“And when we return, Can a broken heart actually cause you physical pain? “
Dear News 8 – Are you freaking kidding me!?
No, no. Not kidding!
After the commercial break I stare increduously at:
“Study – losing love may be both mentally and physically painful” as it flashes across the screen.
Really, I’m not making this stuff up.
Who would be studying this, exactly? Yale New Haven Medical School, perhaps?
Dear Smartie-Pants Med Students at Yale, let me save you some time and trouble with this thesis: Yes.
Yes, heartbreak can cause real physical pain and Yes, thinking back to past loves that didn’t work out can cause you real mental anguish.
We can’t help it, our brains are programed to not allow us to fully compartmentalize different emotions. Our feelings are massively intertwined together in, what I like to think of as being, a long string of pantyhose. Just snag one little thread and you can cause a run from your pinkie toe up to your knee in seconds flat.
It all starts with a look, a touch, a perfectly-worded Direct Message on Twitter. Before you know it, you are sucking down this dangerous cocktail of feelings: Hope, Affection, Appreciation, Acceptance, Happiness – shaken, not stirred. Oh, it tastes so good.
Keep drinking the Kool-Aide, my dear, because you never know how long it will be until The House buys you a new round. It tastes almost like a whiskey sour – without the whiskey. Hope turns into Disappointment, Affection to Rejection, Appreciation to Depreciation of Self-Worth, Acceptance to Doubt and Happiness to sadness – and it’s served on the rocks. That one isn’t so easy to choke down, now, is it? Oh, but these cocktails are free and the bartender keeps your glass full and you can’t freaking stop.
Before you know it, you’re thoroughly plastered; maybe tossing your cookies in a grimy bathroom or an obliging shrub, maybe blacking out in the back of a taxi cab someone was nice enough to hail for you. You’re wasted and God help you if you don’t have some friends to carry your limp-dead-weight-self up your porch steps.
Let time pass (time is rumored to heal all wounds, you know). You puke and purge and sleep it off. It takes awhile, days, weeks, months, two years, but you’re good again, just nursing a slight hangover – the annoying headache that’s become part of your daily routine.
Unfortunately, you’ll never get it all out of your system.
This is where linkage comes in. Emotions beget similar emotions. Happiness seeks more happiness. Loneliness invites all his friends and then sulks when they don’t show or bother to call.
It’s how your next big love affair can feel like it has the potential to be the best one yet– you can be just as head over heels and foolhardy as you were the first time you ever got your heart broken. Oh, remember how you swore that you’d never be that stupid again?
It’s all because of the Hope element. This time, it might be the real deal. Dear Hope – GFY.
The same goes for the negative emotions. When you doubt yourself or feel unattractive or disappointed in yourself, your feelings seek their likeness in your vast emotion cache. They pull from each other – just like a high speed computer with tons of RAM. So, you can be told, “No, I’m sorry you lost your wallet sweetie, but it’s gas station policy not to accept checks,” and immediately start crying because you doubt that you’ll ever be loved again. Here you are rejected by the gas station that once openly accepted you and your Platinum MasterCard, but now sneers at your soggy checkbook. You pay $1.77 with the change in your pocket for a quarter gallon of gas and default to thinking of every time that Acceptance yielded to Rejection on your way home. It’s crushing. Really.
Don’t be ashamed. It happens to all of us, even I’m not immune. Heck, I’m still human. Although I’ve moved on since my Epic Breakup and had several minor hook-ups and break-ups since, I’ll get caught from time to time. I know it’s not The Ex. It’s just my negative feelings searching for reinforcements in my memory, they’re pulling one thread and unraveling the whole tapestry I’m weaving.
True confession: Unraveling is the difficult part to fix.
True confession: The other day I had a relapse and ended up walking around my house in my bathrobe crying. I tried this new idea to grill a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I burned the shit out of it. Since I had used the last of my peanut butter, I choked the chargrilled sandwhich down with a glass of water (the milk in my fridge had gone sour two weeks ago). Lunch = fail. But, what made me cry, was that sentiment of failure. I immediately started thinking about my failed engagement and then digging even deeper and remembering what it was like to get totally shot down by my High School crush when I asked him to Homecomming. I was 16. That took guts! And it was so easy for the bastard to laugh and say “I was planning on going stag” (guy code for “if I was even remotely attracted to you, I would have asked you, you dummy”).
I don’t know what the magic aspirin for this emotional cocktail from hell is. Personally, I like distractions. Good friends, good books, my OK Cupid profile, my blog, running, testing my dog’s IQ, reading. I like to escape into something. I think the key for me is changing what I’m thinking about. I can’t change how I’m feeling at that given time, but if I shift my focus to a new love interest or what it’s going to be like when I move to France and live with a painter and we spend all day fighting and throwing antique vases at each other and all night making passionate love, well, then I feel better.
Girls have an amazing ability to live in our own heads – even more so than boys. I figure I might as well try to use that to my advantage once in awhile instead of always falling victim to it – because it’s powerful. You can’t fuck with brain juice.