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My (22M) ex (22F) doesn't leave my head after a ~2 year relationship, we've broken up 3 years ago

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TLDR at the end.

Part 1: Context

So to put some background into it, she was my first girlfriend (let's call her Oak) and I was her first boyfriend too (started dating when we were 17 years old). We dated for some time and we got along great. Sometime after joining college (in the second semester) our relationship started to crumble, because I had this theory which I dubbed the Light-food theory. This theory went as follows I know what Regular Mayonnaise tastes like, sure, and I also know what Light Mayonnaise tastes like, it's very good also and I enjoy very much eating it, however, knowing that Regular Mayo exists, despite also enjoying Light-Mayo very much I can't see a reason why I should be eating it instead of Regular Mayo. This theory was what eventually made me want to break-up, I've always had that fairy tale idea of finding my soul mate and, despite loving her, I knew that there was someone out there who would be a better mach for me, and that being with her would just mean I would have less time to find the ONE. What also supported this was that, due to some school projects, I started talking to a girl in my class (let's call her Peach), and I discovered things we had in common that I always wished I had in common with my girlfriend. So we broke up, and that was one of the hardest things I had to do because, I didn't broke up with her because I didn't love her anymore, instead I broke up with her because in my hearth I knew that we both could love someone else even more.

Part 2: The Happy Days

Sometime after breaking up, I started feeling good. I realized that the world was open and that I could begin searching for the one. I even started talking more seriously to Peach. During this time, I tried to remain friends (after all, we didn't broke up 'on the wrong foot') with Oak, who was suffering from the break up, and eventually she decided that we should stop talking so that the could try to work on moving on.

Part 3: The Relapse

On the summer after our break-up we were invited to a friend's birthday party, it was the first time I saw her after being broken up and it devastated me. Looking at her, something lit inside of me, it dawned on me that I might have made a big mistake on breaking up with her, on this day I suddenly stopped texting Peach. During the next few weeks Oak and myself started talking again, went on a couple dates and eventually started 'dating' again in secrecy.

Part 4: We we go again

After summer being over, however, some of my fears came true, I was afraid that going back to college and seeing people like Peach, with which I had many things in common (which I'd say is normal since we are studying the same thing), I would start to question again if Oak was my 'Regular Mayo'. In addition, while talking with a great friend of mine in college, something dawned on me: he was explaining how he would skip class on Friday to go with his long time girlfriend to a stand-up show on valentines day. To this I thought of the many times I didn't spend with Oak because I was studying and that I wouldn't skip class to do so. This would leave me thinking once again that maybe I should be searching for the person who would make me do that, i.e. the Regular Mayo. So , once again, I decided that me and Oak should split up, which also hurt me a lot because, once again I was leaving someone I love dearly in hopes that there existed someone out there who was 'the One'.

Part 5: The second breakup

During this phase we both started moving on once again, I even started texting Peach again, but this time it became apparent that she wasn't the one either. Although we had a lot in common, I didn't feel the same physical attraction and chemistry that I felt with Oak (this would be a recurring theme).

This time me and Oak saw each other regularly (on the bus to college for example) but I wasn't 'relapsing' again. However, during this time I found myself getting more and more close with her (not all of the sudden like last time, but slowly realizing that I enjoyed spending time with her).

On Easter Sunday, we were texting each other and she seemed worried about something person but she wouldn't tell me what. Right then, my heart started pounding because I started to suspect what it could be, and my suspicions were true. She told me that she started to like a guy from her college and that she needed advice but thought that I wouldn't be the appropriate person to talk about that to me. I was very confused because I thought that I was moving on, but when she told me that, I became very sad for several weeks straight. I felt myself trying to get closer to Oak again, and sometime later she figured it out and said to me that she understood what I was doing but that she didn't feel that way about me anymore. This broke me.

Part 6: Now it's my turn

This was hell for me, I had to see her on a daily basis but know that she didn't like me anymore. It felt strange because, since I've known her, she'd always been a love interest to me and I couldn't imagine her being with someone else. I tried to win her back but it wasn't going to happen. I couldn't understand how I was suffering so much, because rationally, I knew that she wasn't the one, however I loved her so much.

From here on out it was my turn to try to forget her, in an effort to do so we stopped talking, I muted her social networks so that I wouldn't have to see her photos and be sad. We only talked on the bust and it made me sad because I loved her so much but I could see that she only wanted to be friends.

We started growing apart and things started happening that hurt me a lot. We always said that we wouldn't delete our photos from social media but she deleted them, you know, things like that.

Part 7: What now

This went on for some time, her moving on and me being sad because I knew that I lost my chance. I was going through a really tough time because I just wanted to go back. I kept imagining better times, times when we were happy and that hurt a lot, because I knew that it were my decisions that lead to us breaking up. I wished I could just go back in time, run as fast as I could to old me and tell me 'Don't do it, you're going to regret it!', I wished I could go back and just spend five more minutes with the girl I loved and who loved me back. I began obsessing over her, trying to delete from my feed anything that could make me think of her, make me think of her friends and make me think of romance.

Speaking of friends this was another thing that broke me down, with this I started to avoid every place where there was a chance of me seeing her. I was afraid to hear her talk about her life, about boys, etc., this lead to me stopped going out with our mutual friend and even with my friends to places where I knew she could be.

