Keren was engaged to be married to a boy she’d known almost all her life. When they were old enough to move their childhood friendship to another level, they dated for almost three years. They got engaged on the day Keren finished her first year of college. They had a big engagement party, and received lots of gifts from family and friends. Keren became engrossed in wedding planning.
It came completely out of the blue when a few weeks later she met up with her fiance who told her, looking stricken, that he couldn’t go through with the marriage. “I need to find myself before committing to anyone else. I don’t even know who I am without you by my side. What’s between us is precious, but it’s not enough, something feels wrong.”
Keren was devastated. She was losing someone whom she loved deeply. Losing the future that she had mapped out for herself. Everyone she knew would be hearing about it. Subsequently, she felt completely humiliated as well as heart-broken.
At first, Keren was surrounded by love and support. She cried and cried and cried and her friends brought her little gifts, sat with her and soothed her. But as the summer wore on, the friends got tired of being with someone so miserable and started to peel away. Keren refused to leave her house and became reclusive, never speaking and barely eating.
That October, it was time for Keren to return to college in another city. Her course had only a few lectures. Generally,students were expected to spend most of their time reading books by themselves and writing papers. Keren could do this in bed, and by borrowing lecture notes, just about managed to keep up. But she still refused to go out, talk to anyone or even open the shutters. In addition,she stopped taking care of herself. When her mother came to visit two months later she was shocked by Keren’s appearance and by the state of her room. It seemed obvious that Keren was suffering from breakup depression. She called Kav L’Noar.
Kav L’Noar Steps in
The Kav L’Noar therapist came out to meet her new client in the waiting room in order to show Keren where to go. There she saw Keren holding hands with her mother. When the therapist smiled and invited Keren to come with her, Keren clutched on to her mother even more tightly. Keren’s mother got up and supported Keren as she walked down the corridor to the therapy room. But when they got to the door, Keren insisted that her mother come in with her. She then sat in silence with her head almost on her knees while her mother apologetically spoke on Keren’s behalf. It was only in the last ten minutes of the session that Keren finally agreed to talk to the therapist on her own. Even then once her mother had left the room she only managed to say a few words.
Coping with Breakup Depression
The therapist was concerned that Keren seemed to be in the grip of a severe depression. She recommended that she consult with a psychiatrist for a medication evaluation. Consequently, she suggested that Keren might feel safer if she returned to her parents’ house at least temporarily, until she had more energy. Keren liked the idea of going home and being looked after.
Keren’s mother had told the therapist that Keren was talented at art and had even had some paintings displayed at a local exhibition. So in the next sessions, the therapist provided supplies and encouraged Keren to go ahead and sketch, in the hope that this would help her open up and feel less intimidated. There were never any people in Keren’s drawings, but there were lots of flowers and rooms with windows. These images seemed to calm Keren. The therapist encouraged Keren to hold on to these images in her mind even when they weren’t physically in front of her and to concentrate on these mental pictures when she felt unsafe.
Building up a sense of safety
Over time, Keren gradually opened up and began to talk more, and the therapist continued to work with her on building up her sense of safety. Keren’s brother worked as a local librarian. Eventually Keren reached the stage where she felt capable of leaving her house and volunteering at his library, even though it did sometimes involve speaking to people other than her brother.
There were students who spent a lot of time in the library, including a young man who always seemed to find an excuse to say something to Keren. One time he finally plucked up the courage to ask her to join him for a coffee. Keren just about managed to blurt out that it wasn’t a good time before rushing away in a panic.
A new first date
When she returned to her therapist, she was really upset. “How can I move on with my life when I can’t even face a first date with a sweet guy who spends all his time in a library?” Keren and the therapist worked on making Keren feel more comfortable with the idea of dating. They role-played different scenarios, including planning ways to get out of potentially uncomfortable situations. Keren did manage to work herself up to go out with the student, but after a few dates, she decided that he wasn’t right for her. She felt empowered by the experience of being able to date and it now being her turn to say no.
this time, the wedding went ahead
A few months later, the boy from the library called Keren again. He said that he had made a new friend whom he thought would be perfect for Keren. This friend turned out to be a much better match, and they started dating seriously. Of course, the memories of the broken engagement then came back stronger than ever, and there was a lot of anxiety for Keren to work through with her therapist. Keren overcame her breakup depression. She powered through, and this time, the wedding went ahead.
*All names and identifying details have been changed to protect client confidentiality. Picture is for illustrative purposes only.