This topic contains 18 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Ruby Thursday 1 week, 2 days ago.
February 10, 2018 at 5:00 pm #738856
I don’t really know how to ease into this so I’ll just dive right in. I’m a 22-year-old, gay male, and ended a three-and-a-half-year relationship at the end of October last year. The length of time I was with my ex-boyfriend is obviously quite considerable, but it’s not really that which is bothering me.
Our relationship came about during a time when my mental state was completely unstable. I had severe depression and anxiety, which put a lot of strain on our relationship at the beginning. Growing up, I was not just emotionally neglected but mentally and physically abused by several members of my family, and as a result of that I’ve grown up with this insatiable need for love and attention that four years of counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy have failed to fix altogether.
When attempting to strike up a relationship with someone new, I’m calm and collected at first. That’s because of the lessons and techniques and learned from my CBT. But after a while – the time it takes varies wildly depending on the person and my attachment to them – I’m completely unable to control my emotions. I become a nervous wreck when a message goes unreplied, or when my prospective boyfriend comes online and doesn’t message me. I overanalyse every little world and read so deeply between the lines that the message loses its original meaning. This person becomes the centre of my existence. I fantasise about them every minute of the day and start dreaming about them at night. There’s rarely a sexual component to this; it’s always how we might spend our lives together, when we could get married, our first night together, owning a house… Always related directly to the things I needed as a child but was never given by my family. Security, stability, love, affection – I was the child at the centre of a custody battle and my mother used me as a weapon in disputes with my dad and his side of the family, while my dad tried his hardest to stop me from coming out the other side of all this as a damaged adult. It didn’t work, though I’m fiercely respectful of him for being the only one who had my wellbeing at heart during the ordeal.
My oldest sister is ten years older than me and would bully me about my weight. When I was six, she forced me onto the diet that she was following (since she was obsessed with her own weight, rather than just mine) and would become emotionally and physically abusive if I ate anything unhealthy. She was abusive to my mother and my other sister, and was the reason the custody battle began.
Throughout my life, the only constant source of love and affection came from my ex-boyfriend, in 2014. He was my “knight in shining armour”, I guess you could say. My emotional heatsink. Every single bit of angst, every worry, it all went onto his shoulders and he bore the brunt of it like a champion. For once in my life, I felt like I’d secured the love and stability that I’d craved ever since childhood. But then I joined university in 2016 and began discovering myself – I found that I was friendly, energetic, almost benevolent, and became someone that I was deeply proud of. Discovering this about myself finally kicked me out of my depression and anxiety and I felt free at last. But breaking through like that also led to me seeing faults in my relationship and I realised that my ex would never be able to give me the things I want in life. That, and now that my head was clear, I took a step back and analysed everything my ex had ever said or done that could have upset me, and came to the conclusion that I had been in an emotionally abusive relationship all along. Gaslighting was commonplace. He would constantly make remarks about my weight. He told that it would be unfair for me to expect him to want to be with someone he was going to outlive, and cited my weight directly. And to top it all, if he upset me, he’d tell me it was because I was overemotional and overreacting rather than accept responsibility for his own actions. He was lazy, unhygienic, lived like a pig, was the most judgemental person I knew, and took virtually no interest in the things I was passionate about. While we may have been compatible at the start, by the end of it we were like strangers. Whenever he’d message me, I’d feel annoyed rather than happy. I wanted rid of him long before I was fully conscious of it. So I took my first brave step on my own and ended the relationship – with the man I’d long since acknowledged as my soul mate, who I’d marry and cherish until the day I died. I fired my own knight in shining armour.
My ex told me he’d arranged a date just four days after I ended our relationship, confirming that he is, in fact, a sociopath (although he admitted to me that he got over watching his dad die of a heart attack within a day, so that’s not really a surprise).
Four months down the line, here I am. Unshackled. Free, you could say. So why don’t I feel like it?
I’ve tried talking to a few people with the intention of dating them, but all my old relationship anxieties keep coming back and I feel like I’m reverting to my old, mentally-unstable self. After a few days, I become super clingy and end up chasing my potential partner off. I trust too easily, and yet I don’t trust people at all. It’s like I’m yearning to recover the love that I’ve lost but I’m scared to do so.
