU. Just continue to be honest with yourself and stay in contact with your motives. Don’t create excuses to see them or have contact. Including – getting your stuff or wrapping up shared bills. Any form of contact keeps the door open and says, “I still care,” no matter how practical and legit it is on the surface. If you need to interact, and you want to be truly self-respecting, have a friend complete the transaction for you and don’t open the lines of communication. You are not for them, anymore – they should suffer that loss and really feel it. You are not kept in their heart, therefore they do not deserve access to you anymore – at least for now, while you allow the initial scab to heal.
Contact is like a slow drip of a drug in that it keeps you stuck to them. It acts as a tether that keeps you in a broken-hearted, compromised position next to them: it shows you are wanting something from them, to know and see them – which tells you that you are lesser on a subconscious level. To keep them in your life through your break up, keeps you broken. You don’t have a chance to renew because you remain tied to this time in your life. You can’t heal. If you break that tie and then return to this relationship as a different person, many years later –that’s different and that’s totally possible. But it must be from a whole place. And you would reenter as friends – not as a romantic thing. And I mean years down the line. For now, don’t rely on that outcome.
You must deliberately stop the obsessive behavior and do not allow yourself to stoop below this person via obsessing about their life. Why? Doing so shows YOU that you are weak and insecure. And that’s what is most relevant: you are sending yourself a negative message with your actions. Like you are trying to uncover the source of what was missing in you. Even if this person moved on the next day, the answer is it has nothing to do with you and you are WORTHY of receiving love, right now, as you are. What they do and who they date has nothing to do with you or what was lacking in you. And it says nothing about your relationship at all. Get that scenario out of your head. It’s not about you – so don’t make it about you. That’s a manic thought pattern brought on by overthinking and it’s a sign you need to get out of your head and soothe – the moment you believe that others and their decisions revolve around you. The obsessive thought pattern is what is causing this – and THAT is what you need to treat. If you’re wondering why they’re not obsessing about you in the same way, it’s because they are not suffering the same looped manic thoughts. NOT because they never loved you.
1. Q & A with Your Inner Self
This is a journal exercise peeps! The maddening thoughts will feel less maddening if you create a conversation with yourself in a journal. Your goal is to get out the pain but also see how it is you really feel. What are the emotions that are coming out: are they more extreme than you know this relationship really meant to you? If so, that’s a sign this is an old emotion. Create an ongoing narrative that allows you to release! Keep adding to this brain dump and don’t edit – let the pain pour on out. Get to know yourself and attempt to follow the trail to confront some feelings about yourself.
Are you not self-loving? Do you not like or appreciate yourself? You want to discover what you need to start on in your self-work.
You can do a lot of really epic growing during this time, so I highly recommend you go to therapy with a professional. All it does it make this process go ten times faster! If you can't afford it or it's not possible right now, create more of an honest conversation with yourself and supportive friends. You must get to the bottom of your feelings about yourself before you can go into another relationship. That is the key to happiness and the future love of your life. Making YOU whole, first.
2. Hit Refresh
Right now you’re going to hit the refresh button on your self image. Change. Look at yourself as someone new. Build a new week routine, a new look, a new identity to invest focus in. Basically give yourself a soul make-over via Excessive Self-Care. PUSH yourself to enact these even if your heart’s not in it. Eventually it will follow.
Replace the addiction and all the time it sucked up with things that are new and healthy and as exciting as possible. Things that release happy-chemicals are a major plus, so start taking a new class that makes you sweat. Other things to refresh? Try things that scare you and force you to evolve and change in new ways. That’s a shortcut to confidence. Use brighter colors than the old you would – go to new places and be louder.
When I last went through a break up I started wearing short shorts, weird color lipstick and other experimental outfits to work. Why? 'Cause I wanted to push myself to be comfortable in my own skin, more than I was. You know yourself better than I do, but push yourself to grow right now – beyond what the old you was used to. Your brain will follow. Use this like it's a leap year of growth!
3. Tune into Wrestle Mania
This is a tool to help you step back from the obsessive, manic thoughts of a crazy person in a ton of pain. Your brain is running through a cycle of pain that is reaffirming itself. You are in literal terms, growing addicted to the pain – so the obsessing can be like a little gush of chemicals – a compulsion to keep twisting the knife.
So to help you step back from this thought loop, I want you to imagine your brain like it has become the TV screen and on it is an episode of Wrestle Mania. That crazy set of thoughts is acting out the same loop of madness – crying and freaking out, jumping on the ground and crying out in pain.
YOU however, are not your thoughts. You are the silent watcher that observes them. In this moment of inner chaos, take a big step back inside your head. To practice this, I want you to do it now. Listen to the thoughts that are streaming through your mind right now. Sit back and see if you can anticipate and watch the next thought that is to come.
That quiet watcher – that’s you. Not the crazy loop of chaos that is running around on the stage. The next time you’ve stuck in your head, sink back into your body and find safety in the present moment. When you begin to grow back into an addiction to past and present, stop and step back- watch your mental patterns. Don’t intervene or get lost in them, just watch.
