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In 2018, I was recovering from a breakup. It had been the kind of relationship that was rife with cycles of fighting, short-lived reconciliations, and then more fighting. The relationship didn’t bring out our best, but the longer we stayed together the more committed I was to making it work.
To outside observers, the relationship was clearly unhealthy. Friends were stuck between wanting to say something and not wanting to overstep. They spoke about my partner with the minimum obligatory respect, using hints and coded phrases to subtly express their concern or disdain, the way you talk about an in-law or coworker you secretly dislike. I chose not to notice.
After we broke up, the people who loved me were sympathetic but relieved, while I spent much of that fall in bed binging seasons of This Is Us and listening to that song from A Star Is Born, “I’ll Never Love Again.” Intellectually, I understood that the breakup was for the best; emotionally, though, I felt that I was unlovable and that I had missed my chance at happiness.
One of my best friends is currently going through a post-breakup depression that reminded me of my own.
“I can’t go more than 15 minutes at a time without thinking about her,” he told me.
“Yeah, it took me a while to go from thinking about my ex all the time to having regular thought patterns that weren't all about romanticizing a lost relationship,” I said.
“I’m definitely deep in that zone right now: Everything is my fault; I lost something great … I’m such a piece of shit; I should have appreciated what I had.”
“I was the same way, always thinking about the good things, romanticizing it, and forgetting all the horrible problems and how shitty I felt,” I told him. “It takes a bunch of time before you start feeling normal again, and then some more time before you start actually feeling good about it.”
Talking with my friend aside, another reminder of what it felt like coming out of fall 2018 is an animated TV series. Harley Quinn on HBO Max is unexpectedly one of the most heartfelt depictions of rediscovering yourself after a breakup. And it’s a shame, because I know that most readers won’t watch it.