I’m terrified that I’ll never find something as special as I felt I had with my ex; I’m severely overweight again (yo-yo dieting), so my pool of potential love interests is considerably smaller than the standard gay man’s which is small enough as it is. I message people and receive one of three responses:
3) “Ew”, or some other equally demeaning expression of disgust
Now, I don’t consider myself an “ugly” person. I think I have a lovely personality, and I consider my face to be at least average in terms of appearance. But I weigh 320lbs, and that’s a huge turn-off for the vast majority of people.
On Wednesday, I was out drinking with friends and ended up having a breakdown – I recently attempted to date a guy from Argentina, see if we could make the distance work (I’m in the UK), who had explicitly told me he would love to get to know me and see where things could lead. So I got excited, because this person seemed like an even better match for me than my ex had felt back when I was ill. Overexcited, would be more accurate a description. I became feverish with messaging him and was extremely anxious that he wasn’t really interested in me because I’d barely hear from him at all for the vast majority of the day – in the end, he stopped responding to my messages altogether without another word. That sparked Wednesday’s breakdown and my friends were all comforting me, which was when I spilled out all my problems to them and explained where they come from.
Most of this post has been exposition, so I think I should get to the point now. This whole overexcitement and anxiety ordeal with regards to relationships has been a constant throughout my life due to the experiences of my childhood, and it’s a vicious cycle which is showing no signs of breaking. If my CBT teachings have worked for every other facet of my mental health, why aren’t they working for my relationship anxiety? Could it be possible that I’m just not meant to be in a relationship?
I have huge amounts of love and care to give, and would love to receive some in return. The problem is, I don’t know if there’s anyone else out there who’d want someone like me. What if I threw away the only shot I had at life-long love?February 11, 2018 at 1:57 am #738887
I think your question is better suited for a professional.February 11, 2018 at 6:42 am #738897
You have a lot more work to do in therapy. It’s a process and it takes time. If you’re not still in treatment make an appointment tomorrow. CBT techniques are great but you obviously still have a lot to work through. Breakups and other stressful events often prompt a return to therapy, it’s nothing to feel bad about.February 11, 2018 at 7:40 am #738901
You’re 4 months out of what sounds like a toxic, emotionally abusive relationship where you were playing out childhood dynamics, okay? You’re not ready to date yet. You’re 22 with your whole life ahead of you. This desperation you feel to make a connection with someone, anyone, is obviously really unhealthy and is going to send any stable person running in the other direction. You’re going to attract more assholes who will prey on your vulnerability and treat you badly.
Can you just acknowledge that you’re not in a good emotional or mental state to date right now, and that you’re desperately seeking validation that you need to develop from within? And just focus on that for now, in therapy? You’ve got work to do.February 11, 2018 at 9:21 am #738916
Agreed about continuing in therapy. If you’ve been seeing the same therapist for the whole time or for a long time and feel that you’ve sort of reached the end of what you can learn from them, it’s OK to switch. Not to say that you need to, but some therapists have different strengths and strategies, and some strategies work better for certain issues than others. I don’t know if you’ve ever discussed medication with them, but sometimes when a person has obsessive thoughts or emotions they can’t control, medication can help tone things down so that you can use the skills you’ve learned. Regardless, there’s no need to assume all must be fixed after such a short time. This isn’t about things being “meant to be” or soulmates or fate. It’s simply whether you’re in a place currently to make a relationship work, and you’re not. But continue putting the work in, and eventually you will be.February 11, 2018 at 10:33 am #738932
Thank you so much for all your replies. I intend to speak to the student wellbeing desk tomorrow when I head to university and see if there’s anything they can do to help. I’m not suffering from depression and anxiety because I do feel quite high-spirited the vast majority of days. While that’s a good thing, it may hinder my ability to receive counselling. I’m in the UK, and in order to receive treatment for mental health issues on the NHS, you need to meet certain criteria which I’m not entirely sure I fit, and the university’s wellbeing department follows that same criteria. So I’m concerned that they won’t be able to help me even though I’m desperately in need of it. I can’t afford private care, though I wish I could because then I wouldn’t have to worry about waiting lists and other such issues.
