I'm currently having an epiphany of a kind. I can't rave enough about The Mental Illness Happy Hour, which I may or may not have mentioned sometime earlier. But let's revise, it's a an awesome podcast where all kinds of mental illnesses and issues get discussed profoundly by abuse victims, mental patients, recovering addicts, etc. with some dark humour on the side. Just my cup of tea.
I just finished listening to a mini-episode where a clinical psychologist talked about rejection and how it affects our psyche. It's no secret that I'm still trying to deal with the breakup from my girlfriend that happened (and this makes me feel embarrassed) about 2,5 years ago. Without getting into all of the details and why it has been such a goddamn drag, understanding the mechanics of rejection made me feel a little bit better - not as crazy as per usual. Because initially, that's what it was - a rejection by a loved one that just occurred out of the blue, and I never understood why.
Ok, so some medical studies involving MRI scans were referred to, and I just love clinical studies because they make me feel like my emotions are more valid than when they're just my own experiences. Seriously, I'm not at all confident if a therapist tells me that my feelings are valid and I should learn to accept them, but show me brain scan where certain areas are clearly more or less active than others, or prove that the chemical balance of the brain is screwed up - now I'm all ears.
So, in these MRI scans it was shown that when the subjects had to relive a recent moment of rejection the same areas were inflated as when we experience physical pain. And there, these years (and I would say that started feeling rejected already some months into our relationship as well as in many occasion after we had broken up) of varying levels of pain that I've endured are actually a completely natural reaction because feeling pain when rejected is a biological response that I can do nothing about.
Brooding about a 1-year relationship for almost three years seems quite excessive though, but hey-ho - there is a logical explanation for that as well! Apparently, the first reaction upon rejection is to make it worse. Thanks human genome! So, I already forgot the reason why this happens but it's a totally legitimate thing that our brain does: get rejected -> immediately start poking the wound. And man, am I good at blaming myself for everything conceivable, so that's what I would do. First of all, I kind of just repressed the whole breakup like it never happened, but at the same time I kept on adding more and more icing on the horrible rejection cake (what?). In practice, I was being friends with my ex, totally pining after her 24/7 but didn't want her to know how much pain I was in. And every single time she would say or do something that signalled that she didn't want to hang out with me or whatever, I would feel the same rejection as I did when she told me she wanted to break up. So, in a way we both made sure that my rejection injury never got to heal. And I have literally gone through in my head every possible and impossible thing that I ever did or said that could have been the reason why she wanted to dump me. Every. Single. One.
And I'm still almost daily ruminating on some minor occasion scenario where I suspect I haven't acted like the perfect significant other or friend I wanted to be, and regretting the hell out of each of them.
At some point, the hurt just came to signify our entire relationship to me, and even after accepting that we broke up, I would still be stomping on that same wound, making sure that I still felt it. I'm speaking in a past tense but the truth is, this is still happening all the time. Whenever I feel like something she does directly relates to the hurt that I feel every day, the pain goes deeper. I know that in people's heads things aren't black and white, and being for something doesn't automatically mean that you're against the other, but as I said the only thing that's left for me of our relationship is the fact that it hurts like a bitch, and hence everything she doesn't do for me is a thing she does against me.
Rationally I know it's not so simple, but screw reason.
One other thing that I took out of the interview is that, according to the psychologist when people experience a sudden rejection, I guess especially in a romantic relationship, again the instinct is to ask what I did wrong, when in fact in most cases the problem really was the other person. How I see my situation is that first months everything was great and sweet and exciting and then suddenly everything was scary and gloomy and confusing, which is also when I started pretty much crying everyday. It still went on for a good number of months but I was constantly second-guessing myself and completely drowned in self-doubt because I knew something was wrong but I couldn't understand what - and still our breakup came as a surprise.
Maybe this the new statistical fact that I can start cherishing to finally drag myself out of this swamp of misery.
Also, rejection causes a lot of anger, which I can totally confirm.
Listen to The Mental Illness Happy Hour over here or in iTunes.
And here's a direct link to the episode I was just talking about.
Ooh, and by the way, this is the first time that I'm not super nervous and sweating and shaking due to writing something as personal as this, so maybe that's a good sign too.