I recently told a friend that I currently feel “stuck” in my writing, mostly because I usually write about things I’ve learned or find interesting, but much of what I’m learning lately has to do with my current situation after a heartbreak. I never wanted to be the person posting sad quotes all over facebook or, worse, saying hurtful things about an ex-partner. It’s a fine line to walk between sharing my experience and sharing something that might hurt someone else. But after talking with my friend, I realized that I need this outlet. Writing has long been part of my healing process, and I have personally experienced the words of Glennon Doyle as truth:
“After I write, I feel calmer, healthier, and stronger. Every time I fling an internal demon onto the blank page, that demon turns out to be much less scary than I thought she was. I am becoming less afraid of myself. I wonder if this is because I need to check my shame levels daily, like a diabetic checks her insulin levels. Truth telling becomes my shame checker and my relief. It’s a holy purging of the painful fullness of my secrets.”
I say all that to say this: While I will still endeavor not to write about anything that will hurt someone else (it’s one thing to purge my own secrets, but another thing entirely to publish someone else’s), I ask your forgiveness if this blog becomes less “Inspirational Thoughts and Stories” and more “Healing After a Breakup” for a little while. Feel free to stop reading until we resume our normal programming. :)
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”
“Sadness and happiness are the same emotion. They affect our bodies in the same way. We just call one ‘good’ and the other ‘bad.’”
My boss said this to me recently, and in the past I probably would have disagreed. But a few days ago, while processing with my therapist why it’s been so hard for me to stay away from my ex’s social media (which I’ve committed to doing), she told me:
“She’s your heroin. Your body still craves the hit.”
I told her this made sense when my ex posted something that made me happy (something I might be able to interpret as her thinking about me, for instance, like a quote that had to do with heartbreak or a post about something she did or learned while we were dating), but asked how that could be the case when, as happened much more often, the post was something that hurt (a picture of her new girlfriend or a trip she took that we had planned to take together). Wouldn’t it seem much more likely that I wouldn’t want to look, because it hurts so badly? She answered by saying the same thing my boss had said:
“Your body responds to both emotions the same way.”
She went on to explain that every time I look at my ex’s page, my body receives a rush of dopamine and adrenaline regardless of whether what I see makes me happy or hurts me to my core. She said that my body still craves—and will always crave—the adrenaline rush that chaos, dysfunction, and even pain provides, because that is what was normal during my formative years—that is what was wired into me as a child. She says there is a part of my body that actually enjoys pain, because even though my brain considers it “negative,” it still works within my body as a “positive”—an adrenaline rush that not only feels exciting, but also feels paradoxically comforting, because it’s normal and familiar. (I remember telling my ex once that she felt more like “home” than anyone I had ever dated. And she did. There is a reason for that.) My therapist says the goal now is not to stop desiring the rush, because that will never happen, but to retrain my body to desire healthy methods of receiving that rush. In order to do this, I must continue abstaining from unhealthy sources of adrenaline (like stalking my ex’s facebook page) and seek out healthy sources (like riding motorcycles and horses, challenging myself with new things like rock climbing or paddle-boarding, and taking trips.)
It’s hard to admit that I entered (and stayed in) an unhealthy relationship precisely because I wanted an unhealthy relationship, and it’s equally difficult to admit that the reason I’m having such a hard time getting over it is because my body still longs for that dysfunction.* But they say that recognizing the problem is half the battle, and if taking steps to heal is the other half, then I’m getting there, slowly but surely.
I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution, but this year I’m making two: To write the things I feel I need to write, regardless (within reason) of previous ideas regarding what I “should” or “shouldn’t” write, and to seek out healthy forms of adrenaline and avoid those which perpetuate the cycle of dysfunction.
Anyone wanna go skydiving?
*Please understand, I’m not saying my ex was dysfunctional, just that our relationship was, and that is at least partly due to the dysfunction I brought into our relationship.