Over the years, I’ve seen several different counsellors who each have helped in varying ways. They all taught me how to cope with depressive/anxious thoughts by using cognitive techniques and since learning them, I’ve overcome my depression and anxiety. But they never quite touched on my relationship troubles or how easily I become attached to people, not through any fault of their own but because I never thought to bring the issues up. And the problems stemming from my childhood have barely been dealt with because, at the time, the most pressing problems for me were the ones I was facing at the current time. Maybe now is a good time to put my traumatic childhood to bed and start focussing on the present and future me.February 11, 2018 at 12:32 pm #738938
Your letter makes several references to you feeling like you are having a breakdown and are unable to control your emotions or react appropriately to normal human behavior in relationships, which may be caused by anxiety. I am not familiar with the types of therapy NHS covers, but everything you describe sounds like something a US health plan would cover. Please seek out some more help as soon as you can. Even if you are feeling better, therapy will likely help you to continue feeling better and manage your emotions and behavior in the long-term.February 11, 2018 at 12:55 pm #738940
It sure sounds like you have anxiety, at least when it comes to interpersonal relationships.February 11, 2018 at 1:38 pm #738942
It seems unlikely you’ve totally gotten rid of your anxiety, etc. Perhaps speak with someone again and be sure to be honest in your description of what’s going on. Having breakdowns and difficulty controlling your thoughts seem like they are part of something diagnosable.February 11, 2018 at 1:59 pm #738946
You sound like you have done a lot of work in therapy and really understand where your behavior and thought patterns are coming from, which is fantastic. I do think it would benefit you to take some time off from relationships and focus on yourself. Focus on getting healthy again, focus on once and for all ridding yourself of your childhood demons, and focus on learning to be happy on your own. You sound like a wonderful person who will one day have a great relationship but I think you should just work on yourself right now.February 11, 2018 at 5:45 pm #738955
I agree with other posters that you would greatly benefit from an evaluation from a mental health professional. I think it is possible that you may be struggling with additional mental health challenges than just anxiety alone. I think having an abusive upbringing increases a person’s chances of having additional psychological and physical health conditions. It’s possible someone qualified to diagnose mood/personality disorders could direct you to far more useful treatments and advice than any of my conjectures would.
I am suspicious of your willingness to decisively conclude a person you terminated your relationship with (which I wholly support based on how you report feeling about him) is a sociopath based solely on your perception of gas-lighting and how quickly he went out after you dumped him. What you describe does sound dysfunctional though. I don’t think you should pine for it because you’ve given up hope for better. You have been brave to seek therapy. Keep pursuing answers for yourself, just pursue them responsibly and safely, if you can.February 11, 2018 at 6:52 pm #738958
Perhaps “sociopath” is a strong and, possibly, unfair evaluation of him. However, his general attitude towards other people is disgusting. As a private tutor, for example, he should not be ridiculing his students’ intellect, nor should he refer to one of said students as “Stumpy” (she is an amputee, and to add insult to injury, he would call her “retarded”). I never got to know that student’s actual name prior to breaking up, and subsequently cutting off contact with him. He cared very little for anyone’s emotions, let alone my own, and deemed them irrelevant if I couldn’t adequately explain why something he had said or done had upset me. And knowing his background and own troubled adolescence, sociopathy isn’t that far-fetched an assumption.
I keep dithering between relief from having severed that connection and regret because he was my first love. On a conscious level, I know that leaving him was the best choice. He had only told me he wanted to marry me and spend his life with me in order to keep me quiet. This isn’t mere conjecture, either; he openly admitted to it once I broke up with him and showed no remorse whatsoever. He is completely unable to read people’s emotions and I’m not convinced he particularly cares about doing so.
Right now, the best way I would describe my situation is cold, isolated and afraid. Terrified, even. Terrified that what I had was the best I’m ever going to get and that of all the stupid mistakes I’ve made throughout my life, this is the worst one.