Well, I found out one thing that’s wrong with me. More accurately I have finally identified the name of the syndrome that reflects the set of symptoms I’ve been trying to cope with my whole life. And great news, it’s not curable! To be honest, though, just knowing how I feel is an actual “thing” that other people share helps a lot. Here’s how I came to realize that I have Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). I have words for my mental issues!
As sometimes happens, the same message kept coming to me yesterday. First, one of my Master Naturalist friends posted about a book she was getting ready to read, The Courage to Be Disliked, by Ichiro Kishimi and Funitake Koga (2018). It’s not a brand-new book, but I hadn’t heard of it before.
I said in response to the Facebook post that it sounded like a book I needed to read, given my weird drive to act in ways that I think would make people I care about like me. She posted a link to the book, and I resolved to get a copy. Then, this showed up on my Facebook feed.
I went to tell Lee about that coincidence, and he said I didn’t need to buy the book, because he’d already bought it and gotten through some of it, but he wasn’t enamored of the style. Sure enough, there it was (and that’s how I got a photo of it). Obviously (at least to me) the Universe was trying to tell me something!
And the Universe was right. I’ve shared before how I’ve been hurt by people judging me and how I seem to attract people who feel the need to let me know just exactly how awful they think I am. If it’s someone I don’t care that much about, I handle it pretty well (like our former contractor’s wife who took it upon herself to write me a letter telling me why she didn’t want to be my friend, because of…whatever, who cares?). I had another one of those happen just last month.
Some do hurt. A former coworker I was always there for when bad things happened to her, who I listened to cry and bemoan the loss of pets and partners, etc., told me that no, she didn’t want to have lunch with me before she moved away to be happy with her new partner, because she only had time to see a few people, and you know, we’d see each other on social media. Ouch. I got to enjoy seeing photos of all the people she did care about enough to see.
Those are just examples. Therapy and long discussions have made it clear to me that I’m not always the one with the problem, and that my sensitivity to rejection came from childhood when my mother’s mental issues made her unavailable to me and my father’s conditions on love made me go well out of my way to be perfect to make him like me. This continued with future relationships and led to all sorts of mental mayhem for me. But, I’ve got tools to help me deal with it now, for the most part. Just sometimes, one backslides.
I backslid last night. I spend nearly all night lying awake watching a parade of my (perceived) mistakes, hurtful things people have said and done with me, especially family members on my mom’s side (my great aunt wrote and demanded a beloved ring be returned because I was not a good enough niece, and my half-sister just up and left one day (taking nothing with her) and hasn’t spoken to me since last fall. I don’t even know how to get in touch with her other than through a third party. Members of my mom’s family have just never liked me, for exciting reasons like I’m a bastard (Mom didn’t annul her first abusive marriage), I was “fat” (leading me to do the Atkins diet when it first came out and I was only 11 years old to try to make them stop picking on me), and I didn’t do very well with “children should be seen and not heard.”
Yeah, TMI, Suna. Too bad, it’s my blog. I ended up posting the link to the Tiny Buddha, then in the middle of the night, I wrote:
I’ve been awake most of the night dwelling on how many times I’ve tried to change who I am to get people to like me. Starting from childhood, so it’s a long list. I get hurt so deeply by rejection and some people have relished doing it. I get better then I backslide. I know it’s normal to do that. I’m working not to be so hard on myself when I let it get to me. I keep repeating that no one is universally beloved!agitated Suna
I immediately regretted it, because when I re-read it, I felt like it was just begging people to say they liked me, but that actually wasn’t my intention. I am completely aware that there are many fine people who like me!
On the other hand, I’m so glad I did post it, because a wise friend of mine (whose dear friend is one of those people I truly love and care about who got mad at me and disappeared without telling me why) said (paraphrasing), hey, that looks a lot like Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, something that comes up a lot in the ADHD world. Another wise woman posted this link, which opened my eyes WIDE in the middle of the night.
Here’s what the article, “Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and ADHD: What to Know,” said:
The symptoms of RSD can vary among individuals, but they may include:
- Obsessively thinking about negative experiences, especially experiences of perceived or actual rejection (only last night)
- Perceiving rejection when it is not actually occurring (me)
- Viewing minor rejections as catastrophic (me)
- Misreading constructive criticism, or requests for more information as rejection (me, but I’m lots better)
- A sense that you’re not liked by others (me, but often I’m right)
- Low self-esteem based on how you feel others relate to you
- Social withdrawal (me)
- Negative self-talk (formerly me)
- Emotional outbursts (rare now but unpleasant)
- Perfectionism or people-pleasing tendencies (sadly, formerly me)
Although symptoms of RSD can mimic other conditions, one distinguishing factor is that symptoms of RSD tend to come on suddenly and can feel very intense.
This article: What Is Rejection Sensitivity? provided me with more “aha” moments when it defined rejection sensitivity, which isn’t quite the same as RSD.
- Misinterpret harmless or mildly negative social cues or behaviors as blatant rejection (improving)
- Ignore other explanations or reasons for the perceived rejection, including reassurances from the perceived rejector (I try not to do this)
- Expect rejection and overreact to any type of negative social cues (me)
- Be avoidant and anxious in romantic relationships (me)
- Pay more attention to all of the times they were rejected than the times they were accepted (working on this)
- Evaluate every interaction for perceived rejections (I don’t think I do this)
I don’t do all those things, but wow, this hits so close to home. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told I’m too sensitive, that I over-react, etc. It gets to where I have a hard time identifying when I am actually being treated poorly, so I let it go on a lot longer than I probably should, thinking it’s all in my head. I end up avoiding certain people or situations, so I won’t do that embarrassing overreaction to criticism. Lordy.
And of course, there aren’t any great drugs other than the kind I already take to deal with my anxiety. The article also suggests “cognitive behavior therapy, and stress-relief strategies.” I have those up the wazoo! And they do help, so much of the time.
I guess I’m writing all this down to remind myself that I have challenges to deal with and that I need to be gentler with myself when I can’t cope as well as I’d like to. Certainly, rehashing every mean thing anyone ever did to me is not helpful AT ALL. So, I now know what it is that I’m dealing with, and I’ll get on with dealing with it. We all have our struggles and challenges, and mine at least lead me to try to be kind to people! (I do not think I have ADHD, though, so lucky me, I got the RSD without that issue.)
So, thanks to everyone who rallies around me and supports me. While the line above about putting more emphasis on negative feedback than positive may have been true in the past, I am much better now about really appreciating the people around me who are kind, who listen, and who patiently remind me that they do care, even when I repeatedly ask.
And to those of you who need to give me negative feedback, know that much of it IS appreciated and taken in the constructive spirit it’s given…it just takes me a while to get there, thanks to the RSD.