Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

One of my wonderful students from a couple of semesters ago messaged me about this condition and asked if I had ever heard of it.  I said I hadn’t and I started researching it.  I found so much interesting information!

First, this condition, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is, according to experts, tied to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder):  about 99% of people with ADHD have it and about a third state it’s the most difficult part living with ADHD.  In a nutshell, RSD is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain brought on by the thought that the person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. 

The specific symptoms of RSD are:

  • setting very high standards for yourself
  • STRONG emotion reactions
  • Shyness 
  • Depression
  • Fear of Failure
  • Rage towards the person/situation that was rejecting
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Seeking approval from family/friends/partners
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Being very self-critical

Now, I believe RSD can be tied to other disorders as well, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders (depression and bipolar) and even certain personality disorders (borderline, avoidant, and dependent). 

For example, in terms of bipolar, look at the symptoms of adult ADHD that I see are significantly tied into RSD:  impulsiveness, restlessness, low frustration tolerance, mood swings, hot temper, and trouble coping with stress.  And now some of the symptoms of bipolar:  mood swings (duh!), impulsiveness, restlessness, poor decision making, feelings of worthlessness, indecisive, and feelings of guilt.  Look how these match in so many ways! 

I found an article as I was digging around that actually shows RSD being related to bipolar in what looks to be a biological way (plus, this article cites another study to support this biological link as well).  The article also mentions how APPEARANCE based rejection can be related to eating disorders too, which are also being shown to have a biological basis.  SO…maybe RSD isn’t ONLY tied to ADHD, but is tied to many other disorders as well.  (I can even see it tied into children’s disorders such as Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder).

Here’s why I thought this was so interesting to look at further:  I’ve ALWAYS been very sensitive to rejection!  If I thought a teacher didn’t like me; if I thought my parents or sister were mad at me; if friends made plans without me; if I was ‘criticized’ in class; etc., I would be devastated.  And I’m not using that term lightly!

Actually, this came up at school just last week!  I’m on a special team where we evaluate one another and when I saw my scores as having ‘gaps’ in terms of my work, I IMMEDIATELY started crying!  I felt the evaluations were ‘rejecting’ or criticizing me as a professor.  My friend on the team talked to me about it, and showed me that the evaluations were meant for personal development and not necessarily valid in all areas since no one watches me in class and how I am with my students. 

Further, my last break-up was shattering to me. I literally felt as if I were falling apart (which I actually did).   Regardless of any circumstance, I saw MYSELF as so less than, and my emotional distress was more than I could, in effect, handle at times.  I know I’ve reacted similarly in the past:  for example, I’ve talked about how I ran my car into a tree after my High School boyfriend broke up with me.  I also remember being very angry when a friend I had ‘rejected’ me a few years ago.  That anger stayed with me much longer than it ever should have. 

Then, to top it off, you have people saying things like: “Quit being so sensitive!”  “Why do these things bother you so much?”  “There are other people out there!”   It’s so hard for people to understand this sensitivity unless they feel it themselves.  But that makes me feel even WORSE for having these strong emotions, as well as making me feel as if I’m being criticized for having them at all.  Yeesh!  It’s a huge self-defeating cycle I wish I had the power to stop.

So, what’s the take-away for me?  That Rejection Sensitivity exists.  That it’s more than likely tied to biological factors.  That it’s tied to more disorders than ADHD.  And, that it’s something that needs to be researched further for more understanding! 

Finally this:  it’s not my ‘fault’ or a failure on my part that I’m so very sensitive to rejection.  It might be a part of the mood disorder that already causes so much disruption in my life. 

Hmmm…I’m going to keep my eye on this topic! 

Kristi xoxo

 

Too Much Pain :(

So, I’m watching “Rocketman” this morning and I just start crying.  You have this prodigy, who’s talent is incredibly rare, but whose life was full of pain for decades.

I hate all the pain I see in people.  And I see it everyday.

I have students who hug on me, follow me, confide in me and I wonder where their family is.  Their friends.  How did they get to this point in their life without the comfort, love, and support they so desperately need?

Then, I talk about horrible things in my classes:  rape, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying.  And I NEVER, EVER give any of these lectures without at least 5 students reaching out to me afterwards to tell me they’d be a victim of the topic.  EVER.

How many students do this?

I hear stories from students about being sexually abused by a family member when they were as young as 3.  Or raped as a high schooler, but not being able to tell anyone because they felt the shame was theirs.  Or students who grew up with violent parents, and who tried to shield their siblings from the worst of it.  Or women who left an abuser after years because they realized it was either that, or facing the possibility that their next beating could be their last.  Or guys who have told me they are gay, but had to put on this ‘tough’ persona in front of family and friends, because they knew if they didn’t, they would be bullied and ostracized by those they cared for the most.

So many people out there are in pain.  So many have stories we can’t imagine.  And here’s the thing:  until we start really seeing people, and not shying away from actual connection; until we start asking the WHY behind behavior instead of just punishing it or judging it; until we ask people how they are and truly stop to listen;  until we look at a kid and see they need a hug instead of discipline;  until we drop our own masks and show that it’s ok to not be ok, things are never going to change.

