Heartbreak and Betrayal: How to Concurrently Overcome a Breakup of Romance and Country

By Isabelle Duffy


It was 7:30 am and my flight from SFO to Portland had been canceled. Because I am constantly neurotic about being late for flights, I showed up two hours before my original take off time- 9:30 am. The next available flight, unfortunately, was at 2:30 pm which gave me about 7 hours to kill in an airport. Luckily, I had a few things that I brought along just in case I got bored. A notebook, some nail polish and Aziz Ansari’s book “Modern Romance”.

I pulled out Modern Romance and began to read. But quickly, due to my millennial instincts, I got bored. By now I had read my book, painted my nails and wrote a small amount in my journal about how bored I was. I had used up all of my resources in under 2 hours, and still had 5 hours left stuck in this airport. How the hell should I spend my time?

Well, there’s always the classic: checking your ex’s social media to see how they’re doing.

I know – all blogs, friends, and strangers say to avoid that like the plague, but of course, we all do it anyway. I won’t go into too much detail about the breakup itself, but all I will say is that it was fairly recent and that I’m still grieving almost every day. Granted, I had been holding onto a lot of grief for years about many other deep-seated things and this breakup definitely acted as the catalyst. The floodgates opened and everything that I had never properly grieved nor processed came to light. It’s chaos. But hey I’m fucking 24 and sometimes shit doesn’t make sense. And honestly, I’m pretty good about doing a social media cleanse when it comes down to it.

But I gave in.  And as soon as I started to type in the URL to his twitter, I could feel my heartbeat quicken. I knew it was bad for me, but that’s almost what made it feel like a good idea. Forbidden fruit. I told myself, “I’ve been good about avoiding his social media! Haven’t checked in once! I deserve this! It’s fiiiiiine”

The thing is- it’ll never be fine. No matter what, you’re always going to find something that’s going to make your stomach churn. Something that’ll make you sad, make you feel twice as lonely as you did before. Nothing that your ex posts will ever make you feel good simply put: they’re living their life without you. And that alone is painful enough.  But the sick masochistic desire for satisfaction is something that lives in us all.

Moral of the story is – and I can’t reiterate this enough – social media is an unforgiving bitch.

So I start scrolling. It’s relatively mundane, a few things that make me uncomfortable, a few things that make me sad. But finally, I came across something that made my heart drop into my stomach. Multiple posts, dated almost directly after our breakup, about being “Finally happy again” and “eyes have been opened” and “Able to do the things I always wanted to do, finally feel appreciated”.

The overall theme of the posts being: free of me, proudly and publicly so. As if I had been this toxic succubus that had been dragging him down into hell for the entirety of our relationship and that he had never been happy from the beginning.


So, I did what any adult-tax-paying-proud-feminist-woman would do.

I cried. A lot.

I asked the kind Asian family sitting across from me to watch my stuff and I ran to the bathroom and wept. Loud, heavy, ugly sobs wracking my body as I sat in the bathroom stall, completely unable to pull myself together. I frantically started texting my friends, hardly able to see through my own tears. They, with all their might, tried to pull me out of my spiral. Telling me things like even if I’m not important to him, that I’m important to them. That I matter and that they love me more than anything and that I can always rely on them to be there for me.

Anyone who knows me knows I say this at least twice a day – women are amazing.

Despite their efforts (and they did help), there was still a part of me that couldn’t fight the sinking feeling of smallness. The feeling of unimportance and so silly for grieving, to begin with.

I had never felt more lonely than sitting in that San Francisco airport public restroom, sobbing over my ex-boyfriend’s tweets.

Now I understand, not everyone grieves as publicly as I do. The only way I can process grief is by filling myself up with the sense of solidarity which is why this was so awful. I was openly and honestly sad on my platforms. But a part of me wanted some sort of validation that I meant something, that we meant something. That maybe he was aching too.

Instead, I came across his pride paired with gloating due to the absence of me.

Again. Ouch.

Honestly- Fuck social media. It’s always a bad idea and you’re never going to find what you want.

After a good solid 15 minutes of crying, I wiped the tears from my eyes and looked in the mirror at the SFO bathroom. I saw my puffy cheeks and red eyes and decided this is enough. If he can proudly be rid of me then I can do the same. I walk out, head held as highly as you possibly can after sobbing publicly and loudly in an airport restroom stall, and thanked the family watching my luggage. I decided to try and keep my mind busy for a while.

So what could I do to fix this? Maybe watch a comfort show? Take a nap? Call a friend?

Yeah, those are all pretty solid ideas. But instead, I decided to follow it up with something that I personally feel compliments misery better than anything – more misery.

