Parting is all we need of hell

11 Oct

I’ve been on a bit of a mission. I’m trying to understand how my ex could tell me he loved me, and found me really attractive, and I made him happier than he’s ever been in his life, but he was not in love with me. My counsellor tells me he actually doesn’t know what he means. He had never had a girlfriend before me (at the ripe old age of 31), and she thinks he honestly couldn’t recognise how he felt.

I’m not sure. I just know after ten weeks it still hurts so much it knocks the breath out of me at times. And I need to make some sense of it.

Where do you go when you need inspiration in this day and age? I go to Ted Talks.

Last night I watched a fantastic Ted Talk by Helen Fisher

Helen was doing research at the time (it’s from 2008), into what the brain gets up to when it’s in love. She makes the point that it is a physical/chemical thing. In fact, anthropologists have found evidence of romantic love in 170 societies. They have never found a society in which it didn’t exist. Wow. Imagine how many people have been through what I’m going through now.

OK, what does the brain get up to? Well, a bit of the brain called the VTA goes crazy when you’re in intense romantic love. Apparently this bit of the brain is below cognitive thinking or emotions. It just is. It does its own thing. And it’s associated with wanting, motivation, focus and cravings. How’s this for scary? It’s the same bit of the brain that gets stimulated when you get a rush from cocaine. And it leaves you unable to stop thinking about the object of your affection.

Ever had the experience when you’ve just met someone, fallen for them in a big way, and you can’t sleep at night? Try sleeping after cocaine. Actually, don’t, I’m not advocating that kind of thing. But you get the point.

Now here’s the really scary bit. What happens to the brains of people who have just been dumped? Well, a few parts of the brain get stimulated. Amongst them, the exact same part of the VTA that’s involved with intense romantic love. Oh, nature, you little trickster. When we get dumped, we think even more about the person. We want them even more. We need them.

Yup. Sounds about right.

In the TedTalk (which you’ve really got to watch), Helen references an Emily Dickinson poem. I love Emily Dickinson for often summing up exactly how I feel in truly beautiful, magical language. How’s this for accurate, ‘Parting is all we need of hell.’

True. Story.

So, I’m no closer to understanding my ex. What was his brain up to when we were together? But, what I have got is a slightly better understanding of what my brain has been doing to itself since the pizza of doom.

This week has been tough, but I’m trying to be positive. I really am. While I’m on the subject of Emily Dickinson, here’s the opening of one of my very favourite poems,

‘Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune – without the words,
And never stops at all.’

Hope. If there’s a bit of my brain that’s associated with hope, please god, let it be limbering up for action.

Here’s a little something to help stimulate it. Helen has also done research into people who say they are still in love 10, 20, 25 years after meeting their other half. Guess what? The very same bit of the brain’s VTA is stimulated as for those who have just fallen in intense romantic love.

The kind of love I’ve been looking for does exist. And, if I get it right, it can last a lifetime.

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8 Responses to “Parting is all we need of hell”

  1. jadedwildcat October 11, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    It actually makes a lot of sense. I remember being absolutely knocked to the floor, as if from a sucker-punch, the first time H broke up with me *SO* brutally… I lost 20 lbs in two weeks, nearly had to be hospitalized, COULD not function even the most basic functions, like drinking water or getting out of bed…
    It was terrible. My thoughts were completely consumed with him, him, him – needing to know WHY, needing to talk to him, to hear from him, to see him…
    Honest to God, anyone watching me writhe and thrash and scream in my bed would have thought I was suffering withdrawals from some kind of harsh drug.
    It really must be the same kind of thing. An uncle of mine, at the time, took me under his wing and kept convincing me that love is just like a chemical addiction, and that even seeing them or hearing from them or anything, is like getting a ‘fix’ or a ‘hit’, and it calms you for the moment but will inevitably send you spiraling back into horror unless you get it all COMPLETELY out of your system and stay that way for a good long while.
    These memories came rushing back after you talked about the Ted Talk – it really does make sense to me. It always has, ever since my uncle explained it to me like that.

    This being said, dear friend, a lot of people do that whole ’90 days clean’ program, and then go from there… so you seem to really be nearing that point and I truly hope once you reach it, maybe you’ll start to feel some relief? xoxo we are here for you either way

  2. jadedwildcat October 11, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    Also, one thing that’s so hard to accept, but is an unfortunate fact of life is that we may never get all the answers that we’re dying to have. That feeling rips me apart as well, when things just go to shit and I can’t make sense of it. I suppose at some point you’re going to have to reach a point where you just don’t care anymore, or can’t waste anymore tears or energy wondering why, or trying to make sense of it. You may never find out, and you’ll need to be okay with that somehow 😦
    I realize I’m saying all of these things that I myself have so much trouble with… but at the very least I know it to be the truth, whether I myself accept it or not. Hugs dear friend.

    • aprileb October 11, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

      OH you are right. In fact, it’s something else covered in the Ted Talk – the likeness to addiction. You need to watch the video. Brilliantly moving and fascinating. I’m on day 70 I think… getting there very slowly but surely. Thanks for your support. Hope you’re doing OK. x

  3. thewholeheartedblog October 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Love Ted talks during this time. It gives a sense of closure and a concrete answer for me. Helen’s lecture is great, love that you resort to Ted talks too! I watched this one in particular and the one about vulnerability by Dr. Brene Browne. Hope you have a good weekend!

    • aprileb October 12, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

      I saw the vulnerability one too. It made me feel OK about letting my guard down. Have you watched Amy Webb’s ‘How I hacked online dating’? Hilarious and inspiring. I recommend. X

  4. jadedwildcat October 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Reblogged this on J4D3D W1LDC4T's Den Of Horrors and commented:
    Reblogging this bc the video she’s posted is actually pretty interesting. Maybe all my fellow sufferers of woes of the heart will find it somewhat fascinating as well. x

  5. Kelsey Lynore October 18, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    Never trust a grown man who doesn’t have proper exes. I mean that.

    • aprileb October 18, 2013 at 9:08 am #

      My counsellor says the same.

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