There’s Nothing Quite Like an Emotional Hangover

an art project that says "hangover" on it
Image by Mike / CC BY

There’s nothing quite like an emotional hangover.

There’s nothing quite like waking up the morning after I poured my heart out, only to have it met with silence. Because it overwhelmed you.

I get it. It overwhelms me. If I could get away from my heart, I would.

But it’s always there. Always with me.

I spend a lot time trying to ignore how I feel. Because I know that my emotions are really just suggestions. And in a way, I’ve been infected with a spam pop-up machine.

Except instead of ads about Hot Young Singles in Your Area, it offers fear. Over and over again.

That’s why I don’t talk about it. Because I don’t want to see it myself. I sure as hell don’t want to inflict it on someone else.

And so I sit, and depending on my mood, I either attempt to close as many windows as I can — to give myself a break until they pop up again — or I just let the pop-up ads sit there, obscuring my view, working around them.

The Difference Between How I Feel and How I Come Across

Sometimes when I do that, you can tell that there’s something wrong with me. And because of your history, you’ll assume that what’s obscuring my view is anger, passive-aggression, resentment.

And you’ll think that it has something to do with you. But it doesn’t.

So I’ll say something that feels normal to me, because all I’m feeling is my usual background fear and anxiety, and you’ll respond, “You don’t have to say it like that.” Or, “Don’t cop an attitude.”

And I’ll get confused. Because I’m not feeling that way. At all. Is there strain? Sure. But it’s old and I know it has nothing to do with you, even if you’ve managed to inadvertently stir it up in the moment.

But apparently I come off that way. And once I’ve activated you, there’s nothing I can say to make it better.

The Point Where I Figure It Out Is Past the Point That Other People Usually Tap Out

We’ll go round and round. And it won’t be until I’ve cried for an hour that I can find a way to make sense of how what you’ve experienced and what I experienced differ. Because I know us both and I know we’re both telling the truth and that something has been lost in communication and/or perception, probably on both sides, even if in the moment that seems to you like I’m avoiding responsibility by looking for the miscommunication.

After I’ve gone head first, diving deep into a pit of emotions that I try my best to avoid — because they typically aren’t very helpful and are reacting to circumstances that haven’t existed for decades.

The gulf between what I felt and how I came off to you may just start to make a little sense.

But by that point, you’re exhausted and overwhelmed and not giving any sign to me that you’re listening anymore.

And I’ll be drained and vulnerable and embarrassed. Feeling like I turned myself inside out for no reason. (And perhaps that what half-killed me to accomplish even managed to annoy you further.) Not sure what, if anything, changed on your side. But too nervous to check back in with you and ask, worried that it’ll tear back open some wound that never should have existed in the first place.

That wound that wouldn’t have existed if you could just see into my mind and feel what I felt. See what I saw. (And vice versa.)

I’d Take a Regular Hangover Over an Emotional One Any Day

Anyway, there’s nothing quite like an emotional hangover. The dread and numbness and pure emotional exhaustion. The sense of uncertainty about how the other person feels (or doesn’t).

I’d take a regular hangover over an emotional one any day of the week. Because in most cases of regular hangover, you at least had a little fun on the way there.

And with a regular hangover, it’s clear what you need to do to make it go away (drink water, wait, stay away from booze, rest as much as you can).

Sadly, the cure to each emotional hangover is different.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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