Monday, December 27, 2010

The Breakup Breakdown

Truth be told, I'm kind of a sucky boyfriend. Try as I might, I'm terrible at relationships, and the other party usually realizes this sometime around month four of the romance. From there it's a downward spiral of passive aggression and button-pushing, until neither of us can take it anymore, and the entire thing implodes in on itself.

For me, the weeks following the dissolution of a relationship are what I call The Breakup Breakdown. A bastardization of the K├╝bler-Ross model, it consists of seven phases, and I'd like to share them with you now.

Phase One: Flat-out Denial

For one reason or another, I'm usually the one to get dumped. I tend to cling to dying relationships like a coyote gnawing on a rotting rabbit carcass, mostly because I can never find the right time to breach the subject of ending it all, so I just carry on with the crumbling affair, dying a little bit inside with each passing day. When I finally get eighty-sixed, it usually doesn't hit me at first, and on more than one occasion I didn't even register that I was being dumped at all.

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Sometimes it takes hours before the weight of the situation sinks in, and that's when I transition to phase two.

Phase Two: Bargaining

Once I realize that I have yet again destroyed a good thing, I become frantically obsessed with fixing the situation. I become a recluse, concocting wild plans to remedy my damaged relationship. Reenact the boom box scene from Say Anything...? No, too easy. Cut off my ear and send it to my ex? Bitch, please. That's been done to death. As the fantasies grow more and more outlandish in my head, I begin to lose my mind altogether, and I start having conversations with inanimate objects in my apartment.

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Several days in, I begin to realize things aren't going to get better, and I slip into the darkest phase of The Breakup Breakdown.

Phase Three: Depression

For the next week, I hole up in my bedroom watching 90's comedies streaming on Netflix, refusing to eat or bathe or even talk to anybody. I lose track of time, and the days blur into each other.

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Following a breakup in 2007, I returned home from college for Christmas vacation, and spent weeks in the basement watching old home movies, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. I stopped shaving. I couldn't bring myself to eat, save for nursing tubes of Go-Gurt, and my weight plummeted. In passing, my mom told me I looked like "Jesus with a meth addiction." I suppose that was her way of telling me she was worried about me.

The depression phase can last anywhere from a couple days to 24 years a few weeks, but it isn't the worst phase by far. No, the worst is yet to come.

Phase Four: The Jennifer Aniston Juncture

At some point, my sorrow gives way to anger, and I start to rewrite the whole relationship in my head to make myself the victim. At this point I've almost entirely lost my grip on reality. I start imagining my life as a movie where I'm a jilted martyr, and everyone in the audience is sobbing because I've been treated so poorly and unfairly. It's during this period I act the most erratically.

Case in point: years ago, an ex called me following a messy breakup, and asked if they could come by and pick up the stuff they'd left at my place. I said sure, and when they arrived I threw it all out the window at them.

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I swear it happened in slow motion, like in a Toni Braxton music video. Luckily, this stage doesn't last long, and once it's over, I start taking steps to recovery. Before long I begin to gain some clarity, and one thing becomes perfectly obvious: I am fucking hungry as hell.

Stage Five: Eat Everything In Sight

I always lose my appetite in the weeks following a traumatizing event, so when I finally start to feel better, the first thing I realize is that I can clearly see my ribcage and all my extra small t-shirts fit like muumuus. Like a human vacuum cleaner, I inhale every scrap of food I can find.

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From there, I transition to stage six of my recovery process.

Phase Six: No, Seriously, Eat Fucking EVERYTHING

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Perhaps it's because I'm engorged on snack cakes and riding a food-induced wave of euphoria, but before long something clicks and I almost instantly recover from my weeks of grief and anxiety. I do a complete 180, and emerge from my cocoon of despair as a chubby, happy butterfly.

Phase Seven: Acceptance and Closure

Colors become brighter, the air smells sweeter, and the forest animals join me for a musical number about baking pies or something.

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I don't know how my coping process relates to other people's, but the weeks following a split can be dark and dismal for me. I try to approach each breakup as a learning process, and I like to think I don't make the same mistakes more than once. I come out of the woods, take a deep breath, and remind myself that there are other fish in the sea, more relationships to screw up, more breakups to deal with, more lessons to learn. And possibly, hopefully, I'm closer to being the kind of person I want to be, and perhaps the next relationship will be the one that sticks.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Things Are Still OK

I'm a happy person. Really, I swear I am. Sometimes I feel the need to point this out, as most of the stories I tell are slightly depressing. I could write about having a badass picnic lunch in the park, but that just doesn't have the same bite as a tale about my brain dead cat, or the time I thought I was barfing earthworms in the shower.

It's rare that I actually get so bummed out that it significantly affects my life, and on the rare occasion that happens, it's not long before the universe sees fit to balance out my depression with something glorious and bizarre, reminding me that nothing's ever as bad as it seems.

I was in a funk recently, and I knew it was getting bad when even the homeless teens who hang out on the corner of my block started looking glamorous to me. Hell, their deathly cat looked like it was having a better time than I was.

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Just when I was teetering on the edge of despair, a girl I know told me a story that suddenly put everything into perspective. Let's call her Regina.

Reeling from a difficult breakup, Regina had found herself at a bar, drinking alone on a Friday night, half a block away from her work.

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Regina had been holding herself together in public, but this particular night apparently called for a bit of wallowing and self-medicating. At some point during the night, the memories got a little fuzzy, and upon leaving the bar, Regina remembered little else than having to pee. Knowing the state of most bar bathrooms, and being the dainty lady that she is, she opted to use her office bathroom instead.

And that's the last thing Regina remembered before the memories stopped for the night. Everything else was black.

Flash forward to the following Monday. Regina comes into work, and it's very clear somethingisn't right. Everyone in the building is confused and on edge, and there's talk of a disgruntled employee in the midst. Of course, Regina is as clueless as anyone. And then, suddenly, everything from Friday night comes flooding back.

Regina had peed, alright. Just not in a bathroom. She hadn't been able to find her key to the bathrooms, and in a frantic, drunken frenzy, she did the only thing she could think of. She peed in the giant water bottle her boss kept on her desk. She peed in it, and then she left it there.

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Regina admitted it was her. I guess it was a noble thing to do. I can't imagine how awkward the rest of that day must have been.

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Had it been me, I would have denied any knowledge of the incident. I've worked in offices before, and I know it's difficult to live these kinds of things down. When I was in high school, someone drew a giant penis on the soda machine in the break room (ok, ok, it was me) and it was months before people stopped talking about it.

Regina's boss laughed off the incident, but I think the memory of that pee bottle will haunt the office forever.

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My thanks goes out to Regina and her permission to tell her story. It was just the thing I needed to remind me I should never take my own trials and tribulations too seriously.