Ashley Ballard is the voice behind Closet Vomit, where she writes about mental health, style and home. She is a self-proclaimed vintage addict and feminist who is obsessed with Morrissey, indie music, and Jimmy Buffet. When she's not working on her blog, Ashley enjoys riding her bike or reading essays and biographies.
We got a chance to ask Ashley a few questions about heartbreak and she opened up about coping with depression after being in an abusive relationship.
If you think back to the first time you were heartbroken, what advice would you give to that younger version of yourself?
"I would tell my younger self that nobody is ready for a deep connection at that age. I always had a desire to find deep and mature connections with others when I was a teenager, and I never found those relationships. I think my body was one age, and my heart was far older. My only relationship before my current one was the boyfriend I had from my last year of high school into my first year of college. He took my virginity by rape and sexually abused me, and that took a hell of a lot of healing. I would tell my younger self that it gets better, and that sex doesn’t have to be a negative thing in your life, even after something as traumatizing as sexual abuse."
What has heartbreak taught you about yourself?
"That building emotional strength is extremely similar to building physical strength. You have to put in strenuous effort to become strong. When something breaks your heart, it’s best to take it as an opportunity to grow and overcome something huge, because the next time it happens, you’ll be better-equipped. It doesn’t even have to be a romantic relationship, it can be a family issue or losing someone close to you. I learned a lot about how I deal with trauma also, and I learned a lot about my current partner by how he responded to my post-trauma."
What are your rituals during a breakup? What things/practices/people helped you mend?
"I wouldn’t call them 'rituals' because I’ve only had one breakup. I responded pretty badly -- I got depressed, my diet was terrible, I stayed in bed all day. It wasn’t even because I missed him, obviously, it was because I was feeling something I was unfamiliar with and I didn’t know how to handle it. In retrospect, keeping the people who love you close and accepting help is a great way to mend. Practicing self-care and keeping yourself in good health, both in body and mind, is also crucial. I got a massage after my breakup and it felt cleansing. Also, reading does wonders."
Thinking back to breakups you’ve had, did you have any breakup vices (checking your ex’s Insta, etc) and how do you conquer them?
"I’m a huge stalker of people on social media. The best thing to do is block them or unfollow them, and if they ask, just explain it isn’t anything hostile, it’s just taking the time to detach and mend. I am a solid introvert, so I don’t really find myself wanting to reach out to a former partner again. I just conquer it within myself and move on."
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about love so far in your life?
"That love is present in everything, and it is a lot of work. I feel more in love with my partner in the weird moments (like talking through the bathroom door about whether or not The Beach Boys founded psychedelic music while I am on day two of a stomach bug) than in the moments when people are supposed to feel more romantic (like being out to dinner)."
Do you think exes can be friends? Do you stay friends with your exes on social media?
"I think that exes can be friends if both parties are mature enough to handle it. If one or both of them are assholes, there’s no way it can happen. I’ve definitely witnessed people try to make a friendship work and fail because someone oversteps boundaries. It takes a lot of perseverance and trust with current partners. Personally, I don’t think I would be able to handle that. I get nostalgic. If my current partner and I were to break up and try to be friends, I would want that really badly, but I know that I would miss the previous nature of our relationship too much."
What keeps your heart open, despite the heartbreaks you’ve had in your life?
"Knowing that every hardship makes you tougher. I wouldn’t take back anything that’s ever happened to me. I’ve had a world of hurt happen to me within my family and with my previous partner, but all of those things built my character and my awareness that people can fuck up, and the only thing in your control is how you respond."
What is your favorite song about heartbreak?
What is your favorite movie about heartbreak?
"This is a definite cliche, but (500) Days of Summer taught me a whole lot about myself. I saw it the day it hit the box office in 2009 and I was in high school, and every time I watch it, I interpret it a different way. As I aged, my interpretation of the film evolved. It really taught me that sometimes you just aren’t what someone is looking for, and that’s okay."