It’s a typical Tuesday evening and I’m enjoying a night in, catching up on some TV shows and sipping on some lavender tea to wind down before bed. Around 8 p.m., I receive a text message from someone I have been seeing for a few weeks. He tells me simply, “I’m not interested in continuing this,” and then I’m ghosted. Unfollowed. He’s gone as quickly as he appeared into my life courtesy of online dating just a few weeks ago.
I immediately panic. Crippling pain in the form of what feels like electric shocks start to shoot through my entire body instantly. I feel numb and on fire all at the same time. I can’t catch my breath. I feel like I’m going to vomit, and I immediately start to lose control of myself. My heart is racing, my face is flushed. I am sweating and my body is shaking from head to toe, and I let out a wail as though my heart has been irreparably damaged.
The emotional pain of rejection doesn’t always stifle me like this, but tonight I am already feeling vulnerable from the stress of current events, the stress of my job and physical exhaustion, and when I am rejected by someone that I have barely gotten a chance to know, it triggers me.
I am already sensitive to rejection. I have experienced much worse than this in terms of loss in my life, but my emotions can often be volatile. I have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, which means that I feel emotions intensely and for extended periods of time. In my case, I am often triggered by the rejection of romantic prospects.
As I continue to process the rejection from this person I barely knew, I am filled with feelings of shame, anger, disappointment, sadness, embarrassment, and absolute defeat. I am already exhausted from the panic, and I immediately start hearing my thoughts scream at me in absolutes. “I’m not good enough, this is what ALWAYS happens. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t stand this. I can’t handle this feeling another second. I’m going to be alone forever.”
The emotional pain that I am feeling from this rejection starts to spin out of control and into shame about my history with a mental health condition, the shame I feel about not being able to compete with my peers on a professional level and not being able to take on a heavy workload or to work full-time. I feel the shame of being incapable of maintaining my past long-term relationships. I feel ashamed that the intense pain of my emotions, and my anxiety continues to hold me back from building the kind of life I want to live.
As I gasp for breath in between sobs, I reach for my phone and text my therapist, asking her to call me. It’s already 9 p.m., but since I am part of a Dialectical Behavior Therapy program, she is available for crisis calls. My therapist calls back within 10 minutes and reminds me of the progress I have made over the past year. As I shock my system back to a calmer state by holding an ice pack to my forehead, one of the Distress Tolerance skills in DBT, my therapist continues to remind me of the accomplishments I have made through my work in therapy, and reminds me that I am a sensitive person. Sensitivity to emotion is my reality, but I am learning how to live with it more effectively, and I continue to make strides toward having a life worth living.
Toward the end of my coaching call with my therapist, I am in a better state mentally and emotionally. I am mindful of the fact that I am an emotionally sensitive person who has a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, but there is hope for recovery. In fact, 86% of people recover after four years of treatment. Although I will continue to have moments of feeling out of control, and I will most likely always experience pain on a much more intense level than what is deemed normal, I feel hope for the future.