We dated the Zeros… so you don’t have to.


Post Breakup Insanity


I like to think I’m pretty level headed when it comes to relationships. I’m not saying I haven’t made a plethora of mistakes in the past (enough to fill half a book, in fact), and yes I did chase that guy down the street that one time (but since he Dead Electricianed me, I think that was justifiable chasing). Nevertheless, I’m not one to come completely unhinged by romantic disappointment. But once upon on a time when I had very little going on in my life aside from spending time with my boyfriend and, out of the blue, that boyfriend dumped me… I went a little crazy.

Of course crazy is in the eye of the beholder, and what is deemed crazy will change over time. And who determines what is crazy? The American Psychiatric Association (APA). But even they change their minds about such things. For example, Dr. Robert Spitzer was the guy who pushed to get the APA to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), successfully arguing that being gay was not, in fact, a form of mental illness (This American Life did a really great episode on this whole story called 81 Words, which you should totally check out).

Unfortunately, though he believed that homosexuality should not be in the DSM, he also believed that it something that could be changed. For years he was one of the people commonly cited by the ‘pray away the gay’ movement as evidence that their therapies were valid. But Spitzer recently revised his position. He now believes that sexual orientation is not something that can be successfully changed. I imagine Michelle Bachman’s husband is nonplussed by the news.

This story got me thinking of the DSM and what is considered officially crazy. Since homosexuality is no longer included in the book, I have a suggestion to fill its place. Ladies and gentlemen of psychoanalysis, for your consideration… I give you… Post Break-up Insanity (PBI for short).

Here is the definition of PBI (that I just made up):

PBI: a temporary psychosis brought on by the acute pain of a breakup. Symptoms of PBI will vary from person to person but may include extremely irrational thoughts and actions, intense stalking (virtual and physical) and other things which, once the PBI has lifted, will cause mortification and shame.

Oh PBI is real my friends. I know. I had it.

As I said, I’m not normally crazy, but once went through a breakup that temporarily turned me into a loon. The good news for me, my ex-boyfriend and what could have turned into a lengthy wrap sheet, my PBI manifested only in my thoughts. I didn’t DO anything crazy. I probably didn’t seem particularly crazy to the outside observer. My thoughts, however, took the express train to crazy town.

Case in point… When breaking up with me, my then boyfriend made it abundantly clear that he did not want to be my boyfriend any longer. There was no ‘let’s take a break’ dithering. He was very clear. It was over. When I asked him how long he felt that way, he told me he’d been thinking about it for a few weeks. Weeks. That had not stopped him, however, from having sex with me a mere 24 hours before breaking up with me.

A rational person might see that as a sign that he was an insensitive jerk. A sensible person would see it as evidence that she was better off without him. Due to the fact that I was suffering from acute PBI, I saw the fact that he slept with me right before breaking up with me as a good sign. Clearly he was still attracted to me or he wouldn’t have slept with me, right? I fixated on that ‘fact’, convinced it was an indication that we weren’t really over, that he would realize he’d made a horrible mistake and would call begging me to take him back. But as the days passed, he did not call. My BPI worsened and one night, about a week after the breakup, while sobbing in the bathtub I had a thought. It felt like an epiphany. We’d had sex before breaking up. Which meant I could be pregnant.

Normally, the thought of getting pregnant by someone who had made it abundantly clear that he never wants me again would have caused menopausal-like hot flashes of panic. Due to my PBI, despite the fact that me and my now-ex-boyfriend had always used protection, I felt that it was possible, nay likely, that I was pregnant. In my PBI fugue state, I further reasoned that as I was almost definitely pregnant, my ex-boyfriend would be forced to take me back. This thought made me elated.

That’s right. I was so afflicted with PBI that having a baby with someone who wouldn’t even take my calls seemed like a great idea. Did I think I was living in Victorian England? That he would be forced to marry me if I was in the family way? I guess so. If that isn’t a psychosis worthy of inclusion in the DSM, I don’t know what is.

Happily I was not pregnant. Time passed, my PBI resolved and the thought of having a baby with my ex went from welcome relief to worst case scenario. It took a long time for me to be able to think of those few weeks without cringing in mortification, and years before I could actually laugh about it.

So that’s my example. Have you ever suffered from Post Breakup Insanity? If so I’d love to hear about your craziness. Do tell!



One Response to “Post Breakup Insanity”

  1. October 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Never really spoke about this until now.

    Basically, I was 26. I was on holiday abroad in Spain. My g/f had recently left me after 8 years. We had a mortgage and pets. Everything seemed fine. When we were both 16, her family threw her out. My family wouldn’t take her in. I decided to go homeless with her. My family then took her in when they realised I wasn’t bluffing. We finished college and got good jobs. She then slept with a guy I knew. Several times. I found out in a letter she wrote to him ( I was looking for a pen whilst she was in the shower). It was very, very graphic. I was devasted. We got back together after a few months. After that, college, the house etc.

    Everything seemed fine, and then she said she was leaving me. No reason. Nobody else she said. She then refused to speak to me. And she did leave. Despite me treading on egg-shells around her for months whilst she saved money to leave me. She still came to me for sex at night at times. It really confused me.

    She left. And soon enough I found out that she had another guy. Possibly all along. I’ll never know. I don’t care now. I just want to know what happened to me later. A friend decided that I needed a break. We went to Spain for a holiday. After about 3 days I started to hear voices. I can’t really explain the feelings I had, but it was one of persecution. Like the world was full of aliens and I was their target. Every song was about me. Every conversatin was about me. Everyone was looking at me (or so I thought).

    I realised this couldn’t be possible. It made no difference. I hid it from my friend, but it was exhuasting. It wore me down.

    I lost it several times over the last few days of the holiday and the hotel almost called the authorities to have me committed.

    I didn’t want to sit next to my friend on the plane home as I thought he was in on ‘it’. On getting to the airport in my own nation…we met my pal’s dad for the lift home.

    I asked to stop for a pee. They refused. I said I was gonna do it in my pants. They pulled over. Near a bridge. I ran for my life. For miles. Knocked on a door for help. The lovely old guy called the police. Which I wanted. Then, I thought…”the police are in on this too.”

    I ran and ran.

    In the end, I called from a phone box. I called the police. They took me to hospital. My family were called. I didn’t believe that my mum was my mum.

    I went to my mum’s. I felt better. I was give drugs by the doctor (who broke down crying when I told him my story…that made me feel worse after I was feeeling better). I think tomazopan. I slept for days. Saw a shrink for a few days…but I felt normal again. Totally fine.

    And I’ve been perfectly ok since (nearly 20 years). I’m married and happy. Never even had a strange moment since.

    However, I’ve never known what that was. Yeah, I know…mental breakdown or suchlike…

    ..but that was really weird.

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