When I was going through the worst effing heartbreak of my life, sleep was one thing that helped most

Break-ups ****ing suck. Period. There’s no other way to say it. They’re awful, unnecessarily painful, and are breeding grounds for resentment and petty anger. Both parties are just too sensitive or too wrought with too many feelings and it’s just messy, complicated, and too much to bear.

Especially on the side of the heartbroken.

Listen, I just went through the worst, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, staring-wide-awake-at-the-ceiling-listening-to-sad-90s-love-songs-trying-desperately-to-turn-back-time-in-my-prayers-telling-God-how-broken-I-am-wondering-how-my-ex-is-and-thinking-of-him-with-the-new-girl-wondering-why-I-wasn’t-enough-to-stay-for break-up. It was so terrible. And I reached new levels of pathetic every day. Barely eating, staring at a photo of him on my phone to pretend like he was still there, convincing myself that it was all my fault and crying all over again–it was ugly.

The first post-break-up argument we had, I was sleep-deprived. And I was bawling and going in circles, asking why again and again. And I felt the sadness seep deep into my body, my restlessness amplifying it. I was sad, sick, and sorely needed rest. But I refused again and again if it meant I could possibly wait for another explanation for him leaving me out of nowhere.

I was a woman possessed. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Honestly, I still can’t. And I’ve pored over everything. I relived our happy days like filmstrips in my head then felt the sore ache of reality spread like ice over my chest and body. He was gone for no reason. I was awake for days, trying to understand, sleeping only an hour or two or just minutes at a time. But I never could understand, I never did.

Friends came by to comfort me and the first thing they’d ask was: “Have you slept?”

And I didn’t understand them at the time. I didn’t care about sleep. I didn’t care about anything. I was just feeling hurt and that hurt drove me to be reckless, not sleep, drink profusely, cry all night, alternate between not eating or eating a lot, all of that. When another friend arrived, she set my bed for me. “Sleep,” she said. “And for more than just 2 hours.” And I wanted to fight, but when my head hit the pillow, I felt how exhausted I was. I was out like a light and she made sure I stayed in bed.

I woke up hours later, feeling a strange comfort. I was still sad, don’t get me wrong, but my thoughts were at least a little clearer. I wanted to stay cocooned in my blanket. It was like I slept for the first time ever, my body sinking into the mattress. I’d only slept 6 hours but it felt like such a long time. Had I really been sleeping that little?

By then, it was at least 2 months since the break-up. In those 2 months, I was quick-to-anger, cranky, and extra sensitive. I thought it was just my break-up feelings. But the longer I went, the more I thought something else was wrong. Aside from my feelings of hurt, I was exhausted. I could barely write–something I love–or even get through work without wanting to curl up. I gained weight and then lost it and gained it again. I would wake up from my 2-hour naps and sit up right away, walk around, feel anxious. I wouldn’t stay in bed. And, again, same friend said: “Sleep.” I did.

I forced myself to stay in bed longer this time. And even if I convinced myself I didn’t feel tired, I stayed anyway and my body drifted off in just a few seconds. I’d been second-guessing what my brain was telling me, that it was working overtime, that it couldn’t function properly unless I really rebooted. The first few days of consecutive good sleep made me doubt, but as soon as I did for a week and a half, I knew I was doing something right.

I would wake up a little less sad, a little more clear, and a little more hopeful.

The hurt didn’t subside–I don’t think it ever will–but I at least have a normal appetite again, I don’t shake or jitter when people touch me, and I don’t feel as inclined to snap at people when they ask me questions. And even if I don’t totally feel like myself yet, I’ve started to laugh again. Something I’ve missed doing.

I decided that I needed to make better choices for myself and my body. I needed to watch my sleep. Because everything else I eventually did again–eat, talk to my friends, get out of the house–but sleep was the thing I struggled with the most. And it was the thing that helped the most. I knew I needed a way to figure out if I was giving myself what I needed. When I started tracking my sleep, I felt loads better.

I tried to find an easy way to do that and, honestly, trying to take note of the time on my phone before I eventually pass out didn’t work out for me. I wanted an easier way, one I didn’t have to worry about because I was already constantly worrying about everything else. So I tried out the sleep insights on Fitbit and this arrangement worked the best for me!

Pink and princessy like me!

When I’m irritable, I can tell, because it’ll show how little I actually slept or if I didn’t spend a lot of time sleeping deeply, as most people should. I got to see where I was awake in the night–even if I don’t remember. I got to observe how I felt on good days (hello, 7 hour sleep) and on bad days (hello, 2 hour sleep). I’m not afraid to go to bed and feel worried I’ll wake up and feel awful, I feel a little better having this safety net with me, knowing I’m doing an okay job.

The insights were the coolest part, because it’d show you what it observed through a connected app and sometimes gave suggestions to get better sleep, like changing the environment I sleep in, etc. It was a great way to also think of what contributed to how I felt. Sometimes I would attempt to sleep but end up waking up to cry, and it knew. And whenever I felt extra terrible the next day and the overwhelming thought of how my ex was already seeing someone just a few days after leaving me came back, I knew to try and rest some more. It seems like such a basic skill, knowing when to sleep, but when I was broken up about losing someone, I felt like I’d lost everything. This, at least, reminded me that I could still be alright.

I’m not the best at it yet, I still have a lot of nights I stay up to be sad, but I do my best to try and correct it. Because I want to be better. And this doesn’t just apply to terrible exes, but life in general. Bad sleep leads to bad days, a sour mood, weight gain, even trouble in terms of emotions. It’s also fascinating how it knows what sleep stage you’re in, shedding light on what you can do to rest better.

He made me feel like a monster, like I didn’t deserve love. And because I ignored my own needs because I was angry and sad, I guess I turned into one. I snapped at people I love, I pushed them away. But I’m not what he makes me feel I am. I’m more than that. I rise above that.

We all need rest. I thought I didn’t. I thought I could bulldoze my way through my heartbreak and ignore my hurt. But I can’t. No one can. Everyone must set down their burdens and rest someday. There should be no guilt in trying to recover and reboot.

I’ll be getting my sleep–will you? :)






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