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Words by Niamh Shackleton, 23, from Manchester
Let's face it, going through a break-up hurts like hell at the best of times - never mind during a global pandemic.
It's mentally and physically draining; part of you is replaying the best parts of the relationship in your head on repeat and constantly questioning what went wrong, the other part crying so much your eyes hurt and getting chest pains after feeling like your heart has been literally cracked in two.
It happened just three days before Boris announced the country was going into lockdown on 23rd March. Already struggling to come to terms with the collapse of my relationship, I was then hit with the news I had to stay home - the last thing you want to do when dealing with a broken heart.
I'd met Joe* at work and it was purely platonic at first, but after over a year of friendship and our respective relationships ending, romantic feelings developed between the two of us.
A whirlwind six months followed our decision to give it a try which was filled with ups and downs and a lot of miscommunication; something which ultimately caused our break up. Despite the feelings we had for one another, we simply couldn't get on the same page.
After a 'break' of a few days - insert Ross and Rachel reference here - he ended things via text, knowing it would be too hard for us to see each other in person. While I had to admit the relationship had been hard work, I wasn't ready for it to be over and was still willing to put up a fight. He unfortunately wasn't.
Under normal circumstances, women are well equipped at dealing with heartbreak. Some hit the gym, others throw themselves into their career - and some prefer going out with their mates and drinking so many vodka cocktails they end up fluent in Russian. But what happens when you can't do any of those things?
Lockdown saw offices, bars and restaurants close their doors, with people isolated from their social circles and their loved ones. When we did see people outside our household, we were forced to stand awkwardly two metres away from them; the last thing you need when all you want is a damn hug.
Living alone and an hour away from my family, I quickly retreated back to my parents' house to work form home knowing I couldn't be alone for those first three weeks. Little did we know it would end up being four months.
Following all these non-break-up-friendly, socially distant rules, my initial coping mechanism was to grieve for the relationship I'd lost.
At the age of 23, I'd been in a relationship almost constantly since the age of 14; the longest period I'd been single for was six months.
But with lockdown pretty much decimating the dating scene, I had no choice but to face singledom head on. I spent the first six weeks of lockdown randomly bursting into tears, listening to a self-made 'break up' Spotify playlist on repeat, and drinking my body weight in gin. All I could think about was the good times during my relationship, something which I eventually realised was aiding and abetting my grief.
However, as the cloud has slowly began to lift, I began to see the relationship in a more balanced way - something which is vital in the moving on process. Having literally nothing to do but sit and think, I slowly came to see the problems of the relationship and how my own actions played a part in its ending, one of which was doing self-destructive things that we're all prone to at times.
As I wasn't the one who ended the relationship, I'd felt completely out of control. But in time I realised that what I needed was to me regain power over my own narrative. I decided I wanted to come out of lockdown stronger than before.
Joe* said he needed to be on his own and work on himself, something which I'm now grateful for because I too needed to work on myself - and still am.
Going through a break-up during lockdown has made me take a long, hard look at myself and given me the time and thinking space. It's helped me to take steps towards being the person I really want to be in relationships.
It's made me realise I don't need to be with someone and I'm actually OK on my own. Yes, I'd like a relationship; but it's important to learn the difference between the two.
I'm also learning to embrace the parts I like about myself (ambition, confidence and loyalty) and to work on the parts I don't (drinking way too much and doing stupid things). It's true when they say you can't expect someone to like you if you don't like yourself.
I previously relied heavily on the gratification of having someone love or like me to feel worthy, but I'm slowly learning I am in fact worthy without a significant other to tell me so.
It's been tough, and it's still a working process - but I'll get there.
*Name has been changed
Featured Image Credit: Niamh Shackleton
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