The Powerful Creativity That Comes From A Broken Heart

It almost makes the hurt worth it.

Photo by istock

There is nothing like a broken heart. Nothing.

You can be the strongest and fiercest lady boss in the world. You can be untouchable in every aspect of your life. You can be the most badass, fast-talking, body-building wonder of a woman.

But nothing can protect you from the wrath of heartbreak.

And there is no heartbreak quite as harrowing as your first real heartbreak. My first god-honest heartbreak rendered me insane. I thought I would never, ever stop crying. I was the girl who was spontaneously bursting into tears whilst sweating the demons out in barre class, traumatizing the fitness bitches with their perfectly manicured ponytails as I sobbed my way through the workout, my messy mental illness bun popping right out of the center of my head like a unicorn horn. (Side Note: Does anyone else’s ability to curate a neat hairstyle wither when majorly depressed, heartbroken, or hungover?).

“I’ll nev- (SOB) -er (SOB) meet (SOB) some (SOB) one like he- (SOB SOB SOB) -r again!” I would wail to my mother as I shivered on her couch.

“You will! I promise,” she would croon as she handed me a giant glass of wine.

“NO, I WON’T!” I would bellow into the ether, thumping my chest like a gorilla. My mother, who is not one to indulge in unhinged emotional outbursts (she’s British), would sigh. And I would cry. I cried so hard that my face was bloated for three months. I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but it took three long, hideous-looking months for my eyes to stop looking like softballs.

I tried all the classic breakup tactics in hopes of feeling a semblance of relief. I dyed my hair bright red and spent $1,000 on 24-inch hair extensions. I slugged back as much whiskey as humanely possible hoping, in the deepest pit of my gut, that the liquor would make me numb (It didn’t. It just made me vomit and embarrass myself all over town). I sobbed into other girls mouths that I kissed on dates. I took up running. I got a couple of new tattoos. I lost fifteen pounds in water-weight from crying. I gained fifteen pounds from heartbroken drinking sessions that involved dark bouts of binge eating. I bought a dog. I journaled until my knuckles bled all over the blank paper. I smoked myself into addiction. I hired a therapist. I saw a very expensive intuitive reader—twice.

Nothing satiated the pain, babe. I felt like I was walking around the world with a giant gaping wound that anything could get inside and infect. If a cashier at Trader Joes was cold to me, I fell apart. If a car aggressively honked at my car, I felt like I had been socked in the teeth. I distinctly remember watching an episode of “The Real Housewives Of New York” tucked beneath the sheets of my soiled bed, horrified at how nasty the women were being to one another. I couldn’t handle Romona bullying the new girl in the cast. “The world is such a CRUEL, DARK PLACE!” I sobbed out loud to myself. You know you’re in a weak place when “Real Housewives” triggers you. In fact, triggered (the most abused word on the internet) is the perfect embodiment of heartbreak. When you’re heartbroken, everything and its mother triggers you: happy couples, restaurants, pale colors, dark colors, smells, pigeons, rats! You can’t even sleep in peace—your ex invades your dreams and terrorizes your heart throughout the night!

However—

As painful and horrible as heartbreaks are, they attain a certain beauty. It may sound bizarre, but now that my cracked-in-half heart has healed, sometimes I look back on the days when I felt like my soul had been washed in toxic bleach by my ex and sort of miss them. Why? Because you are at your most alive when you’re freshly heartbroken.

Do you realize how dead inside we usually are? How we go through the motions and don’t notice shit about shit? When you’re heartbroken, you can’t escape your feelings through social media or incessant partying, because the pain is so intense it cuts through the usually effective menial distractions. It slices right through the electronic bullshit and you have no choice but to feel and be present in the moment. And when you’re present and not scrolling through life like usual, you begin to notice how people interact with each other. You notice the brilliant nuances of your city. You notice the flowers lining the sidewalk and the cute accent the guy at the bodega has that you can’t quite identify. If someone is rude to you, it hurts your feelings (as it should). You are truly living life when an ocean of pain crashes over your body and you suddenly understand your mortality.

The beauty of being so wonderfully alive is this: you’re at your most creative when you’re living. And creativity (I think) is the most empowering rush a person can experience. It’s better than rolling on ecstasy. Having the urge to create something, feeling inspired and driven to get it all out on paper or on a canvas or through words is a high like nothing else. When you take your pain and make something amazing, it almost makes the hurt feeling worth it. Every great album or novel or poem or song is derived directly from heartbreak.

