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  • Writer's pictureBella Rawson

Let's Talk About Life

I realise most people reading this blog probably aren't here for life advice. And if you are, then let me be the first one to tell you you're in the wrong place.

Normally this blog is a way to let my family know what I've been up to at uni without having to explain it ten times over to different people asking the same questions - my entire ethos in a nutshell, be as lazy as possible but get the maximum results. However, given the, err, pandemic we're in it's not been possible for me to get back to uni this term, which leaves this blog somewhat in limbo because how the hell am I meant to write about my fascinating time sat at the kitchen table writing an essay?

So that's pretty much why there's been no posts this past month, because put quite simply there's been no point. But it's surprisingly therapeutic to complain to people on the internet, and since writing is how I do my therapy it's safe to say I've missed doing it. I write a lot in my spare time as my two crap novels that will never see the light of day can attest to, but I very rarely put anything online because a) cannot be arsed with the faff and b) if anyone has any time in a Cambridge term to edit their writing I'll be amazed. So let's conclude here that writing is pretty brilliant for building your God complex and your ego, both of which are substantial in me.

However what I wanted to talk about today was something slightly different. I went through a pretty rubbish break up at the end of last term, and I'm not very good at expressing my feelings through talking so I haven't really done anything about it till now. If you want an idea of my mind state a couple of days after, there's three files on my computer named "sad 1", "sad 2", "sad 3", all of which contain links to TikToks and me babbling for extended periods about how, shock horror, my break up made me feel. An entertaining read now, since I was clearly unable to spell at the time.

I was re-reading them this morning after having a little wobble last night, and it highlighted something interesting to me. They say there's five stages of grief, right? Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Well, I'd like to make an argument for a 6th stage: numb.

Before you jump down my throat and yell but isn't that just denial? I'd like to point out that in order to be in the denial stage you have to be able to feel something, and rereading these documents it was very obvious to me that I'd dealt with the denial, anger, bargaining and depression long before, probably even before I'd gone to university, and I just wasn't feeling anything. The thoughts I did have were quite clearly just me thinking well, it's over, that's whatever, and I'll just get on with it.

I'm no expert, but that doesn't sound like a healthy reaction.

I'd thought it was weird at the time - did I really not have any feelings for him anymore? Was it that easy? I've never done the whole breakup thing before so it was pretty new. And here we are two and a half months later and suddenly, at half midnight on a Saturday after a previously good evening, I'm sobbing on the phone to my best friend because everything feels incredibly weird and my brain is making connections to things it shouldn't. So I was clearly back in the depression phase. Two steps forward, one step back and all that.

I was expecting to feel rubbish waking up this morning too, to just regress back into my shell and not want to talk to anyone at all. I didn't think you could just hop back into the depression phase and spring back out again. Yet somehow I feel completely normal, and that's why I thought it was probably finally time to try and express how I felt in some way that resembled a healthy reaction, because clearly it's a mess otherwise. Hence why this blog post is appearing now, because writing is the only way I'm able to process anything with a degree of clarity.

Here's the thing about me - I haven't needed anyone in a long time. And by that I mean I haven't needed anyone to get me through things, and I'm generally the one doing the supporting if people need it. So it was an alien feeling to feel as though I needed my relationship back, despite knowing that I'm better off as I am. I've done a lot of reading about the psychology of breakups these past couple of months, and according to the science (God I'm boring) this is completely normal. I probably should've known that given I spend an unhealthy amount of time watching and reading romantic comedies, but we all have blind spots.

It's completely normal to feel nothing and then get hit by a truck two months down the line. Breakups are grieving, and that's how grief works. It's blindsiding, which is pretty shit, because wouldn't it be nice to know in advance if you're going to feel like you can't get out of bed? This is what I've learned and half of it makes me think maybe psychology would be an interesting thing to do in my third year - imagine that: "this breakup I had two years ago made me want to study your course because I felt like I was going insane until I read scientific literature. No, seriously."

But back to numbness. I propose this because I think the normal five stages miss out the fact that they're dynamic. If you read any research into them then this becomes apparent pretty quick, but if you're like me who thought at the start it was a linear process then you're in for a shock. And that's why I think we should include feeling numb. Because processing emotions is a really hard thing to do, and when you have no frame of reference it's even worse because you can't tell if you're having a normal reaction or if you are, in fact, psychotic (hint for anyone going through it: you're not).

If I'd known it was normal to just feel as if I felt nothing then I probably could've been a bit more prepared for the inevitable crack. I was suppressing how I was feeling without realising it and that's not sustainable long term. So in fact I might be totally fine, but my subconscious isn't, and that disconnect is what made the wobble happen. There's a little part of my brain that still isn't fully healed yet despite the rest of me screaming that I'm better off, it wasn't going anywhere, and I have a lot more going for me. My own brain is in two minds, and it's incredibly unhelpful.

I'm grateful that it happened, that what propelled me into this realisation was my brain seeing connections where there weren't any, because it forced me to question whether my coping mechanisms have really been very good. Somebody giving me a bare minimum compliment that reminded me of how things used to be in my relationship? It wouldn't have been my preferred way to go about things but it happened and we have to go with it.

I'll just take a moment to pause and reflect on what I just said. A bare minimum compliment. The bare minimum reminded me of my relationship. It's true what they say that you get blindsided by somebody because Christ if I was accepting the bare minimum then clearly I am better off out of it. For all my feminist screaming of men ain't shit, I really couldn't comment could I?

I'd like to finish this random little post by explaining that I truly am fine. It's one of those things I just know. We all know ourselves whether we realise it or not and for the most part my brain is ready to move on. It has accepted the loss, and it's ready to get on with the rest of life. If I could compare it to anything, I'd compare it to scar tissue (not because I'm currently looking at my appendix scar and thinking it makes a great analogy of course). The skin is back, the body has healed, and everything functions as normal. But if you prod it and look closely, there's a slight difference in the colour. There's a jagged line where I was cut open, sewn back together, and left to get on with it. Healing from a break up feels like that. I've healed, I'm back together, but if you look closely at this tiny part of me it's not quite the same.

For better or worse, healing from my breakup has changed me.

I'm not mad about it.

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