The Nervous Breakdown, Pt. III: The Breakup

posted in: Sicky 34
No, no, really — I’m fine. (“Hvile”, by Wilhelm Hammershøi, ca. 1905.) Image: Wikipedia.


Welcome to The PaperGirl Sunday Evening Post. This is the third installment of a series examining the causes and effects of the major depressive episode I experienced in mid-January.

If you haven’t read the first and second posts in the series already, you should, since in this story, the chain of events is the point. After all, a breakdown is a breaking down of something — and things don’t tend to break down all at once. It’s a domino thing, a Rube Goldberg thing, but with sobbing and extended panic attacks.

After I got the news about Philip, the relationship I had been in for about a year ended, this time for good.

There had been a couple times over the course of the year when N. and I had decided to let it go. There were communication problems. Mistakes were made. But we were genuinely fond of each other. There was sweetness there, no question, and you may have heard that breakups are the literal worst. So, both times we called it quits we didn’t stay quit for long. After a month or so, we’d end up back at my place, ordering takeout and (re)watching episodes of Rick and Morty. It was not a perfect relationship, but it was tender enough. Pathetic, perhaps, that “tender enough” was enough at all, but we do what we do in the world.

It is unethical to divulge on this blog personal details about anyone else’s life but my own. This has always been my policy, so when I sat down today to write about the breakup, I approached it with characteristic caution. My first try was awful. I labored over several too-long, intentionally vague paragraphs that made no sense because I was avoiding saying what actually happened. I deleted all that, then spent another hour writing out exactly what happened in a “Just the facts, ma’am” kind of way. Not only was it sharing personal details about N.’s life, it was exceedingly boring. He said she said? Hell no.

Then it hit me: I don’t need to tell you anything about how it happened. You already know how it happened because we all know how breakups happen. There was terrible pain. People were hurt and then made the other person hurt. There was confusion. Anger. Irritation. Fear. Harsh words. Tears. Do the details really matter?

I don’t think so. Not here, maybe, and not now.

What matters now is that one bitterly cold, windy Tuesday in early December, I was trudging past the post office in the Loop, wincing as the ice hit my cheeks, but warmed by the fact that I had a cute boyfriend and a dream dog on the way. I couldn’t know that within a matter of days, I’d have no boyfriend and my dog was already dead.

Yeah, well, Chicago winter didn’t care about any of that. Heck, the polar vortex was still a month away. Shocked and aching that two major figures in my world had been excised most cruelly, I still had to keep trudging. I still had to go to the post office, the grocery store, and home to my empty apartment, even as the tears I cried into my scarf froze on my face. That actually happened.

It was bad. But at least I had my health. I did have my health, right? Tell me I still had my health.

Thanks for reading, gang. See you next week.

34 Responses

  1. R MacKinnon
    | Reply

    As someone who is trying to crawl out of that deep hole of anxiety and depression you are so right things don’t just fall apart at once they break away in pieces. It has sounded like in the past you have a circle of friends, allow them to comfort you as you get help to climb back up.

  2. Kathleen
    | Reply

    Thinking of you with prayers and love.Wish I could do more.

  3. Carole
    | Reply

    Wow, Mary…….I’m so sorry.

    • Lynn
      | Reply

      I waited for years for my perfect ‘wirehaired standard dachshund’. My partner was not on the same page. I would not bring home a dog unless the family was all in on including a dog in the family. Dogs are pack animals—they rely on every dog in the pack. One day my husband came home with the cutest Yorkshire Terrier/Bichon mix puppy (2 months old). His daughter had bought the dog on a manic high that led to a manic psychosis. I was not pleased with my partner—no discussion prior to the pups arrival, but I loved the pup even if it took me a month to claim my love. After the New Year I told him this pup is OURS! She stays or else. She is my forever companion. I love her. I hope your future includes four paws.

  4. gabi
    | Reply

    Deae Mary! Hugs and prayers go out to you; we love you! Peace!