How is it we live in what’s supposed to be this connected world, yet people are more lonely and disconnected than ever?  How can we let so many people suffer in silence?  And why can’t we say the simple words of  “I care?”

Maybe this needs to be reversed.

Kristi xoxo

When to Tell?

So, I have a bit of a ‘date’ today.  I’ve been chatting with this guy I met online and we’re meeting for a snack and drink at a downtown eatery this afternoon.  I’m not sure what I feel about it…this dating thing is still so new to me!

After my 3 divorces (!), I subsequently married each man I saw afterwards.  There was really no ‘dating’ around!  And, my life was different then.  Or at least it felt different.  I hadn’t been diagnosed bipolar yet, and was still very much pretending in my day to day life.  Obviously, the bipolar affected my relationships, but I think it was because I didn’t have that ‘label’ yet, I still had more confidence in what I brought to table with these men than I do now.  Hmmmm…I wonder if others feel like this?  Once that label is stuck on, all of a sudden you see yourself differently?  As a bit more less than?

I need to be better at doing this.  I’m adding this to my ‘goals’ of the year.

Anyhoo, after hubby 3 (Ron) and I divorced, I was involved with a man for 3 years.  VERY bad at the start with a lot of abusive behaviors, cheating and abandonment happening; better the 2nd year but still with issues; and much better the 3rd year.  Better enough I thought we were in a place that was strong enough, and moving ahead well enough, I could take some time for myself to get me back to where I needed me to be.  This didn’t set well with him though, and last Oct., I walked in on him (naked!) with another woman in what was supposed to be ‘our’ apartment, just like my house was ‘our’ house as well.  (I also think there was someone else there, but I guess that’s not the point.  THEY didn’t come out of his bedroom screaming at me to leave!  All while using the furniture I provided for US!  DRAMA!!!!).

We haven’t ‘talked’ since then…he refused (es) to speak to me on the phone and blocked me from everything except e-mail.  So, when I needed to communicate with him regarding my things and all, it was only through this means.  (Why is it that the person who has cheated, is the one who acts like the victim?  Am I the ‘bad’ guy?  For walking in?  For not realizing what he was feeling?  For not doing enough?  As an empath whose feelings run VERY deep, which is common in bipolar, I blame myself for most things anyway).

Not long ago, he e-mailed that he had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  I had always known there was something wrong.  We knew he had PTSD from his 3 deployments in the Middle East (and this is why I forgave him so much and took him back so many times…he was traumatized from his time in the Army.  I understood this).  During that first year, I thought he had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but the BPD really does make more sense in terms of his patterns in relationships (not just ours).  He wanted me to know this to explain himself in terms of how he acted and what he did in our relationship.  And I did appreciate this.  It gives me much more understanding of everything that happened.  (And yes, I still have feelings for him.  Feelings run deep in me.  He’s the one who lost feelings for me.)

ANYHOO…here’s the thing:  I saw us as BOTH “damaged”.  BOTH mentally ill.  I didn’t have to pretend in front of him.  He understood, or I thought he understood, my illness as well as I tried to understand his.  It was kind of like we were ‘matched’ in terms of these ‘bad’ disorders.

I did date a lawyer for a month or so around Christmas, and at first it was going really well.  I thought this might be something lasting.  Then, we had our first argument and he was just mean!  Not mentally ill.  Just mean!!

So now I’m meeting this guy today.  And here’s what I struggle with and really think about:  what man would want to take on this woman with bipolar?  AND, when do you tell them you have this?  Obviously, not on a first date!  I’m not that open!!  BUT, not after a dozen either.  And, since I am really open about it…on Facebook, here, Tedx Talk, etc., someone could dig a bit on me and find out for themselves.  Then what?  Hmmmm…

That’s a fine line when you think about it.  You want to be candid in sharing who you are, but you also want them to get to know you as a person, before the issue of a mental illness is brought forth.

Why is it that if I had diabetes, this wouldn’t be an issue at all?  But with mental health, it’s like a shame you have to hide until the time is ‘just right’!  Like you have to figure out when to drop this ‘bombshell!’  Because that’s what it is:  a bombshell that could break anything you might have built to that point.

When this DOESN’T happen, that’s when we’ll know the stigma against mental health has been shattered.

I’m not ashamed to have this illness.  It’s just what I have.  But I guess I am ashamed of how others see it.  Crazy.  Unstable.  Nuts.  Bipolar has a bad rap.  And I understand why.  It’s a toughie.  One that is going to cause issues at times, but that doesn’t mean it has to define the relationship as a whole.

I’m going to tread lightly with this.  If I like this guy (and I don’t know…I’m really not that excited for this.  I’m more dreading it than anything but like my son says, if you don’t want to be alone forever, you have to get out there) I guess I’ll just have to use my own judgement on when to tell him.

And maybe, I need to think about how I see myself.  I use the word damaged.  But is that fair to me? Does that mean I see others with mental illness as being damaged?  (Actually, I don’t.  Just me!) It’s true that my brain is actually “damaged” in that it doesn’t work like other brains.  Hello?  Mental illness!  But am I less than because of that?  I FEEL like that.  But is it actually TRUE?  I don’t know.

