When you feel like your heart is breaking

13 Nov 2019

How do you cope when you feel like your heart is breaking? Especially when that feeling becomes a long-term problem for you as it does in an abusive relationship.  Narcissists will keep on breaking your heart for as long as you give them access to it.

The disbelief factor

When a reality is too hard to accept, the disbelief factor kicks in.  You keep giving the Narcissist access to your heart because you still believe that – if they only understood your feelings – they would have to behave better, wouldn’t they?

 Whether or not you are currently in any kind of Narcissistic relationship, disbelief is an issue worth thinking about. The fact that you have already been at the sharp, destructive end of an abusive relationship speaks volumes about your reluctance to let go of a potentially good relationship without doing everything you can to nurture the goodness you believe in into the reality you seek.

When you feel like your heart is breaking it is because your focus has settled on their potential and your loss.

What do you do with heartbreak?

It is relatively easy for me to say this about another person’s heartbreak.  It’s always easier to talk about another person’s heartbreak.  Still, it is something I talk about a lot because it is true and important. Today I want to focus on a different aspect of the same problem, what the hell do you do with yourself when you feel like your heart is breaking?

For the past couple of weeks, I have been plunged right back into that feeling of my heart breaking.  Despite all the years and skills acquired for dealing with it, it still doesn’t feel great.  However, it becomes a lot more manageable when you keep your eye on the games your mind is playing with you.

The Narcissist’s nose for vulnerability

Speaking personally, this has been one of those good old times when, as well as having to face up to very real problems – in this case continuing concerns about my lovely partner’s health – the Narcissist issue has raised its ugly head again.

Isn’t it funny how, even across thousands of miles, they seem able to sense vulnerability and resurface when you really could do without more stress?

This Narcissist in question is a member of my fractured family and someone who was very dear to me. In true Narcissist fashion, they abruptly discarded me.  Naturally, I never saw it coming.

The cost of the dream

Since then, every so often, they surface, holding out the promise that “we could still have the relationship that we once had”. We could still have that relationship – allegedly – provided that I,

  1. a) overlook the fact that that “relationship” existed only in my dreams
  2. b) am prepared to scale another few mountains of rejection and humiliation and,
  3. c) resign myself to walking on eggshells forever after.

Anything that I ever desired  is currently possible.  Allegedly. Just at a very high price.  For a very, VERY low return.

However, having walked on eggshells enough for one lifetime, I am not prepared to chase after empty promises anymore.  For the sake of my sanity, those days have gone.  However, it still hurts.

Of course, it was meant to.  Sharks don’t circle around you to say, “Hi! How have you been?” They come because they scent blood and they see you as filling a hole in their stomachs.

How to stay sane when you feel like your heart is breaking

So, how do I deal with heartbreak and stay sane?   Here are the things that I have found work best.

  1. Acknowledge how hard things are for you.  When you are hurting deeply, you need someone to hear you. Ultimately, that person needs to be you.  You are hurting because you have been through enormous trauma.
  2. Avoid comparisonitis. Don’t try comparing your trauma with anyone else’s trauma.  That way lies madness.  You might as well attempt absurdly complex  quadratic equations.  You would need to factor in not just the present trauma but past trauma, parents’ and carers’ temperaments and trauma, plus your specific temperament and frailties, formative years, outside support system, maybe even generational trauma.  That stuff is way beyond your paygrade – and mine.
  3. Get comfortable with validating your feelings. There is no shame in validating your own feelings. Validating your feelings means saying “Yes, this happened to me and it is bad enough to rock my world. I feel for me.”  That is a healthy thing to do.
  4. Take charge of your own internal dialogue. My issues with “my” Narcissist family member have gone on for a LONG time.  At a certain point I accepted that my brain will routinely slip back into “action replay” when it is not otherwise gainfully employed. So, whenever I took my wonderful Shih Tzu for a long walk, I would find myself slipping into, “How could they…?’ mode.  Instead of fighting that tendency, I decided to override it. Now, when I walk, I listen to a book on Audible. This means that instead of rehashing what I already know and feel, I am actively learning and/or enjoying something new. I am happy to acknowledge that there are an awful lot of books on Audible that are far more interesting than my habitual, repetitious, internal dialogue.  I am guessing that the same is true of you, too.  My Audible subscription has proved money decidedly well spent, over the years.
  5. Recognize your habitual difficult times coping strategy. The strategy that I learned from my family of origin and “my” emotionally abusive partner for dealing with deep emotional distress was, essentially,
  • Drag yourself out of bed.
  • Feel terrible.
  • Drag yourself through the day.
  • Hope that something will come along to lift your mood.
  • Repeat until you feel better.

That was the pattern that I naturally fell into – and still do, if I don’t take steps to interrupt it.   That pattern has never yet worked too well for me. I get caught up in my own misery for the longest time. That is a pointless waste of life.

6) Create some healthy daily practices for yourself. I have learned that my misery can paralyze me – which is not great.  Things that I have found that help, to a degree, include physical activity, doing my Morning Pages (see Julia Cameron, “The Artist’s Way”) and setting the bar realistically low in terms of what I can achieve when functioning in depression mode.  It helps to accept that normal energy and productivity levels will be much lower than you might ideally like and just take a sense of achievement in whatever is possible.

7) Get the support that you need.  When times are really tough, not only do you need support, you need the right support for you.  Friends and family may, or may not, be able to deliver that. The same is true of therapists.  You want someone who is attuned to your feelings and will walk beside you in your pain – as opposed to someone who will pull you down, tell you at length about their problems, or tell you how you should be feeling. The right person will make your burden lighter to bear.  The wrong person will make it far heavier.  Be very careful about the support you enlist.  It is not the title that a person sports that matters – be it friend, counsellor, or therapist – but the quality of the listening and being present to your distress that they can offer you.

8) Distract yourself with things that interest you. Taking time out from your distress to read a book, listen to music, or watch a film is temporarily putting down the load.  You are not denying the problem but you do need all the respite you can get.

9) Find things that make you laugh.  Laughter, for me, is one of the most magical things in the world. It lightens a load like nothing else.  Comedy, funny memes on social media, my little dog’s antics and any kind of silliness work wonders for me. What works for you?  Especially when Life is distressing, you deserve every last laugh you can get.

To conclude, Life is no fun when you feel like your heart is breaking.  However, there are always things that you can do to make things more bearable, at the very least.  If you are facing this kind of scenario and struggling to cope alone, get in touch.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

Leave a comment

The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse.  Starting with the basics.

Connect with me on Instagram

Want daily reassurance and inspiration? Sign up to my Instagram account. @dr_anniephd