How to love yourself after being broken

”I just laid there. Exhausted. Tired. And in pain’.’

I remember laying on the floor, looking over my right shoulder observing the little clusters of dust that had formed under my bed. My right shoulder began to hurt and it felt like the life had been dragged out of me. Slowly, unaware, like a sieve that had been pouring through and was now left with nothing but emptiness. Can someone tell me what I’m doing here? A voice inside me went. I couldn’t answer. I just laid there. Exhausted. Tired. And in pain. The kind of pain they would be described as excruciating, full on and fatal. The one you can’t escape. Yes love, you know what I’m talking about, that one. The one we as human beings fear most; heart break.

I guess we’ve all been there. The feeling that your heart is actually breaking. But then I mean, physically shattering apart into a million pieces which, at that point, you think you are never going to be able to glue back together. That one. And we fear it massively. Especially once you’ve been there once you go, never again… but why do we fear heart break so much? Why do we fear not being loved?

Because love is our lifeline. If we aren’t loved as humans when we are little, we simply won’t survive. Because no one will nurture you and feed you and you will starve to death. I know, sounds harsh but it’s how nature works. Now when we are a baby we don’t need to do anything for this, I mean, we scream, we sleep and we shit all over. We’re completely reliant on the people around us, and they need to take care of us without getting anything in return. And the kicker, they love you so so much! You see this happen all around you right? I mean, be honest, the moment you see a baby and we both know it’s absolutely incapable of anything but the above mentioned, you go; ‘aahhh this baby is so cute, look at that cute little thing, so lovable!’
Why? Because when you are born, you are loved. Just because you made it to this life. And there’s nothing you need to do for it. Because life loves you. Period. That is… until we forget.

Because life happens, we age, we learn that love is conditional, that we need to work for it. Our parents, loved ones and teachers tell us we must behave in a certain way. To get the grades, be the good daughter, be beautiful, successful, loving, caring or some insane impossible combination of all that.

Do you want to know how you have behaved to get love? A beautiful question you can ask yourself here is; whose love did I crave most when I was younger? My father’s or my mother’s love? Often this is also the love which could have been most absent in your life. And then ask yourself: who did I need to be for him/ her to be loved? Successful? A go getter? Unemotional? Self supporting? Or extremely caring? Always nice? No trouble maker? Or beautiful and kind?

”We become the version of what we think people will give us love for.”

We become the version of what we think people will give us love for. So we stretch ourselves into becoming, doing, and forming ourselves into the mould that we think would fit the expectation of the other person. And what happens? We loose ourselves. We adjust too much to that vision. We don’t stay true to ourselves and we suffer. Or the other person leaves us. And we get reconfirmed, that we are not good enough, not worthy, and must work for it, being an adjusted version of ourselves.

When our heart breaks it feels like it physically breaks too.

Studies show that the brain registers emotional pain of heartbreak in the same way as physical pain.”

It. Just. Hurts. Like you heart has been ripped out. Showing us that emotional pain manifests as physical pain. Because yes indeed, your issues are in your tissues. Studies show that the brain registers emotional pain of heartbreak in the same way as physical pain. Heartbreak causes a lot of stress in the body, especially when the loss is sudden. Or when you believed this was your soulmate, happily ever after-kinda love. This loss can take our bodies for weeks, months to even years to recover. Now how exactly does this manifest in the body?
Our bodies produce hormones that regulate our bodily systems including falling in and out of love. So we all know love can be addictive, like a drug. Remember checking your phone 100 plus times a minute? That one. So we somehow become addicted to the person or the feeling of being in love.
When we are in love we produce hormones such as dopamine and oxytocine, making us want to repeat our behaviour and allowing us to feel good (you know that love glows? That’s oxytocine). Then when heartbreak happens, these hormones are replaced by the stress hormone cortisol, kicking our system into fight-flight mode. Too much cortisol over a longer period of time contributes to acne, anxiety, sleep deprivation and weight gain or severe weight loss. Either way, it’s stressing the body.

Then, there’s an actual heart disease called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, the medical term for the ‘heart break syndrome’, that is caused by the stress of a heartbreaking situation.

Acute emotional stress, positive or negative, can cause the left ventricle in the heart to be paralysed causing heart attack-like symptoms such as pressure on the chest, shortness of breath and arm or shoulder pains. The good news; this isn’t a real heart attack and no permanent damage will be done to the physical heart. But it does show us how an emotional heart break can physically mimic a heart attack.