Part 8: Corona

I saw her for the last time in October of 2019, then Covid happened. Since that Easter Sunday I spoke about, I've thought about her every day. This is what drives me mad, how can I still think so much about someone who has disapeared from my life?

On May 2020, my best friend called me and said that he needed to talk to me. He came over, I entered his car and he and his girlfriend had very stern faces, I knew what was about to happen and my heart started pounding. He told me that Oak started had a new boyfriend and my heart skipped a beat, moreover, she started dating one of my best friends, who didn't even tell me about it despite knowing that I liked her (he hasn't talked to me ever since). This completely destroyed me, the following months were terrible. The only way I got through it was with the help of my friends.

Part 9: Recovery

After some months It started getting better, I think corona helped because since there were no social gatherings I wasn't forced to see them and, with the help of muting their social networks, I was able to live like they never existed. Somehow I believed that knowing that she found someone was the push I needed to start really moving on, maybe it was the idea that she could love someone else than me that my brain needed to understand in order to do so.

During the summer I started talking to an old crush of mine (let's call her Lupo). Someway I felt that it was 'too soon' to start dating, but I liked her and felt that since I was in the process of moving on that it would give me the final push. However, after some time it became apparent that, although I loved Lupo, there wasn't the same chemistry that existed with Oak. This got me thinking, 'is this even fair?' can I ever expect to love someone the same way as I loved a 'high school sweetheart/first love'? I tried to fight through it but eventually we broke up (it lasted about five months until last February).

Part 10: Feeling lost

Something weird happened, we broke up, more like she broke up with me, but instead of feeling sad about her, I began feeling sad again about Oak, missing Oak and getting the same feelings of remembering the times where we were happy and how I wish I could go back. This unmotivated me because I believed that as soon as I started dating someone else I wouldn't think about Oak anymore.

End of Story

This leads me to the present and to the reason of writing this post. I don't know what else to do, I've tried everything to move on and to eliminate and remnants of something that might make me think about Oak. But despite doing so a long time ago, I've still been thinking about her and us for the past 2 years. Every time I see someone resembling her on the street my hearth starts pounding, I'm afraid of seeing her and seeing that she is as beautiful as I remember her and missing her even more so I still avoid that. Every time I see a photo of her my heart starts pounding I get sick to the stomach and I get sad. I really don't know what else I can do to forget her. I can't understand why this happens when I've broken up with her several times, why is it that I figured out twice that I didn't want to be with her and I still love her so much.

Lately I've been thinking that maybe I should just unmute everything because maybe I've hardwired my brain into thinking that seeing her or him will make me sad and miserable and maybe this is not making me able to move on. Maybe I should just see what I have to see on social media even if that means being sad so that I can deal with the pain and move on. I really don't know. I'm afraid that if I do this my friends will start inviting me to stuff where she is and I'm not ready for that, I'm afraid that if I see her and if I see her with him I'll get even more sad. I know that see has moved on and became a far better person, more beautiful and intelligent and I afraid that she is going to see me and think that I'm not good and that she made the right decision. This is also something that bothers me because I feel that I live my life in hopes of making myself better so that when she finally sees me that she may see that she likes me, and I don't think that this a healthy way to leave.

I'm sorry to make such a vague question, but what can I do to stop thinking about her?

TLDR: Dated girl for 2 years, broke up 3 years ago and still think about her every single day for the past two years. Need help moving on and don't know how to do so.

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I don't know if forcing yourself to feel pain, helps you get over someone.  I think it is rather the opposite.  

But if you can't stop thinking of a person and you keep blaming yourself for how you are thinking, you won't stop that loop.  You're rather feeding the loop.  You think of that person.  Then you feel bad you thought of that.  Now you think of them again and you still feel bad etc.  

You have to accept yourself and your thoughts.  You have to be patient with yourself and encouraging to yourself.  When you have a thought you don't want, acknowledge it but don't entertain it- hey here that thought goes again, let's call a friend, let's see what's happening out the window, let's think about what to make for lunch, whatever your interests are.

Stop punishing yourself for an unhealthy thought pattern and start making the effort to let it go, which means not entertaining the thought.  Changing the thought to something else, anything else.  And also being kind to yourself.   It's not the end of the world to still be hurting or healing longer than you thought.  It can't rain forever.  

Push the thoughts away and make the new thought something positive about you.  About how you love the person you are.  Start thinking about all the things you have done right.  Remember your successes.  Be more supportive of yourself.  What do you think the guy you would like to be would tell a friend in your situation?

Maybe to not punish himself, but give himself a break.  It's gonna be ok.  It is.  

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Have you read anything/ watched any videos about rumination? 

You should put a stop to this habit as soon as you can. If you don't learn how to stop, it can affect your life very negatively, for decades.

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So you started dating at 17,dated until 19, broke up, dated others and 3 years later you're lonely and thinking about all this?

Are you working? Going to school? Living at home?

Make an appointment with a physician for an evaluation of the depression, anxiety and obsessing. At that time,ask for a referral to a therapist for ongoing support.

Of course this has nothing to do with high school romance or mayonnaise. 

In the meantime block and delete her and all her people from ALL your social media and messaging apps

Make new friends and consider dating new girls when you feel better.

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