We’re one, but we’re not the same…

I really hate it when people should me. You know, “you should do this” or “you shouldn’t do that” or “you should be …..”, especially when the should relates to any and all events that contain emotions. One thing that I have learned in my studies is that there is a difference between sympathy and empathy in the sense that although you can relate to what someone is going through, you cannot truly know what it feels like for them simply because you are not them. Just because you had experienced a similar situation to someone doesn’t necessarily give you the right to decide where someone is in their recovery, or decide for them what they should do (see, there is that word again!). Particularly when you’re dealing with matters of the heart. As critical as your friends are when it comes to overcoming heartbreak, I can’t help but wonder how much help anyone can be with something so individual, as often I’ve found myself justifying my emotions rather than expressing them.

I was recently speaking to a guy about this, and maybe that was my first mistake, as men seem to be able to repress emotions better than women, about an ex of mine, Vegas actually, whose story still stings my chordae tendineae despite being two years over. This guy friend of mine, although well-meaning and wonderful, should-ed me in respect to the fact that I still am not completely over him… like I was wrong or inadequate for not being able to “look him in the eye and say ‘whatever I’m over you”. When I tried to explain that what happened really hurt and that since it didn’t happen to him it would be hard to understand, he shot back with a previous break up of his. Now under normal circumstances this would be all good and well, as empathy is always welcome when the heart hurts, however in this case the girl he broke up with that was so painful… well they are now engaged, not to mention that he got under his own free will and mind a permanent reminder of her etched on his body. So maybe I am missing something here, but all I could focus on was the fact that although yes they had broken up, yes both had experienced heart ache not unlike my own, their story had a happy ending, or should I say a happy beginning come this time next year at their wedding.

Half of me wished to respond in kind: to say “Well can you look her in the eye and say ‘whatever I am over you?’… Oh that’s right, no, because you looked her in the eye and said ‘marry me’.” Don’t get me wrong here: I am truly happy for them as they are wonderful people and even more wonderful together, but that fact, that ending negates all credibility in him emphasizing with my situation. What started out as a similar notion of love lost and pain found ended very differently for the two of us. In short he got what he wanted and I did not. He said those words to her that I wanted to her from my ex, but my ears are still half-straining for words that will never be said and an ending that will never happen. It confused me and still does now how he could say something like that knowing full and well that coming from him that expectation is baseless. It is one thing to be a “survivor” so to speak, of a particularly bad break up and to have successfully moved on and ask me why I haven’t been able to do the same. Granted I’d still be pissed off but I would understand: coming from someone who was there and maybe still is there, I can listen. But coming from someone who was there for a short time only to have their hope fulfilled and their wishes come true to ask me why I haven’t gotten over someone? It doesn’t seem right… maybe because it’s not.

The other half of me can see where this attitude is coming from. It is unfair to categorize this kind of behaviour to just teenagers and adolescence, the idea that “nobody understands what I am going through because NOBODY has hurt as much as I have/like I have… I’m such a victim”. In that scenario I can see how that kind of attitude is annoying, selfish and self centred. However I am well aware of the fact that there are people out there in the world who have suffered far more than I ever will in every sense of the world, that heart ache and loneliness has existed before I was born, and yes I have hurt, but the world goes on whether or not I chose to join it. Understanding all of this and trying to avoid the spotlight effect, it still hurts when someone expects me to be something I am not or do something that I simply cannot do right now, especially when it’s about love.

Current research suggests that the old cliché of your “first love” has a scientific basis; that when it goes awry it will always hurt the most and more disturbingly will always be permanently etched in your brain and heart. This is so because before your first love our minds and bodies did not know what love was, so during that first intimate or adult relationship your brain is creating new synapses and connections, much like learning a new language, that you refer back to when you think of love, thus referring back to the person who helped create those synapses, those connections between your higher brain functions and your heart. So in a sense we are chemically doomed to refer back to our first love as a basis for our subsequent relationships where “love” is re-stimulated. It is a bleak picture, but it makes sense; therefore I am not surprised that I am not fully over him and know that I never will be.

Individual experiences are just that: individual. Just like you cannot literally feel another persons physical pain, such you cannot completely understand another persons emotional pain. Knowing this, it is very difficult for me to accept another person’s obligations or expectations when it comes to “getting over” anything in accordance to their schedule no matter who they are or what they have gone through. Seriously, I can barely follow the bus schedule to get places on time, let alone something as important as my emotional well-being. I guess what I am trying to say is… To put it another way, a similar injury, say a myocardial infarction of similar strength and severity, can harm one person and kill another. Such is the pain of the first love; a similar injury of similar strength and severity, which I guess in this guys mind is the case, can harm one person (him) and kill another (me). You wouldn’t chastise the patient who died from a MI, or make the comparison to their family in regards to why one survived and one did not, so why chastise someone for a slow emotional recovery, or for not recovering at all?

The bottom line is this: His story and my story and all other stories are all completely different situations. I appreciate his attempt and all other attempts to emphasize with my pity-party, however you shouldn’t “should” someone. Your recovery is your own, however way you want it to be and however long you want it to be. If you’re reading this and hurting about something remember this: don’t let anyone dictate how long you should feel bad; you know yourself best. Don’t let anybody should all over you.


~ by Carrie on August 15, 2006.

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