Dr. Sheila Loanzon is a board-certified OB-GYN, surgeon, Fellow of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology and best-selling author of Yes, I Have Herpes. In her book, she shares her experience living with the stigmatic disease and provides women with inspiration through self-love and acceptance. We talked to Dr. Loanzon about grieving, red flags, and her post-breakup rituals.
If you think back to the first time you were heartbroken, what advice would you give to that younger version of yourself?
"My advice would be to realize that a heartbreak was not my fault. When I was younger, I thought that it was my job and responsibility to make others happy. If my partner wasn't happy, I believed this to mean that I was doing something wrong. It took me many years to realize that sometimes relationships don't work out and it is not a reflection of me and who I am."
"It took time to realize that I am lovable, worthy, and deserve a partner that was a full match to me. I thought I needed to have a partner to complete me, just as all the movies say (e.g. Jerry Maguire). But I complete myself! In reality, I deserve a partner who is a complement to me."
What has heartbreak taught you about yourself?
"Heartbreak has taught me to trust my gut. When I think back to all the relationships that did not work out, there were red flags and gut instincts that I chose to ignore. I believe if I had followed my gut the first time, I may have saved myself emotional heartache, financial investments, and time. Despite all of this, I believe that all of these experiences taught me so much about myself, people and social pressures, and I cannot fault those experiences. How can we judge or fault ourselves for having experiences of emotional growth?"
"I realized at one point in dating that I kept dating and attracting the same time of person. I stopped dating for 6 months, enlisted a life coach to help me see past myself, and started dissecting what I wanted in life, what my ultimate goals were, and built up my self-confidence. It was the best time I spent investing in myself. As a professional woman who spent 8 additional years past college in higher learning, I was mature professionally and socially, yet I was very immature in dating compared to women my age. So that time spent figuring out what I wanted was so valuable."
What are your rituals during a breakup? What things/practices/people helped you mend?
"Self-care is highly important to me during a breakup. I find solitude in a peaceful, nurturing area works well. I tend to bring myself to the beach (I find water to be very healing for me) and will do something to focus on myself (massage, long walks in nature, meditation). Allowing myself to process through my emotions in a safe place is important. I tend to allow the grieving to occur because it is a loss of a partner, relationship, future dreams and hopes and it should have its proper burial."
Thinking back to breakups you’ve had, did you have any breakup vices (checking your ex’s Insta, etc) and how did you conquer them?
"I am such a great Internet and Facebook stalker. My friends used to say that I was the best spy. I was able to research who their next partner was and what they were up to! I then realized that it was detrimental to me, didn't demonstrate how their relationship really was in real time, and hindered things moving forward."
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about love so far in your life?
"When learning how to date, I realized that I was wanting the Disney fairytale story. Heroine falls in love, has to suffer and long for the partner, and then somehow after some type of challenge, the story works itself into a happy ending. Being an emotional creature, I had to actually take my emotion out of the equation and narrow down five attributes that a partner had to have. By mentally putting in a check list, I had a higher likelihood of finding an equal partner on important criteria that mattered to me the most. True love can feel the same as honeymoon lust in the beginning of a relationship. In my fairy tale ending, true love can feel the same as a Disney movie, not be wrapped up in grandiose gestures, and be longer lasting on a sturdy foundation."
Do you think exes can be friends? Do you stay friends with your exes on social media?
"I absolutely think that exes can be friends. When I was less experienced in dating, I would say that it was hard for me to be friends with exes. This was the situation for me because I was not choosing the best partners and so outside of a relationship, they didn't have qualities that I would have in my friends and so being friends didn't work out."
"When I began attracting partners who characteristically were more aligned, we were essentially friends first. I lead with getting to know their character rather than my physical chemistry and attraction so I had a higher likelihood of staying friends with them. Truthfully, I had the thought process that if I had been sexually intimate with them (read: once they had been inside me), how could I possibly be friends with them past that??? It was a vulnerable place for me to be and that felt uncomfortable to be around). When I began dating this last time around, I actually decided not to befriend partners on social media as I found it would cloud my opinion of them based on superficial past photos and comments which wasn't fair to them or to me."
What keeps your heart open, despite the heartbreaks you’ve had in your life?
"Despite the heartbreaks that I have had in my life, my heart stays open because I know that I have survived every single one of those heartbreaks. They may have caused time to stand still, for me to feel alone and lonely, and to feel all the dark deep places in myself that I was not proud of. My mind becomes a powerful organ during heartbreak and surfaces raw feelings of unworthiness, insecurity, and false thoughts. With each of these situations, and with gracious time, I healed and arose stronger knowing that I survived this situation too. I became stronger than I knew I could be, and the possibility of bringing myself one step closer to what I desired became exciting again."
What is your favorite movie about heartbreak?
"One of my favorite movies is Under the Tuscan Sun. It is a story of a woman, Frances, who learns that her husband is cheating on her, turning her life upside down. Her friends encourage her to take a tour of Italy to pull her out of her deep depression. During the trip, she impulsively decides to buy a rural Tuscan villa and remodels the home slowly. Paralleling the transformation of her home, she slowly restores her soul, develops her confidence and builds a life in the new international setting. Fast forward to the end of the movie where her best friend delivers her baby at the house and her young neighbors host their wedding in her backyard. Frances realizes that her wish came true after being prompted by Martini, she got everything that she asked for. She ends up meeting her future romantic partner at that wedding. Frances has a story of struggle, overcoming a difficult situation, gaining self-love and strength, and getting what you desire when you least expect it, just going about your day-to-day life."
What projects are you currently working on, and looking forward to most?
"Professionally, I was recently promoted to Assistant Chief of the OBGYN department which is a leadership role that has taken most of my attention. In my spare time I have also spent time focusing on my current book Yes I Have Herpes: A Gynecologist's Perspective In and Out of the Stirrups. I have hopes to continue writing my second book on abnormal pap smears which is another area that is confusing for my patients. Lastly, I have spent my creative energies recently on painting and exploring amateur photography of my fashion and food through my Instagram ."