At the end of any relationship, there are two distinct phases – the part where you break up, and the part where you figure out what you’re going to do after you’ve admitted that you’ve broken up.

Being inside the breakup is such a sad, strange, hopeless and silly place to be. Sad, because obviously. Strange, because it feels like the end of the world TO YOU, the person experiencing the breakup, and yet to everyone else it’s just a cliche because everyone has been there, but much like a really good drug trip, you can’t even explain or recreate that ineffable feeling, and so they can’t really understand. Hopeless because, much like that drug trip again, when you’re inside that, it really feels like it will never end. And silly because it just isn’t the end of the world, or the end of your world, and everything will be ok in the end but it’s very hard to rationalize yourself into that place because ration doesn’t hold a candle to emotion during the Break Up.

Emotion rules in that first phase. It’s all the big ones – love, loss, pain, anger, confusion. You’ve not only lost someone you love, you’ve lost a part of yourself. You haven’t just changed your relationship status on Facebook, you’ve changed your relationship with the world, your evenings, your plans, your habits, your thoughts for the future, your expectations. There’s a sense of anger and frustration – not just at the person who hurt you and the way that you’ve hurt yourself but the fact that you can’t control the situation you’re in. You can’t make him do, say or feel anything he’s not doing, saying, or feeling, and you never really could in the first place. Losing control, control over how you’re feeling, over what he’s feeling, over what’s happening – it can make you really angry, like why is the fucking sun shining and why are my friends on Facebook having so much fun and I hate that my best friend had a lovely time choosing caterers in Santa Barbara for her wedding kind of resentment that ends up making you feel worse because then you feel like not only are you going through a breakup but you’re also a shitty person for wanting the world to be breaking down with you.

Our delicate little egos hate breakups. Am I not worthy? Am I ever going to find someone else? (side note: there is ALWAYS someone else!) WHY DIDN’T I GIVE HIM MORE BLOW JOBS? Or at least morning sex? Is it my fault? Who will love me? Am I a commitment-phone? Am I scared of being alone?

Cyclical thinking, wondering why it happened, whose fault, what mistakes, what could have gone differently. Questioning and anger mixed in with the most evil of things – nostalgia. They say hindsight is 20/20, but this kind of hindsight doesn’t just tint rose-colored, it can get colored by whatever emotion you’re currently feeling.

Memory is such an unreliable narrator.

These feelings can consume almost every thought – waking and sleeping.

The morning after a boyfriend broke up with me once, I had a dream that he apologized and came back and got in bed and we cuddled and then we went flying and it was perfect and so fun and I woke up alone with this bright white sunlight coming in and it had never felt so harsh. The next morning I woke up and forgot we were broken up and spent the next five minutes crying, like real ugly Claire Danes bare it all kinda crying. A few days later, I congratulated myself that I hadn’t even thought about HIM until my shower, so a whopping whole ten minutes.

And then, in the midst of all of this rawness, you’ve gotta pull yourself together and just live, because no matter what you do or how you feel, life fucking goes on and you have to keep up.

So now that I’ve led myself (and you, dear reader) through this little depressing breakup mentality meander, I want to get to the real point.

That’s the breakup. And then there’s the part where you decide what you’re going to do after the breakup. It’s so full of all these brokens: broken up, broken-hearted, broken down, broken apart, and simply broken. And the line between breaking up and breaking down is a hard one to decipher.

And it’s taken a lot of breakups and breakdowns for me to understand the difference between the two.

This doesn’t cover it all, but it’s a start. And while nothing will change the fact that I can’t control what’s happening to me in a breakup, I can begin to control what’s happening inside me.

BREAKING DOWN VERSUS BREAKING UP

Breaking down is missing how happy you were in that relationship.
Breaking up is discovering what makes you happy outside of that relationship.

Breaking down is blaming yourself for the things you did wrong.
Breaking up is examining what you did wrong and then looking to what you can do right in the future.

Breaking down is bemoaning that you can’t live without him.
Breaking up is just living, and then realizing you can do it without him.

Breaking down is stalking his every move on social media.
Breaking up is breaking up with every aspect of them, which includes deleting his phone number, deleting on Facebook, twitter, Google chat, whatever.

Breaking down is self-sabotaging romantic notions like love will solve everything.
Breaking up is recognizing that loving someone and making a life with someone are two very different things.

Breaking down is mistaking life for a romantic comedy.
Breaking up is knowing that romance and comedy are part of life, but a guy apologizing with a boombox outside of your house is not.

Breaking down is trying to fix a broken relationship.
Breaking up is trying to fix yourself.

Breaking down is all negative.
Breaking up is finding the positives in the negative.

Breaking down is eating ice cream in sweatpants in bed with eyeliner smudged down your face.
Breaking up is giving yourself time to do the above, but knowing that getting out of the house will actually make you feel better.

Breaking down is tweeting about all of your sad, depressing emotions.
Breaking up is finding something you like enough to tweet about.

Breaking down is sleeping with the first guy who shows an interest in you.
Breaking up is KNOWING you can sleep with anyone you choose, but remembering to do the choosing.

Breaking down is burning everything that reminds you of him.
Breaking up is just dropping off a box at Goodwill.

Breaking down is obsessing over every single text he sends you after the breakup.
Breaking up is texting your friends instead (about things other than HIM).

Breaking down is drunk dialing your ex.
Breaking up is sober dialing your new crush.

Breaking down is feeling bad for yourself.
Breaking down is finding things to feel good about.

Breaking down is mistaking life for a romantic comedy.
Breaking up is knowing that romance and comedy are part of life, but a guy apologizing with a boombox outside of your house is not.

Breaking down is trying to fix a broken relationship.
Breaking up is trying to fix yourself.

Breaking down is missing how happy you were in that relationship.
Breaking up is discovering what makes you happy outside of that relationship.

That’s my list, I’m sure there’s more!

The most important part about breakups – for me, at least – is understanding that you don’t get to go around it, you have to go through it. And when you get to the other side, just like any other painful part of life, you realize that you are stronger and better because of it.