  5. Robyn
    | Reply

    You were so right. The information you choose to share is valued by us, and we don’t need to know every detail. We are just wishing you well.

  6. val
    | Reply

    any chance you could move Mary, and still get a dog? Maybe a move is just what you need to complete your healing?

  7. Terri
    | Reply

    You are such a talented writer. Thank you for your openness about anxiety and depression. I struggle with it everyday, even though I’m on meds. I’ve been seriously thinking about writing my story. Mental illness is still a stigma among those who just don’t understand. Maybe one day it will be considered a disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

  8. Karen
    | Reply

    I’ve not been in your shoes but have friends and family who have. I do so appreciate your willingness to share your experience. It helps me understand them a bit and hopefully help them a bit, if only by being a better sounding board for them. Hang in there! Life has ups and downs, and you are surely due for an “up”! Sending all my love and hope that it happens soon!

  9. Anita Brayton
    | Reply

    I sure hope the next installment says you did and do continue to have your health. Apparently, writing about the breakdown helps you heal. Thanks for being so open about your experience. I know it can help others.

  10. Nadine
    | Reply

    I really wish I could be there and give you a huge squishy hug- make you a cup of hot cocoa and let you just sit and talk about whatever. Hang in there Mary- this too shall end- I promise. ❤️

  11. Jean
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing your reality. You are helping many of us to move forward by sharing; your pain is my pain; again thank you, thank you!! Let your family and friends comfort you, because you are a wonderful creative woman and we love you!

  12. Cathy
    | Reply

    So sorry for the pain of all this. The cold, dark winter sure didn’t help in your depression. I can’t imagine. I do hope you have since reached out to someone – anyone for help. You can’t fix you alone! XOX

  13. Laurie
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing this highly personal story. You are not alone!

  14. Dana
    | Reply

    Life is too short to not enjoy what you love. Try for a service dog license or consider moving. Sounds impossible but maybe not. I bet you have a whole world of friends who would help. Thanks for sharing your pain and hoping for light at the end of the tunnel.

  15. Alice Oelslager
    | Reply

    Your words touch my heart so deeply. Not only because I can relate to them. You are so true in your accounting. I felt so disturbed when I read the lawyer’s response about the puppy. Obviously, they lack understanding of the healing bond a pet provides. I hope relocation is an option for you. That puppy is worth it. And yes, breakups are horrible. Even when we want it which is an odd human reaction. The feeling of rejection lingers and plays with the mind. We sometimes use it to remind ourselves of our faults. Not productive, but it happens. Oh, the puppy would be so great right now. That loving touch and contented happiness to be with you. It affirms your value because, like you, it is true.

  16. Diane
    | Reply

    Great writing…great sharing…xoxo

  17. Anna Lapid
    | Reply

    The loss of your pet and your breakup are startlingly parallel to my latest life happenings except my dear Elmo died after 12 wonderful years and my heartbreak was my boyfriend was a lost love from 20 years ago…we are not alone in this universe in our pain, nor are we ever without even the faintest bit of hope.

  18. Kelly
    | Reply

    There are so many things that lead to a breakdown. I commend you for being open and honest with yourself to be able to see each piece of it, or at least the major players. I had a breakdown three years ago, and I am only now open and honest enough to convey each piece, and even so, I don’t believe I’m as brave as you to divulge them. You’ll get better. It will take time. You will backpedal and wonder if you will really get better. You will. It takes time and LOTS of therapy and time to heal and know yourself. Take all the time you need. You are my sister in a sisterhood I really didn’t want to have siblings in, but all the same, I’ll share this with you sister. Take care of you and do whatever it is you need to do for you.

  19. Sara
    | Reply

    I admire the strength you have to write about this painful period of your life. Depression is a frightening disease.

  20. Pam
    | Reply

    Thats how we get through life sometimes just by remaining vertical and taking one step at a time. I feel vklemp now. I have to have one thing to look forward to each week even if I have to crawl on the ground to get there.

  21. Pat
    | Reply

    You have your health and a lot a friends here. I pray for your happiness.