4. Cry Fest Mantra
Your goal during this time is to willfully accept what is, and embrace it with all of your senses. And, yes, to do that requires you pass quite a lot of pain and sadness. So to keep it manageable, do it on your terms. When you cry, do it deliberately. Literally mourn but keep this period brief and only during particular windows. Schedule these windows – basically decide when you're going to pass pain, and when it’s getting too heavy, stop and close it up. Turn on a comedy and do something super nice for yourself. When your mind starts to wander back to the past, choose to redirect your focus toward something positive and unrelated. And in those moments when your mind won't stay put, use this mantra.
MANTRA: I have everything I need because I have myself.
All you need to worry about is right now. Today and maybe tomorrow. Let go of solving the future. Stop yourself from the path of “what if” because in truth, you will be fine and once again be happy. Whether or not you end up with anyone – you will always be okay, because you have yourself. Yourself is fucking AWESOME! You just can't tell right now. Now’s the time you’ve got to invest in really knowing and witnessing that truth for yourself.
5. Clean House
This one is last because it can be difficult but if you follow your own wisdom, you'll know it's what is best for you. If you’re serious about self-love and healing I recommend pushing yourself to do this as soon as possible.
Your mind wants to resist acceptance that this is over but your truest, highest rational self KNOWS that it’s over and you want to heal as fast as possible. So follow your highest self in all situations, and quite literally: clean house.
A big part of the triggers associated with this part of your life is your personal environment. Get rid of the photos, the wallpaper on your phone, stop going to the place you both loved to go for dinner, move your room around. Create a visually safe environment for yourself so that you have mental room to remember and become YOURSELF. Solo.
Keep that space nice and welcoming and fresh and clean. Fill it with things that make you feel like YOU and welcome you home. If you need to, buy new art and new sheets. Get rid of the couple stuff. Literally throw it away – or donate it. If there are baby photos of this person, mail them back. Avoid in-person contact of any kind as well as phone calls. This is a process meant to be done with just you.
If it’s too soon, put all the stuff in a box and put it in the garage. Make your spaces yours again and you will much more quickly mentally move on.
You cannot see the truth right now but everything will be clearer and clearer as you move past this time. EVERYTHING – from this point in your life will seem painful, lonely and impossible. And because you can’t have it, this relationship seems better than it was. Everything is seen through a filter colored with extreme loss. So stay focused on the now and how to best care for yourself – not you a month from now, because whatever you think you’ll feel down the line about this person, you’re wrong.
• If you’re thinking, “But should I really just give up this person I love and am so attached to?”
Yes. Absolutely. And you should do it with deliberate and intentional action. Cut your losses and move on – hard. And no, that's not cold or rash. This is your lifetime and it's short and this person is not the one. One day you’ll thank yourself for not wasting more of it on denying the truth. This was not meant to be and the better steps you take now, the faster and stronger you’ll grow into the one whose meant to meet your other, whole, one.
The chemicals of loss have a tendency to induce an over-romanticization of your relationship. If you were back in it, pre-break-up, it would not be as good as your sadness is making it seem like it was, right now. This is a process of acceptance and that means you are going to confront the truth: this is over and it’s not meant to be, and pass the pain that comes with that. Now comes the soothing of the manic behavior plus some healthy energy and focus redirection.
Let’s flash forward to the future: one day – when you are whole and the reliance has been cut – you will wish this person a fine life, but more importantly you won’t give a shit what they’re doing or who for that matter. You will probably have clarity on a whole lot more about this relationship that was unfair and messed up or just not meant to be because you had not yet grown into your true self. It was like you with a broken wing being cared for by a bigger bird. So trust in this vision: if you work on yourself and grow the wing back to health, one day you will not care about what this person is doing with their life. It will be irrelevant to who you are.
Be proud and grateful that this ended as soon as it did and you're doing something now by pushing yourself to learn about it. This is something many get stuck in - they end up wasting many years of life and when it's over they are much deeper into the problem, so this is truly a blessing.
You attract what you have. Right now this is a window of opportunity when you can really invest in you and grow into the whole and self-loving person who doesn’t need another half – they want another half who can inspire them and be inspired in return. That’s the truest prize you have to offer. Not one half of a broken table. That’s unhealthy and unbalanced. You will never fully feel at rest or be able to stand alone. What a personal hell that is! And you don’t have to suffer it. Trust that this was not “the one” and this – as with all relationships – is a great teacher. This has happened in your life for a reason. Use this time as an opportunity and do it right. Soak up the new knowledge you have access to and choose to invest properly in you. Move toward areas where you know you need to learn. Start to investigate yourself: what made me choose this person and why am I so attached? Were there things about this relationship that were not ideal that I overlooked? If so, why? What in me believes I can’t find someone who I respect, who treats me the way I dream to be treated and loved.
Because if you want to be in love and feel loved, totally - it has to start with your relationship with yourself. You can only receive that kind of love when you bring that to the table. Like energies attract. I know you know this is innately true - so take this opportunity seriously and decide to work on yourself and do it right. Don't try and avoid the right roads just because they’re steep or might be long. Know that you only have to do this once. It's the most worthwhile process you will ever go through for the rest of your life. Swearsies.
Mark my words- this is a blessing in disguise and you will one day look back at this time and think, "thank god! It allowed me to change into the person I love to live as now."
I wish you much love and if you're hurting at any given time, work on giving yourself soothing and love. Exercise, nice food, peaceful hikes, nice practices that soothe your soul. You've got to start to build a loving bond with You.