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Old 06-15-2018, 07:01 PM
Arius Arius is offline
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Default What is this feeling?

I'm presently having a feeling I've only had three times in my life.

The first time was maybe 15 years ago, when my first lover surfaced at my band's show shortly after a painful breakup. The second time was a few weeks ago, again in the presence of a lover who broke my heart. And the third time is now, a few hours before I am going to help her celebrate her life-commitment to her remaining partner.

I could use some help identifying and dealing with this feeling.

It feels like overwhelming anxiety, but it's different. Usually anxiety manifests more in my neck and shoulders. This is very much concentrated in my stomach. It feels like someone tried to smash my heart and intestines with a tire iron. I want to lay down and throw up.

So it's physically different, but there's also a cognitive difference: I have no reason to be anxious, and there are no anxious thoughts attached to this feeling. It's just an overpowering physical reaction to seeing her (or the idea of seeing her soon).

Has anyone else experienced this? Is there a word for it? And anything helpful I can do about it? I feel a strong need to be present for her at this important life event, but I also feel so exhausted and unwell I don't know if I'll be able to go.
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Old 06-15-2018, 08:15 PM
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Starheart Starheart is offline
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Even though you say there are no anxious thoughts about it, it sounds to me like a mix of a panic attack and heartbreak. (I've experienced panic attacks before without even realizing I was panicking; for me they tend to involve nausea, overwhelm, and confusion.)

I don't have advice except that if it IS a panic attack, anti anxiety meds would help the physical feeling go away. Especially since you can't identify any specific anxious thoughts, so you won't be able to do away with them with reasoning or logic.

I don't have other ideas for what it might be. Doesn't mean I'm right, but it's a possibility. I hope you can find a way to handle these feelings and emotions. It sounds really difficult. I applaud your desire to be strong through this, but make sure you take care of yourself.
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Old 06-15-2018, 11:41 PM
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kdt26417 kdt26417 is offline
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Hi Arius,

Sorry I didn't get to this thread sooner, it's been a few hours so I guess you already know whether you were able to go to the life-commitment event. Hopefully you were able.

There seems to be something about this person. Is this your ex-lover? Something about her is triggering for you. It might help if you could get to the bottom of this trigger. Is this person the one who broke up with you the first time? the "painful breakup?" and ever since then, whenever you are around her you get this feeling? If so, that may be a clue as to what might be causing this.

With regards,
Kevin T.
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"
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Old 06-16-2018, 01:19 PM
Arius Arius is offline
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Thanks for the responses, Kevin and Starheart.

I blasted some punk rock and the feeling mostly went away. I was able to go to the event albeit with some rocks in my stomach. I put in a good appearance for about 2 hours, my ex-lover was kind and affectionate with me, and I went home. I was severely emotionally and physically depleted by the evening, but I made it through without having an anxiety attack or feeling the feeling again.

I still don't have a name for it, but it's pretty obviously some sort of Seeing-An-Ex-Who-I-Am-Still-Intensely-In-Love-With-But-Can't-Be-With-Sexually feeling, perhaps unique to my body. And it seems to respond well to Social Distortion's White Light, White Heat, White Trash album. So that's good to know.
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Old 06-16-2018, 02:59 PM
lunabunny lunabunny is offline
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It might be an old-fashioned word, but it sounds pretty much like "heartbreak" to me.

That painful, sick, "punched in the gut", rock-on-my-chest feeling is how I feel when I'm heartbroken, and/or feeling super anxious/panicky or seriously distressed/depressed.

I'm sure it's some manifestation of anxiety, perhaps mingled with depression/despair... which would be natural if you're still in love with someone and cannot be with them yourself, yet are expected to put on a brave/happy face in order not to disappoint them or ruin their special moment. That is a lot to ask of someone.

The emotional and physical depletion is a natural result of having to "psych" oneself up to do some dreaded task (whether it be public speaking, or attending the wedding of someone you're still in love with). When it's all over, the adrenaline we utilised in order to "get through it" exits our system and leaves us feeling drained. (Google "fight, flight or freeze" response, which is related to anxiety/panic.)
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Old 06-16-2018, 06:11 PM
Ravenscroft Ravenscroft is offline
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Thank you for bringing that up, lunabunny.

It's true: heartbreak (or sometimes the more pompous Broken-Heart Syndrome ) is a very real thing. It bears physiological similarities to opioid withdrawal (more on that in a moment). Some authorties try to define it as just another variant of depression, but even that doesn't mean it's "all in your head."

A few common symptoms seem to recur, particularly nervous excitation.

There can be actual physical pain, the "punched in the gut" feeling; I had sternum pain, very similar to when I sat by as my father died.

You know the "NRE high" when you get all flooded with overdoses of normal chemicals like oxytocin & dopamine? Heartbreak shuts these down almost completely, so you're getting a lot less than normal non-NRE living. Instead of the cool "opioids," you're left with epinephrine & cortisol.

The result right there is that you're MUCH more sensitive to everything unpleasant. Your head hurts, your body aches, lights & noises & smells & even rough clothes are just too much. And pile on top of that with stuff like the aches from erratic respiration or poor sleep. And unmoderated cortisol means your muscles are tense, ready for the "fight or flight" reaction.

You might want to simply hide in a dark room, or binge online. This is a normal response, because you're looking for both reduced stimulation & a sense of control. But if you do that, it'll just drag out.

When I hit one of those moments, the first thing I did was grab a notebook & a good book, & went down to the noisiest, funkiest coffeehouse in my region, run by an anarchist collective.

The lights were bright, the bouncy reggae a bit loud, dozens of people talking over each other, & two speed-chess fanatics kept up a steady stream of trash talk.

Night after night, I ate some good vegan food, & binged on one herbal tea after another. I wrote when I felt the need, & otherwise read a hilarious book about becoming a Hollywood screenwriter.

I chatted with other damaged people, including a NASA engineer who lost his shuttle design job due to massive depression; once, he pointed out a few semi-homeless regulars, & said, "I come down here to remind myself that I'm not doing half bad, that I can make it."

At work, I told my supervisor what I was going through. I didn't take any voluntary overtime (always an option there). I didn't miss one day of work.
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Old 06-16-2018, 10:53 PM
Tinwen Tinwen is offline
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It could be grief, and it could be jealousy. If it feels like anxiety, there could also be anxiety in the mix. Perhaps also abandonment.

A loss of a relationship means a loss of a future. You have dreamt of romance, of coming home and finding her, of laughing together, perhaps of family. You have put hopes into that particular person and relationship to bring you joy and spare you loneliness and discomfort.
These events where you meet your former lover remind you of the possibilities and dreams you have lost and perhaps of the fears you have having to fend with the world without this other person. Also, when she's making a committment to someone else it can feel like you've lost them to that someone. Therefore grief, jealousy and anxiety all have an inner reason.

If you feel safe enough to do so, try to sit in the memory of that feeling and ask "when was the first time I felt this feeling?" Then just notice whatever memories or bodily sensations come up. You may find out that, in fact, this feeling is not so tightly connected to romantic relationships and has already occured in your early childhood. It's often the case. (Or you may not get any guidance from that question, but it's worth a try.)
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Old 06-17-2018, 12:41 AM
Arius Arius is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 112

Thanks for the responses and suggestions!

Ravenscroft, your explanation of the physical processes involved was particularly helpful. I guess it is just a physical manifestation of heartbreak.
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