The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings especially true on Hidden Heartbreak, an Instagram page whose creator, an anonymous 29-year-old fashion designer, draws comics that revolve around a recent breakup—refreshingly real and relatable with anyone who’s been left brokenhearted by a significant other.
Ironically, the heartbreak isn’t so hidden anymore as the page currently has 13.2k viewers and has been featured in Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and Comedy Central articles. Going viral was never the intention of the artist, but to her, it’s been a very supportive experience.
“I get so many kind message from people who are going through the same thing and feel less alone after finding my art,” she said.
There are many cartoonists on Instagram—the works of @bigsis666, @bymariandrew, and @vanillacooldance often pop up on Instagram’s Explore feature—but none have dealt solely with heartbreak like @hiddenheartbreak. Some of the cartoons are cheeky—some deeply profound. However, in its entirety, the feed runs the gamut of emotions one feels deep in the process of grief after a messy, modern breakup.
The cartoons’ viral success is due to how shockingly relatable a stranger’s breakup can be. Even with the intensely specific details—the ex’s infamous bird shirt, for one—viewers can easily substitute the ex for an equally narcissistic, emotionally unavailable person of their own. The account doesn’t simply condemn the ex; relationships are too complex to simply hate on the other party after it ends. The nostalgic moments are sobered with depictions of the uncertainty in the relationship.
“Working through the memories this way has shed light to the fact that it is very much about him. and not about [her],” she said.
When asked which cartoon is her favorite, the artist said it is probably the first one she drew.
“This was the only one I ever showed to my ex, and it always reminds me how far I’ve come,” she continued. “I’ve never believed in emotional walls, and so I never really understood his. I was constantly trying to break it down and find ways to get my love over it and to him…looking back I feel very empowered by the fact that I never gave up and never built my own wall because of him. I will forever be open, and there’s something very powerful and freeing about that.”
The reality of each cartoon hits hard with anyone who has gone through similar experiences. What sets Hidden Heartbreak apart from its cartoon counterparts is its honest approach to sex—specifically, bad sex. It’s surprising but refreshing to see a meaningful discussion about sex being had on such a public platform. The issue stems from the artist’s frustration with her ex intentionally placing the blame for his sexual shortcomings on her. All of the cartoons are therapeutic to the artist.
“Putting [my frustrations about the sex] out in the open really helped me regain my confidence and get rid of some shame I was feeling around it,” she said. “It is totally normal to vacillate between emotions on a weekly, daily, even hourly basis. Grief isn’t a linear process, and when you get stuck, let yourself feel it and don’t be too hard on yourself.”