When Alanis Morissette clutched her grammy do you think she regretted that asshole David Coulier breaking her heart all those years ago? No. She probably sent him fucking flowers to thank him. We would have no “Jagged Little Pill” without heartbreak, and I don’t know about you but I don’t want to know a world without “Jagged Little Pill.”

Not only are you creative and alive when suffering from a broken heart, but you’re also sexy. Extremely sexy. Purr. You probably don’t know it, but the rest of us do.

You have an air of recklessness about you when you’re going through a gut-wrenching breakup, you see. You speak up at meetings at work because you’re no longer afraid of having your idea rejected. What’s a rejected idea after the fall of Rome has taken place inside of your body? You’re not afraid to drink or smoke or swear, either. You don’t sugar-coat things anymore! When a friend asks you if her ironic “mom” jeans are unflattering, you tell her they’re unflattering AF. Because when you’re in such acute pain, you can’t be bothered to fake it on any level. You’re actually your most real, raw self when you’re suffering.

Think of a woman in labor. She’s not screwing around, trying to be “likable” and girlish. She’s screaming at you to give her the fucking epidermal—NOW! And guess what? People do! Because you’re powerful when you don’t hold back. And that’s you right now. You are the powerful woman in labor screaming for someone to make the HURT STOP. And that’s refreshing. It’s refreshing when a woman shouts her primal pain to the outer-world. It’s hot when you tell the brutal truth. It’s sexy when you swear at us and slug back your booze without apology. You’re owning it. 

A broken heart cracks you open so you’re able to see your deepest truth in all aspects of your life. Imagine you’re living in this stunning mansion. It’s really shiny and everything is brand new and clean. You’ve liked living in there! You felt safe living there. The mansion anesthetized any uncomfortable feelings that pop up from time to time. Who cares that you detest your soulless job when you get to come home to a goddamn mansion, you know, babe? And then, one day, as you peel into your driveway like usual, you notice flames. Terrifying, brutal, massive flames! Your pretty house is on fire, and it’s far too late to call the fire department. The damage has been done. You have no place to live. You need to start from scratch.

And starting from scratch is terrifying, but amazing. When you’re forced to rebuild your life, you’ve been blessed with the beautiful opportunity to design your world *exactly* as you like it. House burned down in that terrible fire? Then you shouldn’t have left the stove on. Oh well. Now you got no place to live, girl.

Well, let me ask this: did you even like the city your pretty house was in? Haven’t you always wanted to try living in Austin, Texas? Didn’t you think you were more suited for sunny California over freezing cold Chicago? And that house was pretty—we’ll give you that—but was it really a reflection of your personal style? Didn’t you say you prefer pre-war apartments with spectacular urban views over soulless houses with massive lawns no one ever uses anyway? Now that you don’t have a place to live aren’t you, like, really feeling how terrible your job is? Maybe it’s time for a career change or a lifestyle makeover. Maybe you’ll go back to school and become an aesthetician. Who knows! You’ve got options like you’ve never had before when you’re working from a point of nothing. It takes losing all the bullshit you think you need—like this person—in order for you to really dig deep inside of yourself and find your strength. The strength that no one can ever beat out of you because it’s yours.

So, if your heart is broken, I want you to cry your eyes out right now! I don’t care if you’re at work. Make a goddamn scene! Feel these massive, profound feelings that are so strong they’re bursting out of your pores like a giant, smelly slab of garlic no amount of toothpaste could ever diminish! Honor your rage. Fuck your heartbreak. Like, have sex with it. Get intimate with it.

Here’s the last gem I’m going to unearth on all of you babes: the pain you’re experiencing right now isn’t just about your ex-lover. Heartbreak serves as a giant catalyst for all the pain we’ve been harboring and numbing throughout the years. You’re not just crying over her. You’re crying over your failed career as an actor. You’re crying over your abandonment issues. You’re crying over a past trauma you’ve stored away in some old shoebox. This person who hurt you has simply unlocked the door and let the feelings out.

Now that the feelings have been let loose, they’re running wild. And eventually, they’ll get tired. I promise. They’ll curl up on the side of the road and fall asleep. And you will leave them there. And they will be out of you. And you will be light. And you will be free.