Stage 1: Pain – excruciating pain.
Soul wrenching pain. Physical pain. A deep burn through your whole chest, into your abdomen, twisting your intestines, setting your skin on fire. And beyond pain, a general and persistent discomfort.
You’re a piece of fabric ripped down the middle without a seam. You’ve cried so much that your eyes can hardly open, and no air passes through your nostrils, and your sinuses are so full of snot they could burst. You fall asleep at 4am after half a bottle of Nyquil and wake with a pile of used tissues stuck to your face and arms. Pain. Gross, uncomfortable pain.
Stage 2: Despair And Denial
Wondering if it’s real. Waiting for someone to wake you up, or to point and laugh about what a funny joke it was to convince you that your life was ruined forever. The pain is now more dull and throbbing, exacerbated by little things like taking down photos of the two of you, or the opal ring on your hand he got you for your birthday.
You call into work, sob into his sweater while choking out the lyrics to every Adele song, and wonder if you’ll ever be whole again.
Stage 3: Depression And Acceptance
The dull, throbbing ache is replaced with a vast emptiness. It’s just you and the cat now. Better make it cats. Enough cats to completely fill the other side of the bed. You refuse to wear pants without an expandable waistline and grow out your leg hair. Showering becomes optional. The only emotions that sometimes make it through the desert of apathy are anger and bitterness.
You consider being embarrassed that your grocery cart has more wine than solid food, but instead you stare unabashed into the judgmental eyes of the store clerk and without words, clearly state, “Say something, asshole.” You declare Ben and Jerry’s an indispensable food group.
You despise all couples that appear even remotely happy, and assume that they are secretly bored, unhappy adulterers who will never find true love, just like you won’t. because it doesn’t exist.
Stage 4: Rehab
You begin to tire of the heartbroken stage. You want to keep being angry and bitter, but it starts to become exhausting. The pain has passed but you still feel non-functional, like your leg was amputated after a severe infection, and now you have to learn how to walk again. Or like you suffered a severe brain injury and have to learn to speak, and walk, and behave all over again. But after weeks of instructing yourself to smile and laugh at the right times, it finally begins to feel natural again.
You would almost be excited about dating again except you know how fucking awful it is. The thought of getting naked with someone new sends you to the store for a fresh razor, and to the internet to buy that crossfit groupon for 40 dollars. You decidedly set down the ice cream…. (then pick it up again to finish off the LAST PINT, FOR REAL)
Stage 5: Selfishness (The Good Kind)
You go buy some new clothes, and get your hair done. You start working out, and using ice cream sparingly, and you start laughing again, the real kind not the pathetic, awkward, forced kind of laughter. You eat whatever you want for dinner because you don’t have to consult anyone about it. You book a trip to Vietnam because it’s edgy and awesome, and you no longer have to waste your vacation on his brother’s wedding in shitty Iowa. You feel hopeful, and independent. You don’t check his facebook page anymore, you hardly think of him. And when you do, it doesn’t burn your soul. Maybe, you even wish him well… while secretly hoping the next girl he dates is not as hot as you.
Stage 6: Getting Back Out There
Maybe it will be awful. Maybe you’ll strike out a couple times and relapse back to phase 2 or 3 for a few days, but eventually you’ll love again. And when that day happens, congratulations! You’re officially in recovery.
It sucks, it’s awful, you feel like you’re going to die. But you don’t. You live. You laugh again. You find happiness again. You love again. I promise.