Most people have encountered a crazy ex-girlfriend in some form, a being to be pitied and scorned. It was frightening how easy it was to find myself, normally a level-headed, rational woman, turning into one.
My entire relationship with J, only four months long, had been a fantasy. I hadn’t been sure about him at first and almost ended things three times, but his magical charm and charisma convinced me otherwise. He seemed 100 percent invested in us and was patient with my indecision, wooing me with romantic and passionate gestures. His valiant effort made me morph from IMNOTSOSUREABOUTTHISONE straight to OHMYGODTHISISIT!
J’s zeal for life inspired me.We went to classical concerts in the park and spent late nights sharing affectionate pillow talk. We were on the brink of summer and I found myself thrilled at the prospect of our future — of waking up in my sun-drenched room together, sharing ice cream cones, and taking twee hipster pictures of each other all over the Windy City.
But then he broke up with me. Over the phone, he said, “I miss living in New York too much.”
I’d had breakups with much more serious, long-term boyfriends before. Though there had been tears and anger, things got better day-by-day, until I eventually reached a place where I was sincerely happy when I received their wedding announcements.
This was different.
The relationship and breakup tapped into such a secret, deep part of me that I completely lost myself when the illusion of Our Beautiful Future Together was shattered.
With incomplete information, I desperately looked for answers to the wrong questions. I turned myself inside out doing research about apartments, long-distance movers, and jobs instead of letting myself come to terms with the truth: he just didn’t want to be with me.
It didn’t help that the very same week, my professional life imploded, and I could barely afford the mortgage to the condo that was tying me to Chicago. Suddenly, major parts of my identity—Successful career woman! Proud homeowner! Loving girlfriend!—no longer applied.
Anyone can guess that “I miss New York” wasn’t the real reason he dumped me and a month later, J opened an art gallery … in Chicago.
That’s when I pretty much lost it. Not only was he not moving back to New York, but he was embarking on a wonderful endeavor that I wasn’t part of. His new venture fed into my insidious fantasy of how perfect my life would be with him in it. I longed to play the role of the perfect supportive art mogul’s girlfriend.
When I did speak to J, I would flip out every time he said something that wasn’t part of my carefully crafted fantasy. I invented new insults just for him, like an Insane Ex-Girlfriend Shakespeare. He didn’t deserve the vitriol, but I wasn’t even aware of what I was doing. In my head, he was the jerk who didn’t feel bad about breaking up with me. I was enraged that my life had fallen apart while he was having the best year ever. Even his favorite football team won the Super Bowl! Where was karma when you needed her?!
And then he got a girlfriend.
And I went off the rails. Why HER?! Why did SHE get to live the fantasy? I crossed the line. I called J up and insulted his new woman. That didn’t go over well as I’m sure you can imagine.
I began spending all of my now copious amounts of downtime (since work had gone belly up) fishing on the internet for information about this new girlfriend, new crowd and new life. I isolated myself from friends because I was embarrassed about the breakup. Instead of pulling support from positive people who loved me and trying to figure out how to put my life back right-side up, I lost myself in an elaborate narrative.
As you can imagine, this sent me into a dark depression.
Far, far too late, I found a really good therapist who gave me tough love and forced me to get a grip. J is obviously out of my life, with a lot of hurt on both sides and a lot of resentment. I made a contract with myself: no internet stalking. No Flickr, no Twitter, no J’s co-worker’s friend’s blog that might somehow have a picture of him at a concert. I knew I wouldn’t like what I would see.
I forced myself to accept the worst case scenario: The new girlfriend would get the things I wanted from him. She would get an awesome antique, wedding ring. He would design the wedding invitations. The two of them would travel the world together. He would tell her he couldn’t live without her.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have those things for myself with someone else, but one thing is absolutely certain: I will never have them if I can’t let go of J.
I still wake up some mornings disappointed that he isn’t next to me. My little dog has taken to sleeping cuddled against me on my pillow. I wake up to see a smiling furry face and furiously thumping tail. He licks my nose. I go to the park. I call friends to join me. I think about how to fix my career. This world, this reality, is helping me get back to being the sane person that I was before.
Have you ever found yourself turning into the crazy ex, a person you never thought you’d be, following a breakup? How did you snap out of it?