Dear Wendy: “I’m Physically Sick After Ending My Engagement”

I called off an engagement about two weeks ago and I am an absolute mess. I feel like I can’t eat, can’t sleep, have massive headaches, nightmares, constantly feel sick to my stomach … I could go on but I think that paints the picture. I’m seeing a therapist and it’s sort of helping, but the physical symptoms are not going away. I’ve read self-help advice (throw away his stuff! stop contacting him!) and I’m doing all of that, as well. I’ve talked to my super supportive friends but they (understandably) just don’t really know what to say. At this point, I just need help putting one foot in front of the other and taking one day at a time; any advice? How do I stop feeling so sick and start eating and sleeping normally again? — Heartsick

Without knowing the details of your breakup, I can say that what you’re feeling is pretty typical of anyone who has experienced some kind of major stress. And I can tell you that eventually it will go away. Just how long it takes for these physical symptoms to fade depends, but with therapy, support of good friends and spring (flowers! sunshine! warm temps! rebirth!), I bet you’ll start feeling a bit more normal much sooner than you think. And while it may seem that you have no control over your emotions right now, take stock that you actually are very much in control because you have a choice. You can choose to use this time in your life to embrace bitterness, anger, and depression and let it cloud all future chances at love and happiness. Or, you can embrace it as a learning experience and a great opportunity for the kind of personal growth that will make you a stronger, better, more compassionate person.

But how do you get rid of your headache?, you want to know. How can you feel like eating and sleeping again, and, like, leaving your apartment and having fun again? For this, I turned to our own Amelia whose engagement/5-year relationship ended just last year and has felt a lot of the same emotions you are right now. This is what she had to say:

“I think you need to focus on finding joy and happiness again, even in small moments. Watch a movie you love. Attempt a little distraction with some sort of project that requires concentration. Hang out with friends and ask to keep the issue off the table — unless you really want to talk about it. They can’t understand, but it’s not their fault and they should be willing to just listen to you vent. Cook something complicated. But ultimately, I think trying to avoid feeling so awful is likely causing even more stress and thus making you feel even worse.

You need to stop trying to NOT feel sick and sad and depressed. It’s normal to feel that way two weeks after a major split. Crap, a year later, I still feel that way sometimes. I don’t necessarily advocate wallowing, but I think people are so desperately afraid of feeling and dealing with sadness. It’s just as valid an emotion as happiness, in my opinion, and sometimes you cannot outrun it. It will always catch up and better to face it head-on. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have perspective — to know that someday you won’t feel this way, that you will start sleeping normally again, and that it’s not the end of the world — but the expectation and the strong desire to feel fine again, so soon, is only going to make things worse.

… And yes, it goes without saying, cut off all contact for the time being at least. My recovery was majorly sped up the day I stopped talking to [my ex] on the regular.”

Anyone else want to chime in on ways Heartsick can cope with the emotions she’s feeling right now?

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at [email protected]