Now, what the body is actually saying here is ‘hey, listen to me, I’m in pain, and I need you’. And you go ‘ok but how?’ We as humans have not learned in school how to nurture ourselves, how to soothe our own pains and how to be loving towards our own pain. This is what we learn when we go through those severe emotional pains in the first place. It serves a purpose and it’s the most beautiful thing we can learn as humans.

As I recall I was laying on that floor during a severe heart break and all I could think was how can I get out of this? Please take me out of this pain. But the clue I found is this; go in. Go inward. Go inside the pain. Listen to it. Talk to it. It’s your body communicating with you. This is where the conversation starts, to converse in Latin means conversari “to live, dwell, live with, keep company with”.

We heal ourselves by allowing ourselves to feel pain.

To not suppress it, but to feel it. To not dramatise, but to just feel the emotion, the pain, the hurt, the anger or the frustration. Because eventually we can only really feel an emotion for as long as 90 seconds purely. That is until you reinforce the story of ‘how could he do this to me, I will end up alone, I will never be with another man like that’ etc (you know the script).

So then how exactly do we heal our heart? Remember the love we feel for a baby, an innocent child? That child that doesn’t have to do anything to be loved? Because it is worthy? Lovable? Just as it is? That love, that mother love. It’s the mother love we have within all of us, to soothe ourselves, to calm ourselves down and to just talk back, like a loving mother to her child. So here the loving conversation, the dwelling and the keeping company starts. Start to talk to your heart; ‘I’m here with you, I love you, we will get through this together’. Hold her. Love her. Let her cry. That darling, is self love in its purest form.

And then once you’ve felt the emotions, train your mind like you train your abs and kick into the future. Because life happens for you not to you, and ask yourself: what was the lesson in this pain? What did he or she come to teach me? Better boundaries? More allowing? Or a pattern you had to break that was holding you back? Whatever it is, it was happening FOR you, no matter how painful in the moment. And the best part, this heart break happened because something even better is coming your way. Yes, you read that, even better.

And in order for the new love to come in, you’ve got to make room. Letting go of the old. Write that letter. Forgive the other person. And above all, forgive yourself. For letting yourself be treated that way or simply for getting hurt. It’s ok. This makes you stronger and softer at the same time. More compassionate and an even more beautiful example of a human being making its way through this thing called life. Because wisdom is healed pain.

So once you’ve figured out the lesson, you can move on. And once you’re ready, you may even write the other person a thank you letter. Thank them for the lessons, the pain, the gain and the even more whole person you are becoming today. Send it if you will, but only when you’re ready and without attachment to the outcome.

Then get yourself ready for the next chapter. Start to envision a new life partner, how would you feel? Who would you be? What would you look like? Find a way of moving that your body loves, to reconnect to it every day, to let it know you are still here with it. Nurture your body, boost those serotonine rich foods, amping up the omega 3’s, good grains and some of that chocolate you crave so much. Treat yourself to a spa day and feel the pride, the pride in the resilience we have as human being. Go easy on yourself, reconnect to your heart daily, placing your hands on your heart and tell yourself, I love you, thank you for beating for me. Thank you for guiding me and thank you for leading towards the life that is truly meant for me. I trust you, I am here with you.’ And just feel it. And last, ask yourself daily, what would a person who really loves themselves do right now?

The healed heart always knows.

Because like Rumi says; ‘The wound is where the light enters.’ That wound is the portal to your new life. And you get to glue that baby together like a mother artist on steroids. Play with a heart wide open love, you’ve got nothing to lose.

Love, Louise

Dr Louise Lagendijk, is a medical doctor and has an extensive research background in molecular genetics and obstetrics at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam and the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. During her education and research she focused on Women’s Health. Lagendijk is a certified holistic health practitioner and next to her studies she has always been fascinated by positive psychology, mind-body medicine as well as the latest medical technologies. The way women’s bodies and minds work deeply fascinates her, especially in the rat race of daily life. It is therefore her mission to re-establish the mind-body connection in women and redirect them back to their innate inner wisdom. If you would like to get in touch with Louise, feel free to visit her website or find her on Instagram at louise_lagendijk

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