Diagnosing Heartbreak

If you asked me if I was a scientist, I would look you in the eye and say yes.

Some might call that lying. But, I am a scientist – of a sort.

I have my degree in Marine Environmental Science with a concentration in Biology and Chemistry. That means I’m  just a hack who knows a few “big words” like  bioaccumulation, polycyctic aromatic hydrocarbons and phytoplankton.

Still, I do know a thing or two about lab reports (well, I know about 74% of things about lab reports since I skated through college with a 2.74 GPA).  So, when my friend T crafted a beautiful composition called Anatomy of a Break-up, I felt the science nerd kick into over-drive and drafted a report of my own:

Title: Signs, Symptoms and Stages of a Breaking Heart

Statement of the Problem: Recovering from a Broken Heart requires going through several stages. These stages are common to all forms of Heart Break, however manifested differently to each individual. These stages are not mutually exclusive nor are they confined to following a logical sequence. Full completion of a stage may require going through that stage several times.

Hypothesis: If the stages of Heart Break can be identified, it will neither help the heart heal faster nor take any of the incomprehensible pain away. This study serves no purpose but to humor the people who have suffered a once, twice, thrice… Broken Heart and solicit the odd scoff or ha!

Materials used in this experiment are:

  • A HeartBroken 20-Something Female
  • Brain Chemicals
  • iTunes playlist featuring Ani Difranco, Cher, Madonna, Janis Joplin, The Indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman and Vanilla Ice.
  • Gin, Tonic Water, Fresh Limes
  • Pen
  • Paper


In this lab, a young woman fell in love. She openly and without abandon gave her full heart, body and soul to a man. He proposed. He promised her the world. Forever. Which turned out to be just until he decided that “this just isn’t fun anymore.” The young woman then went through several stages of a Breaking Heart, which yielded a new hairstyle, a (relatively short) period of heartbreak, a few unmentionable rebound affairs, and a re-birth.

Results (Data):

Stages and Symptoms

1. The Denial Stage (he’ll realize what he lost, regret it, change his mind, and return to win me over with some grandiose gesture just like in the movies – he’ll come back)

Subject in full Denial Stage

Symptoms:  Hesitating to tell your friends that he broke up with you, not allowing anyone to criticize your relationship, keeping pictures of you together, wearing his old hoodie, checking your phone/e-mail constantly, feeling surprisingly good and having faith that you two are meant to be and will work out if you are patient and poised.

During the Denial Stage, it is common to make excuses for your estranged lover. It is also common to diagnose them with numerous mental illnesses that would explain their behavior such as: Manic Depression, Seasonal Affected Disorder, Schizophrenia, Acute Stress Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, Early Onset-Alzheimer’s, Paranoia, Tourette’s syndrome, and Indigestion.

It is important that you never try to reason with someone in the Denial Stage. It’s futile. Just let them be. No matter what you do, never tell anyone in the Denial Stage “It wasn’t meant to be.”


2. The Anger Stage (I can’t believe I dated that asshole, how dare he do that to me, everything he said to me turned out to be a lie!)

Subject in the midst of the Anger Stage

Symptoms: Sending him back everything that you had kept (letters, pictures, poems, the winning scratch card worth $3), sarcastic comments, intense disgust for 90% of the crappy sappy songs on the radio, bitter attitude towards all men.

During the Anger Stage, it is important to not listen to the radio. Make mixed CD’s of “safe music.” Suggestions include: punk/ska/Indie bands that you rocked out to in high school. If they sing a song about Mario World or a Teenage Wasteland, they are probably good to go. You never know what the repercussions of an unsuspecting Taylor Swift song may have on someone in the Anger stage (ref. Broken Car Stereo.)

*Note 1. Experiment reflects subject's unique bias for Billy Joel, Johnny Cash, The Beatles and Tom Petty


3. The Regret Stage (what a waste of my time, he was so not worth it)

*There is no photographic documentation of the Subject in the Regret Stage

Symptoms: crying, crying, crying – self-induced isolation because you don’t want your friends to see you crying crying crying

During the Regret Stage, the only proven panacea is distraction, distraction, distraction – NOT SOLITUDE. A suggestion is to have a prearranged list of appropriate distractions such as: belly dancing, mall walking, volunteering at the animal shelter, horseshoe crab hunting. Otherwise, it is a very slippery slope downwards toward unhealthy distractions (ref. increased alcohol consumption; pregnancy scare)


4. The Forgiveness Stage (We were really a victim to circumstances beyond our control, he could still be the right person, it was just the wrong place/time in our lives, I don’t harbor any hard feelings for him)

Symptoms: reading Nicholas Sparks books (always a terrible idea), looking at your relationship with rose colored glasses, calling him, wanting to call him, checking your phone and e-mail all the time, feeling bad for him b/c he was a fool that lost you – poor guy.

The Forgiveness Stage is where temptation to make contact again peaks. Studies highly suggest against this as amount of contact with an ex-lover is directly proportional to “time spent getting over it” and indirectly proportional to “feelings of happiness”


5. The Retailiation Stage (I’ll show him. I’ll make him so jealous, he’ll rue the day he screwed everything up)

Subject in Full Retaliation Stage

Symptoms: documenting every shot of Patron on Facebook, dressing up like a harlot, drinking like it’s your 21st birthday every weekend, seeking out numerous sexual partners, calling  just to tell him that you don’t ever want to talk to him again

The Retaliation Stage is the most dangerous of all the phases and the one that shows the most Facebook documentation.


A Broken Heart can cause physical pain. It’s uncanny just how much it can hurt. And as much as we all want to believe that our Broken Heart is unique and special and unlike any other Broken Heart throughout history, that simply isn’t true. From the day the first CaveMan cheated on his CaveWoman with the CaveGirl next door, from the first PaleoWoman that strutted around in high heeled moccasins in and out of every hut in the PaleoVillage just to punish and break her unfortunate target PaleoMan; through the Stone Age, Dark Ages, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Crusades, Inquisition, Shakespeare to Austen to Hemingway to Dolly Parton; we all get our hearts broken. And we don’t die from it. We get weaker, stronger, crazier, wiser – eventually, we might even be better for it. Eventually.

Errors in this lab could be due to: natural human propensity towards error and exaggeration, lack of a “control,” over-indulgence of Gin, and lack of real data.


About ermodi

i like champagne and nachos. i watch people’s mouths move when they talk to me and judge if they are a good kisser i like to write with fine-tip Sharpies because i think it makes me look confident i bite my nails i think doing the dishes is a very lonely chore i think “autumn” is the prettiest word in the English language. i believe in love – or, at least something that resembles love, but i don’t trust this idea of forever.
This entry was posted in Advice of the Solicited and Un Kind, Featured and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Diagnosing Heartbreak

  1. T says:

    Hahahha do you still have the original email where we started breaking this down? I thought my two silly paragraphs were cute, but you really took this to a new level. I love the charts.

    Don’t forget that post-retaliation is the Jaded Phase. It’s possibly the most insidious, because of its subtle symptoms but dramatic capability to sabotage future relationships for years to come…

  2. Patti Fritchie says:

    Another solid hit! Your sense of humor and touches of reality hit this topic right out of the ball park. Great job, keep it up. I see a book in your future. :-))


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