The real five stages of post-breakup grief.
Rock Bottom is VICE Indonesia’s column on mental health, depression, and how to deal with it all in a country where frank discussions of mental illness are still pretty taboo.
Losing someone is part of life. I’ve lost my fair-share of loved ones, some through death, but mostly through breakups or separation. There’s supposedly five stages of grief, the series of emotions we all go through whenever we lose someone, according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist. Here’s my own interpretation of the stages, following my most-recent breakup.
Denial, Isolation, and Too Much Information
I remember being in a car accident back when I was 5 years old. We were on the highway, on the way home from my grandma’s house. It was late at night and I was riding shotgun with my Elmo in my arms. Shortly after the engine started running, I fell asleep.
I woke up with tiny pieces of glass over my eyelids. The car was parked on the shoulder of the highway and I was alone, still bound-in by my seatbelt. There was a big truck in front of our car, and the police where talking to my parents. Our windshield was gone. It took me some time, but I eventually realized that I spent through the entire accident.
That’s exactly what losing someone still feels like. I know something terrible just happened, because the evidence is all around me. But I can’t remember what. It’s like everything has been blacked out. It never feels real to me. And there always feels like a considerable distance between myself and whatever happened.
So I start to talk. I tell everyone I know what is going on, like repeating it will make it all feel real—like it will snap me out of my state of dissociation. Maybe, if enough people believe it happened, then I will too.
I’m a big fan of screenshots, and even more so after a breakup. I never bother to tell the TLDR version of the story. I just send the screenshots to anyone who might care. That way, if what I am experiencing actually ins’t real, at least I’m not alone in this misinformation. The whole thing is like a Reddit thread about the Mandela Effect. But here I’m both the original poster asking “hey, did this really happen?” and the people sharing photographic evidence that it definitely did.
My friends are up/down voters. Sometimes they don’t even respond, which I totally understand because no one is asking/ wants that much access to my personal life. But it doesn’t matter. I continue to shove it in my friends’ faces, demanding that they digest it too. I need to know what side they are on, so that I can find another reason to feel bad about myself. Please don’t try this at home.
Anger and Being The Worst
After snapping out of the “denial phase,” the first thing I usually think is: How dare anyone do this to me!? I feel robbed of my time and energy. But then I realize that, of course, it happened. I totally deserve it because I am the worst. I then feel another wave of anger, this one about being the worst, which always leads to me to then thinking of ways I can forget that I am the worst.
Naturally, I go on Tinder and chat up everyone who is 1) cute in the slightest or 2) within 20 kilometers of me (I live far away, OK?). Bonus points if they are both. I go on a date every 3 days with questionable men I only have one conversation with prior to meeting. These dates almost always end the same way. I allow myself around 2 seconds of soul-crushing sadness before I find another OK-looking guy with a personality I loathe and ask him to come over.
Discounting the fact that I carry a pocket knife in my faux fur sling bag wherever I go, I am truly what serial murderers’ wet dreams are made of.
During this time, I start going to parties… a lot. Parties are a weird way to be around people. You either have to yell a lot or condense whatever you’re trying to say into two sentences and say them quickly as possible before the next song starts playing. Though, it’s a pretty effective way of preventing myself from actually processing my grief.
Being the self-destructive piece of human meat that I am, I go to these things every weekend. Suddenly every waking minute is an opportunity to get blackout drunk, and I’m not wasting any of my time.
Bargaining and Lost Earrings
I start going through all the decisions I made that somehow contributed to this disaster. It’s like losing your house key on the way to work. Your mind goes all Google Street View mode, trying to pinpoint the exact place you dropped them. Someone else probably found them by now, and there’s nothing you can do about it anyway, but somehow you just have to know precisely where it went wrong. What could I have done differently? Everything, of course. But also nothing.
If only I could have somehow avoided everything that made me who I am today, then this would have never happened, right?
Maybe the problem was timing. Did it happen too soon, or had the relationship expired long before the breakup? I’m pretty bad at figuring this out, but I do know I’m quite good at ignoring red flags. Should I have left at the first sign of trouble? Or should I have ignored it because because it was too late to back out?
Now I know how Kim Kardashian felt after she lost her earrings in Bora Bora. Except, in my case, the earrings are a grown man and the only body of water involved is a puddle of my own tears. There are so many what ifs that even if they were answered, they probably wouldn’t have made the situation any better.
Depression and More Depression
I thought I could outsmart “post-breakup depression” by having actual depression in the first place. In my head, it would be like pouring water in the sea. The truth is, it is like pouring water in the sea, but just different kinds of water. The pain of losing somebody is of a different kind of pain than the general pain of just being alive. Sometimes I wake up with throbbing pain, feeling sure that this is the most pain I can feel. I prove myself wrong every time I go to sleep and wake up again. It can always get worse.
I usually forget to clean off my makeup or wash my face before I fall asleep because I either just cried myself to sleep or woke up fully dressed with no recollection of when and how I went to bed the night before. Soon enough, I stop washing my face at night altogether. At first it feels like treason, but then I realize that I’m having the worst time of my life, so why not put the icing on the cake and have bad skin too?
The only habits I do keep after a breakup is refreshing the guy’s social media profiles and obsessively messaging him even though he never replies. I can’t believe we’ve gone this far without me telling you that I am probably who the crazy ex-girlfriend TV trope is based on. Although I have just enough self-restraint not to harm any rabbits (re: Fatal Attraction style)
Acceptance Minus Closure
Months pass. At some point I find myself in between making, forwarding, and reposting really dark, but quality, memes. I’m positive that this is the absolute pinnacle of acceptance, just above the shrug emoji. There is something about laughing at yourself that’s so… wholesome.
Don’t get me wrong, there might still be loads of questions that are left unanswered. But acceptance does not exclusively stem from closure. Quoting what an unnamed friend said during a 4-hour phone call, “Closure is overrated.” It’s so good to hear because it’s true. Eat well, trim your nails, and cut connections with people who you treat like dirt, or treat you like dirt. It’s like deleting your old files to make room for another 30 GB of The Sims expansion packs—painful but worth it.
For me, the ultimate sign that I have moved on is not checking their social media profiles anymore. Well that’s a lie. I still check them, but just to see how they’re doing. If they were to message me, I would not feel the need to respond. At least not immediately. Interactions wouldn’t affect me so greatly. I think I’m there already.
The thing is, though, sometimes you think you have moved on, but then you see them with another person. Being replaced just gets me feeling some kind of way, not because I want to be back together with them, but because it reminds me that we are no longer part of each other’s worlds. After that I’m just going back-and-forth within the cycle, because healing is not always linear for everyone. I still succumb to self-destruction, but I’m trying to take long enough breaks to be violently kind to myself.
(Original article: link)
Photo/Illustration: Alex Boyd via StockSnap.io
Vice | Katyusha Methanisa
Published: August 8, 2017 – 1:30pm