Kristi xoxo

Can we start the conversation?

Ever notice how anxious some people get when the subject of mental illness comes up?  It’s funny to me how people throw around words and say things like “She’s so anorexic…eat something girl!”  Or, “God, how bi-polar!”  Or even, “Yea…people who have that are crazy!”  THEN, you tell them you have a mental illness.  And all of a sudden, things change!  “Oh…I didn’t mean YOU!  I meant…you know…other people who are ‘really’ sick!”



Hmmmmmm…

So I have bi-polar.  Not self-diagnosed; really diagnosed…neurologist, psychiatrist, etc.!  And I say that because it’s almost fashionable to have this now!  Someone feels good one day, and not so good the next, and suddenly BAM!  They think they are bi-polar.  Nope.  You’re just experiencing the highs and lows of life.  And that’s good!  You don’t want this brain disease which is what it really is.  MRI’s show differences between bipolar and normal brains, and take a look at this: 

A new study shows that the blood of bipolar patients is toxic to brain cells and may affect the connectivity ability of neurons. … Bipolar disorder (BD) is a severe and complex mental illness with a strong genetic component that affects 2% of the world population.”  



Even when I was a little girl, I felt different.  Like there was a flaw people could readily see in me, even as young as kindergarten.  I didn’t really understand how to interact with my peers like I saw others do, and there was something inside of me I couldn’t explain but could feel.  Other kids could brush things off but I was always so emotional.  

In the 3rd grade, I completed a story called “All About Me.”  There are a couple of tells I wrote, that in retrospect showed whispers of a mental illness.  One was the question:  What do you wonder?  While other kids wrote “Why the sky is blue” or “Why giraffes have spots”, I wrote: “I wonder why I’m alive.”  Another question asked what confused me, and I wrote “When 2 or 3 people are talking at once.”  There was just too much going on in my head for any voices to be heard.

High school was tough for me. There were so many things that would go through my mind, that at times I thought I was going crazy.  Like a blender full of fruit and ice, on full blast, but without a lid.  I was just all over the place.  To feel like I had some control over my life, I started dieting, and developed anorexia nervosa within months.  When my boyfriend broke up with me my junior year, I crashed my car into a tree because the emotions were too overwhelming for me to process.   


Decades later, after my 3rd divorce (!), a few things happened.  I still loved my ex-husband and missed him terribly.  My mentor and friend from the community college where I teach passed, and I got involved in an abusive relationship.  At the same time, my nephew was killed on the USS McCain, a man started harassing,  threatening, and stalking me for which I was being blamed, and I had surgery for precancerous cells.  This was too much for me and I broke down.  

Before this, I never really ‘believed’ in nervous breakdowns.  Now I do.  I started cutting myself pretty badly.  I stopped eating.  Stopped showering.  Attempted suicide. Finally after working with doctors and counselors, I was  diagnosed with bi-polar and the “me” inside myself began to make sense.  The emotions, the roller coasters, the busy head, the bad decisions, the impulsivity, the confusion, the hyperactive behavior, the obsessive/compulsive behavior, the out of control spending, everything.  

Being diagnosed was such a freaking relief!  I knew I had something, and even though I am a Professor that teaches Psychology, I COULD NOT admit that something as serious as bi-polar was in me.  I didn’t want it.  I tried to fight against it all my life, and because of that, I lost husbands, friends, and even family members at times.  How could anyone understand me, if I couldn’t understand myself?  

So, am I all better now?  Ha!  Nope.  Not at all.  I’m in the process of changing meds and will be seeing a psychiatrist in a couple of weeks.  My meds aren’t as effective, but mood stabilizers have caused me suicidal ideation in the past.  We’re not sure what to try.  Some meds that are out there now have such terrible side effects.  It’s almost a process of weighing which is worse??  The depression or losing muscle coordination?  The mania, or having the compulsion to cut myself?  I know side effects are so different in people, but psychotropic meds truly are scary.  Hello!  They are working in your brain!

I see a counselor every week, and she asked me yesterday how I’ve been able to function all these years like I do.  I’ve been teaching for 25 years, and raised my son.  And here was my answer to her: “I’ve had too!”  I didn’t have a choice!  I was the one that usually was a main support in my marriages, and there was never a question of me having to work.  And, I’m single now, and my future is dependent on only me.  My retirement that I have to keep working towards for a few more years.  

But here’s the thing:  people don’t see the struggle on the inside, when you are presenting what you need to do on the outside.  Simple as that.  There are days I force myself out of bed to face the day.  I collapse when I get home from school because I’m exhausted and I need to take my meds.  When I wake up from that nap, I usually feel terrible.  And it takes me a long while to get myself up again for the evening.



Working out helps with some of this…but can also feed (no pun intended!) into my eating disorder.  

SO…I created this space for all of us. And any of us.  We can talk about mental illness here with no judgement.  No stigma.  We can be ourselves.  We can take off any masks we wear and be genuine.  I’ll always listen.  And I thank you for doing the same with me!  🙂




Kristi xoxo