There are often many things that fall by the wayside due to mental illness. They include, but are not limited to, hygiene, relationships, motivation, academics, social interaction, romance, honestly the list goes on and on. Though the one thing that I miss the most is probably a mixture of relationships, social interaction, and romance. I’ve had several romantic relationships in my years, none of them ending well, but also providing invaluable experience on what NOT to do the next time. I happen to have a rather uncanny ability to be attracted to women with their own mental health issues. It seems that out of all my romantic relationships, I have not had a single one that didn’t get rocky because of mental illness, mine, hers, or both. For example, my most recent relationship, which was several years ago now, ended because my partner was slowly killing herself through eating disorders and self harm. So, try as I could, I offered her as much help as humanly possible for someone struggling with their own mental health, but nothing helped. I imagine that she was where I reached with my depression not too long ago, where you just accept that life will be this way forever. After a year or two together, I couldn’t bear both watching her slowly fade away, or deal with my own depression. Unfortunately, even though I cared for this woman very deeply, still do actually, I had to end the relationship for my own mental health.
Romance is already a tricky subject for most people. There are those that believe that there is a single person whom matches the other perfectly. Which, from a scientific standpoint, is certainly plausible, as there are nearly 8 billion of us on the planet thus far. Then there are those, like myself, who go through numerous, often painful, experiences, both learning to love and be loved, until they find the right person for them. Humans are supposed to learn about love from their parents, both in an emotional viewpoint, as well as physical (Y’know, the “birds & the bees” talk). For those like me, this doesn’t happen. From my perspective, my parents never had what you would call a “healthy” marriage. So, right there is strike one, I couldn’t learn the correct way to love someone. Also I’ve discovered recently that the love from my parents is often conditional, though they claim otherwise. Strike two, couldn’t learn how to be loved in a healthy fashion. Then finally, the only person in this world that I felt that shared an unconditional love for one another, my grandmother, passed away in 2009. Which, honestly speaking, is still rather difficult for me to speak about. And there is strike three, losing the only “real” and “healthy” love I’ve ever had, caused me to rely on the “unhealthy” love that I experienced as a child. Then cue the numerous, highly unhealthy, incredibly painful romantic relationships that I did have in my teenage and young adult years. Still to this day, I yearn for the kind of love that my grandmother and I shared. I mean, it’s natural isn’t it? To want to be in a healthy, equal and fulfilling relationship with another person.
Now, I do care for my mother, very deeply; and by all accounts, she feels the same for me. However, the problem is, that she, probably unconsciously, sets these standards for me to meet, that I have yet to achieve. Whether it is cleanliness, academics, hobbies, financially, whatever, she has these expectations for me. Truthfully, I don’t blame her, as most if not all parents want their child to not only succeed, but surpass them. This is where I have my issues. My mother is a very driven individual, who has worked incredibly hard to get where she is, as well as what she has. That being said, she expected the same out of me. Unfortunately for the both of us, my depression derailed my progress in life very early on. It wasn’t even until I was 17 that anyone knew I was struggling so much (my first “major” suicide attempt). Granted, for someone like me, it was rather easy to hide my pain, especially from those closest to me. While I certainly do not blame my mother for my depression, she did exacerbate it during my youth. I was always a disappointment to her, from my grades, to sports, to friends, just about every aspect of my life didn’t “live up” to her expectations. While she still will wholeheartedly deny this, I cannot ignore the damage it has done to my psyche. I’m not sure if it is due to being depressed for so long, or if it’s just the way I am, but I am incredibly low maintenance. I am not bothered by unclean conditions, I don’t need the grass cut every week, I don’t even need to eat very often if I so choose. However, my mother is incredulous when it comes to cleaning, I will clean an area top to bottom, yet she will still find something that I missed, or ignored because no one ever sees it. For example, I would spend hours cleaning the bathroom, but she will still find places that aren’t even that dirty, that need to be cleaned, like behind the toilet. Enough about my mother, as you can tell, I am harboring a sizeable amount of resentment.
I do think that I miss social interaction the most, as it is usually the starting point for all relationships. Now that I am not depressed, I can start pushing myself towards more interactions. However, my social anxiety is still a very large burden, that prevents me from socializing quite often. For example, at my new job, despite developing a rapport with some colleagues, I still eat lunch by myself. I still barely speak when avoidable. I am not saying there is anything wrong with being solitary, or what the kids call “a lone wolf”. In fact, I often prefer it this way, because it is less maintenance on my part. Though like I stated prior, I am uncertain if this is due to my mental illnesses, or is just a part of my personality. Often times, especially lately, when I develop a romantic attraction towards another person, I have to take a step back. One because I need to make sure that it is genuine, not just a desire to be in a romantic relationship. Two, because as of late, these women that I am attracted to, are people that I work with. Three, because as I said, I have an uncanny ability to become attracted to women with mental illness(es). Also, there is a part of me that is still afraid of the pain involved with an unsuccessful relationship. Now, this is completely a natural fear, that almost everyone who has been through an “ugly” breakup experiences. Not many people like pain, and therefore we try our best to avoid it. However, I liken the situation with a young chick learning how to fly. As you may have heard, there are many species of bird that forcefully push their offspring out of the nest, where they either learn to fly, or die. Though, when it comes to romance, there often is not a “mother bird” to give us that push out of the nest (our comfort “zone”), so more times than not, we have to just make the leap ourselves, further inducing fear. The reason it is not easy for us (humans) to conquer our fear, is because fear is an evolved behavior of survival. To be afraid raises our blood pressure, increases our heart rate, increases the strain we can put on muscle fibers before they snap, all physically increasing our chance of “survival”. With such illnesses as anxiety, and whatever type of anxiety the person suffers from, we experience a “pre-programmed” aversion towards certain situations or objects. What initially was evolved to keep us alive, now makes our lives unbearable in most cases. I myself suffer from panic attacks, where I experience the physiological symptoms of fear, for what often are situations that are mundane and generally average. Not that I needed to explain a panic attack to a mental health audience, but hey, I’m a Biology Nerd. Anyways, this fear of exiting our “comfort zone” is also primal, as once our ancestors left their caves, they could ultimately die in a large number of fashions. This is usually incredibly multiplied in those of us with anxiety disorders. So even the thought of starting a conversation with a women I have an interest in, can send me into a state of panic (not really a full panic attack, but a “lite version”). So as you can probably imagine, actually doing it, well that seems entirely life or death in my mind. As we are most of the time opposed to death (at least should be) the act of speaking to a “crush” feels like jumping out of a plane with no parachute. Or in my metaphor’s case, jumping from the nest without knowing how to fly.
As a chronic over thinker, I will often isolate for the sole purpose of not over thinking. Conversations can go any number of ways with a specific person, and despite how I write, I prefer proactive rather than reactive. Add that together with my observatory skills, and you have yourself a fine recipe for unlimited anxiety. As during a conversation, I will not only be “preparing” for the different responses, I will be analyzing how the person reacted to my original statement, and further trying to predict the best course the conversation could take. The key word here is could, as despite how much effort I put into steering the conversation, people are near unpredictable. As you can imagine, or even relate, romance has not been easy for me. As many women who have reciprocated my attraction, there are many more whom I have “scared” away. If any of you, who have found a way to overcome your social anxiety, have any tips for me, I would greatly appreciate it. I think I have rambled on enough here, plus, my fingers are getting tired from all the typing.
ANYWHO, thanks for reading! <3
Check me out on my own blog at Out of My Mind