A friend told me the other day that I had to slow down. I was telling her about my dating life, actually, about my last relationship failure -or lesson- and she said that projecting less and slowing down was under my control. I got quite anxious and upset and I could already feel I was getting defensive and I could start attacking her, so I closed the chat and messaged one of my best friends instead
What on earth is she thinking? Does she think I am not fucking aware of of the fact that I am too fast? Too much? Does she think I don’t know that my dating history will be easier if I took a step back and not gave a fuck? Of course I know it. But it’s who I am. If I could resist the urge, I would be married by now.
Dating and mental health
Dating is nerve wrecking for most people I know. It isn’t’ easy to deal with your emotions plus someone else’s while not really knowing each other. It isn’t easy to balance reality and expectations. It isn’t easy to live in the now when there are so many illusions, plans and ideas. That’s what also makes it magical. It is a period of uncertainty, excitement and insecurity. Some of us are better at managing these emotions that others.
Managing these emotions when you already have a pre-existing mental health condition, that being anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, etc isn’t always the easiest. I wish I could just leave the conversation for later, I wish I could let it go. I wish I could accept the lack of a definite answer. But I usually can’t. I need to get it out of the way. I need to discuss it here and now. It’s called OCD.
From the moment I meet someone I am interested in romantically I feel an urge to confess all my imperfections. “ You should know that I am difficult, and intense, and I have anxiety, and I fucked someone last week, and I was abused when I was 12, and I have issues with sex”. And this doesn’t help. I have become so much better at keeping things to myself and to the people I really trust, and not confessing EVERYTHING to EVERYONE. But I still have a long way to go. And it isn’t fully under my control to slow down or to shut up. And even if I resisted the urge, I am always going to be faster and more intense and more passionate that other people, because it is who I am. And actually, I like it.
Pressure: the magic word
After my last dating disappointment, I started feeling a lot of guilt and blame. I felt I had “boycotted” a potential relationship. Some people didn’t help either. People are very good at giving opinions based on their issues in order to, usually, justify their own actions. And I… I am very good at asking for people’s opinion and to be fair, quite an easy target too, because how open and transparent I am about my own flaws.
The non relationship came to an end after a not very heated discussion that started because of the word pressure. That word is my trigger. I knew it was just that, a trigger. I knew I had to let it go and discuss with him in person why that word triggered me. However, I couldn’t. I had to discuss it then. I knew that it was going to lead to an irreversible outcome. I knew I was pushing the discussion so much that he would leave me. But I couldn’t let it go, I had to tell him that I was hurt by that word and the reasons why.
I am not just like this with relationships and dating, it affects other parts of my life too. I will never leave a message unanswered. If someone texts me I will reply ASAP. I wash the dishes before eating which means I eat cold food everyday. I live on a pre-occupied, fast-paced anxious and future driven environment daily. And of course that impacts my relationships.
I am not stupid. I am perfectly aware that the way I am and my mental health issues can put a lot of pressure on people and relationships. But I don’t do this consciously. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, oh, let me fuck this up putting this guy on edge! This actually happens at the very beginning of the relationship. Perhaps because of that inability to bare unpredictability. Perhaps because of fear of rejection – it is that fear that almost pushes that rejection so I don’t have to fear it anymore-. Perhaps because I don’t think I deserve to be loved. I don’t know. But I know it relaxes with time, once I trust that person and I know that they have chosen to be with me, either as friends or partners. That is why the word pressure triggers me. Pressure is the word that every man has chosen to pronounce while walking away from me before even seeing the whole package. That word to me means rejection. That word to me means end.
Acceptance and learning
I believe the only way to move forward is to learn from past mistakes so I started to analyse what had gone wrong this time, from my side. The answer was clear. I pushed it too far. At the time of the events, I didn’t understand it wasn’t me but the OCD acting. I was submerged in different emotions for five days trying to figure out what I had done wrong, or what I could have done differently. It was only after a conversation with a friend that I realised that I knew the right thing to do was to wait and have the conversation in person but I couldn’t. My friend asked: “Do you think that is the OCD?” and something lighten. Of course it is. Or at least it is part of it. It always is. At that point I accepted the facts without continuing to blame myself and I stopped allowing others to do it.
It has taken me years to reach this level of self awareness and acceptance. It has taken me years to look at the mirror without hating myself. It has taken me years to accept rejection without letting it influence my self esteem. It has taken me years to be able to admit criticism without turning defensive. And I am sure at some point, I will be able to feel the urge of responding and hold back. But I can’t yet.
Of course I have a lot of work to do. Of course I want to improve. But the only way to do that is accepting. It is precisely that insatiable, pushy, determined, fast and impatient character which has allowed me to do so much work on myself in only 27 years. And I am committed to keep improving. I am committed to keep learning. But I will not allow anyone to tell me that I should be different. Because I shouldn’t and I won’t.
Relationships are unpredictable and time is the only thing that makes them tangible. Possibly until I am ready to accept this and bare with it I won’t be able to have a healthy relationship. Learning achieved.