Lifestyle Magazine

Can You Shop Yourself Sane After a Break-up?

By Periscope @periscopepost
Can you shop yourself sane after a break-up?

Nail varnish. Photo credit: Marcus Vegas,

At four in the morning, curled up on the kitchen floor, I had a wild, uncharacteristic impulse to hurt myself. Physical pain to replace the emotional; it made sense to my sleep-deprived brain at the time. My mind was convulsing. I pulled a knife from the block on our – no, my, for the time being – kitchen counter and drew it across the bare skin on my upper arm. Nothing happened. I poked the skin, looking for blood, but I was entirely undamaged. I tried again; same result. I fetched another knife; same result. I realised two things. Firstly, that if I were going to hurt myself, I’d actually need to do so by means of a vigorous sawing action, which seemed altogether too much trouble. Secondly, that in addition to dumping me, my fiancé – ex-fiancé – had failed to sharpen any of the knives, probably for some time. No wonder I’d had such difficulty chopping those leeks a few weeks earlier.  Sharpening the knives was his job; always had been and, I’d thought, always would be; and yet he hadn’t bothered, or had forgotten. ‘What a bastard,’ I thought. And then I got changed and went out for a run.

I ran quite a lot in the early days. I also forgot things, like birthdays, phone numbers, my postcode, arrangements I’d made. My parents got used to giving me information several times, and I started writing everything down, like Guy Pearce in Memento. Usually, I put important things on my iPhone calendar, but I couldn’t remember how to create an alert. I’ve gone mad, I thought, and then I cancelled all the wedding arrangements. And then I cancelled some of them again because I’d forgotten who I’d spoken to. I cancelled the hell out of that wedding. When I wasn’t running and forgetting things, I was still too busy to sleep, because night-time, full of gin and tears, seemed the most marvellous time to write long, impassioned missives to my ex.

And then came the lethargy, and suddenly I could remember things, but that didn’t matter because I wanted to stay in bed all the time. But somehow my days were still very full. I noticed, late one morning, that the bathroom was filthy. It took me six hours to get round to cleaning it because there was just so much to get done first: composing an email to my ex telling him that my soul was cracked; refreshing my inbox repeatedly in case he replied; smoking furiously when he failed to reply; looking at photos of him on Facebook; finding and destroying all the Christmas and birthday cards he had sent me over the twelve years of our relationship.

According to a recent Superdrug survey, British women spend an average of £500 on boosting their confidence after being dumped, having manicures, haircuts and new clothes. I did try shopping at one point. I bought a leather miniskirt. And then I came home, and I had a leather miniskirt and no fiancé. It didn’t seem like a fair trade.

One afternoon, I caught part of a radio adaptation of Wuthering Heights. After Cathy died, Heathcliff roared: “Do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” Lucky Heathcliff, I thought; nobody suggested to him that getting some highlights or having his nails painted would help. But my ex and I weren’t Cathy and Heathcliff: we were two professionals who’d bought a flat together and enjoyed pub quizzes. And yet: my ex, my love. I’ve loved him for my whole adult life and I don’t know how to stop. Whenever things went wrong, I knew I had him, and that fact meant life was fundamentally good. Of course, life is still good: my parents and many of my friends have supported me to such an extent that I can’t even begin to express my gratitude. I can read, watch films and write again. I’m not homeless. The lethargy is lifting. Life is good. That’s what I tell myself: life is good. I just don’t really believe myself yet.

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