  22. Irene
    | Reply

    Hugs and ♥️
    You are Strong!

  23. J
    | Reply

    Sometimes it’s hard to remember what it feels like to feel great, but you will, you will feel the sunshine on your face and have pep in your step. This too shall pass, it always does.

  24. Katherine
    | Reply

    Think you’ve turned the corner on this episode (“It WAS bad”) . You’ve started to sort out the hows and whys (that was a pretty big step) and sounds like you’re starting to gather up some energy to move on. Take your time thinking about what will be next; it can be a baby step. Maybe just thinking what your options might be – or talking to people you trust about what your options might be. Gather support when you need it and where it’s offered (may be in some surprising or unlikely places). Pay attention to the things that help and go back to them when you need a little boost. Think about how much you may have done to help some one else who is struggling by sharing your story – that’s going to be part of your healing too. Sending lots of love your way —

  25. Wilma Bland
    | Reply

    No words, just hugs as needed and the shoulder has a waterproof liner under the thick padding just for crying on. And did I tell you. the sun also rises….I was beginning to doubt that as my own depression turned lose in the midst of nasty weather I lost four relatives and friends in a four week span —but the past few days the sun has been out and about and nudging the pit to calm down. So Hang in here, Mary, and let the sun begin the gentle soothing it is so good at.
    I said no words and they just flew off my fingers. Hugs, Mary.

  26. Charmaine
    | Reply

    Dear Mary,

    Wishing you WELL!

  27. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    Spring will be here in 2 days. Sunshine, warmth, and flowers have to help. So sorry for all the emotional pain you have been going through.

  28. Sarah
    | Reply

    The dark and the cold of the climate at this moment don’t help your illness. Combat this however you can, as in a heated bed pad, hot baths, hot drinks, warm quilts, boot warmers for warm feet, etc. If you are missing sunshine/bright light, you can purchase a special light to provide artificially what you are missing in the real thing. Look for those on the internet. They are more expensive than an ordinary lamp would be, but anything that relieves your depression is worth it. Please remember that you are as ill as if your were running a temperature of 102 degrees and treat yourself accordingly. Hardly anyone else will, so it’s up to you. Sigh. Keep up your courage, you can do this.

  29. Lilly
    | Reply

    You CAN do this. When your Ya Ya’s want to help, let them. Just one step at a time. We are all rooting for your recovery. The sun will come out tomorrow if not today.

  30. Wendy L
    | Reply

    I am so sorry you went through all of this; I lived through many bleak Chicago winters as a single gal and also know how the cold and grey pierce right to the heart of things. But omg, your writing is SO gorgeous. So lyrical and clever and wry and sweet. So pleasing to read, even when it had to be tough going. Thank you, and hang in there!

  31. Sharon
    | Reply

    I’m always the last to know these things. Sorry for your sadness Mary, always hurts to see a friend suffer, and I do think of you as a friend because you have taught me so much over the years, and cheered me through sad periods. Things may seem dark at this point, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. True love will find you when you least expect it. Just stay busy, and be good to yourself! I know this from experience, and have seen other friends go through this. As far as the four legged love of your life goes, have you thought about moving to a different condo/apartment so you can have your little fur baby? I know people get attached to their nests, but you may find a new nest just around the corner that will allow you to live a fuller life. Life is a quilt. Not all the blocks turn out the first time, so we have to rework them til they fit!

  32. Amy
    | Reply

    Dear Mary,
    Breakups are so horribly painful. They bring up all the old losses in your life. Like your dad leaving and that German guy flying away. I’m still angry at Klaus! Know that your story has meaning in my life. I love your writing and hope to meet you someday.
    I weep with you. May the God of comfort surround you with peace that passes understanding.

  33. NotThatJen
    | Reply

    Reading this, I wish I had in my toolbox the right words to say I support you and I’ve felt hard things and I know they’re not *exactly* YOUR hard things but lets walk next to each other on the indoor track of hard feelings.. different lanes, but teammates all the same. Heart squeezes and soul hugs.

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