By that point, it was 12 pm, and I decided to pull up the inauguration of Trump on my phone. The same shaking feeling, knowing that what I was about to expose myself to was going to cause some sort of inevitable pain, crept in on me. My heart began to race all over again as I fought the same craving of validation.

Maybe it’ll all be a joke? I thought, Maybe it’s just some big art experiment and we were all unwitting subjects. This can’t be it, there has to be a happy ending. I do matter, right?

No such luck.

As I watched him speak, in all his tiny-handed Cheeto-dusted glory, I was struck with disbelief and shock. There was something about hearing my country cheer on this monster, that almost felt violent. I felt a chill run through my spine and felt like I was watching everything from outside of my body. I was numb.

In all honesty, I had been living in denial about this presidency. Similar to the breakup, it was always nagging at me in the back of my head while I attempted to stay busy, to move forward. Like a voice constantly whispering “Hey, remember how you should be sad right now? Everything in the world is absolute shit.” But I kept moving forward, kept pushing past the negative thoughts, refusing to let them permeate.

It wasn’t until the Obamas flew away that it really hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt abandoned and truly and honestly fearful. That same feeling of unimportance washed over me again, that feeling of something you love telling you that you don’t matter. But this time it wasn’t just me. Trump was publicly and proudly saying that not only did he not care about me, but my family who are exclusively immigrants. My sisters and my brothers who are made up of a beautiful mixture of POCs and queer folk and everything in between. My community, the only thing that has gotten me out of bed in the mornings, the people that have lifted me up every time I’ve started to sink. Belittled. Knocked down. Torn apart.

And I watched my country, my home, the place where my parents decided they wanted to raise their children, happily cheer along with him.

It’s that same feeling of betrayal. It’s that feeling of heartbreak.

To have something I thought would always care about me, whether a person or a country, proudly shouting from the rooftops about how excited they are to no longer care. How exhausting it was to care and how finally, after all this time, they are free. I got the same sense of feeling silly, feeling as though I had been living a lie. I realized that I used small justices as ways to convince myself that the world maybe wasn’t falling apart. That perhaps, it was all in my head. But I had known. I had always known that this country only benefited straight cis white men, but I had prayed and hoped that there had been some semblance of change, however minuscule.

I had done all the right things. I voted I protested, I educated myself. I got into deep political conversations with whoever would have them with me and always left feeling empowered and strong. But that’s the thing with feeling empowered that I’m fed up with. I want to be empowered. I want women to own land, I want POC’s to have a higher position in society, I want queer folk to be respected. Why should I be grateful for a feeling, while white men are actually empowered? Because the feeling wasn’t enough anymore, and it never had been when I really think about it.

Because for men, especially white men, no matter how Cheeto-dusted their skin, empowerment is a birthright. They get to say and do whatever they like and we offer nothing but forgiveness and understanding. It’s constant unpaid emotional labor on our ends. Whether it’s for those in our personal life, or politicians and celebrities.  

I felt hopeless. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt as if my trust had been broken and I had once again poured my energy and sense of self into something that had ultimately failed me. As if I had lost a part of myself all over again.

Unfortunately, this adult-tax-paying-proud-feminist-woman™ did not spare the kind Asian family across from her the tears this time. I silently let them fall openly as the feelings of devastation and worthlessness washed over my entirety, my tears splashing onto my phone. I could feel the air get sucked out of the room as everyone in the airport watched along. We were all broken hearted in that moment.

Heartbreak is horrible. It’s deafening and all consuming. A dark cloud that just looms over you, no matter how much you work out, how much you drink, how much you cry. It leaves an almost cookie cutter shaped hole in your heart that can’t be filled by anything but the perpetrator that created it. It feels as if it’s going to last for the rest of your life, despite everyone telling you there’s an end date. But they’re right- it one day will end. They do their damage and then they leave. And you won’t be back to normal, you’ll just be different. You’re breaking up not only with a person, with an idea, with a country, but with a version of yourself. The version of myself that felt happy and whole when connected to that other person is gone forever now. The version of myself that was satisfied and empowered with conversations and political discourse has completely dissipated. It’s hard as hell to figure out what is going to bring back even a semblance of those feelings. But it’s completely worth the journey.

Until then, you find your people. You reach out to your community and you don’t let yourself nor others sink. We need to lift each other up at this time but give space for grief, it’s natural and needed. Because this is a universal heartache and pretending as if we’re better than ever is living in a dream world. I’m far from ok, but I’m working towards it. And I hope one day, I can look in the mirror and realize that my wounds haven’t just healed, but that without my scars I am unrecognizable.


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