New Girlfriend; The Good & The Scary
Yup, thats right a little while ago I went to the Redhead Day event in London with Laura and during the day I asked Laura to be my girlfriend.
We met almost 5 months ago at a speed dating event in Portsmouth. Long time readers know I enjoy a good singes event, they are so sociable. But I almost didn't go. I was somewhere between not knowing what I wanted and not wanting a girlfriend. I missed the companionship of spending time with someone, but I still had so many issues with sharing my life with someone and honestly I had got to a place where I was happy being single. I wasn't 'looking' for a relationship.
I remember talking to Sophie about not going and she said "alright big head, you might not get a girlfriend by going!", well I did, eventually, so there, haha.
I have struggled with the concept of a relationship for so long and still continue to. Just like other aspects of my mental health I think it's important to talk about some of those struggles, to potentially help other people, but (honestly) primarily for me to express some of what is going on in my head.
**Trigger warning - relationships and self harm**
Through therapy I have been told part of the reason I struggle with relationships is because I experienced a divorce, which sat 'nicely' with the fact my parents divorced. These two things apparently trigger each other in some way. I kinda agree and disagree, I feel I am much more affected by my divorce than my parents. But I understand the links professionals have made.
Before I go further, Mum and Dad, if you read this. Know I am happy now you divorced, you needed some sort of change and what happened happened. You are both wonderful humans and have been so strong through your own struggles life has thrown at you. I believe you are happier now than I have seen you before, so maybe what happened needed to happen.
Please know, in no way are you responsible for the struggles I have now. I mean that.
These experiences have affected the way in see relationships, the frailty of relationships, the disposable nature of love and that forever isn't forever.
But here's where its different for me. My parents had a relationship with each other that broke, not with me. My divorce was a relationship break with me. I feel responsible, I feel failure, I feel confusion, I feel anger, I feel resignation for that break. Things I in no way feel about my parents divorce.
My divorce came at a time when I was starting to recover for my first wave of depression (from returning the the UK and difficulties with work and finances). This then triggered spells of severe depression for me. During this time I questioned everything, including my ability and desire to live. I began having thoughts of self harm and suicide later that year. Battling through that depression was hard and is something I still struggle with.
After 12 around months, I started going out more and attending different events. There were some hook ups nothing serious. Maybe another 12 months later I met someone and started a lovely relationship with them. However I began to really struggle with the relationship, I likely had not correctly processed feelings or emotions from my divorce. I felt low, I felt unworthy, unable to share my thoughts, or communicate them, I worried having someone care for me, someone depending on me, I felt I wasn't enough, I worried about what would happen in a weeks/ months/ years time in the relationship. If we were not going to last forever then what was the point, and nothing lasts forever, so what is the point, better to be devastated now than broken in a years time.
Honestly I still have these thoughts, but they are note as intense, intrusive or regular as before.
These feelings can take over, I become frustrated, so frustrated. My hands and legs can begin to twitch and this can escalate into hitting myself, often my face/ head. This makes me more angry, sad, disappointed, frustrated, vicious cycle anyone?
In that first relationship, this could last 60+ minutes. Now its rarely over 5-10 minutes #progress.
I think two things have really changed for me.
1. Through therapy I learnt about secondary emotions and how its ok to be sad (for example). Its when you become angry about being sad that there is a problem.
2. I am better able to talk about my own feelings and struggles. I think for me to it's really important that I feel that the other person can understand (as much as possible) the struggles I have with mental health and why I struggle with my own value and how I am challenged by relationships.
I still find the idea of a relationship scary, I don't know what I am able to do and how I will cope. I worry I will ruin it, that I will hurt Laura, that I will push her away, or that she will leave.
That is what my therapy highlighted that I am extremely concerned about abandonment. That because of this I may act in certain ways to push them away or distance myself to protect myself from that danger.
In my time as a single dude, in both low and natural moods I have considered what do I actually want from life or in it. As a child I always wanted a wife, a child, house, dog and a red car. Having had a wife, house, car and talking about trying for children within a year (sorry dogs, I ended up with cats haha), then having everything go. My wife left me and took everything with her, I didn't want to fight for anything it wasn't worth it and I didn't want 'our stuff'. However I did say I wouldn't let her have the carpet and fireplace and that's about all I had. The cats stayed only because she couldn't take them.
I had gone from everything to nothing. That I think did have an impact on me. I value 'stuff' much less, its just something someone can take from you. Heck, I only go a bed again because I started dating and thought if I ever brought someone back I couldn't show them my sleeping bag on the floor.
I questioned if I even wanted kids anymore, if I would ever want to be married again, if I would even want a girlfriend.
I still don't know what I want or what I feel able to do.
However, since meeting Laura I have felt able to share more of myself and my struggles, we talk openly about our struggles and successes. Laura asks questions about my health, but also accepts that I don't know all the answers. That sort of acceptance feels scary, it feels like something I am not worthy of.
I have had short moments of episodes or panic attacks and while she doesn't like it, she accepts it. Laura understands I need to write things down and will hug me or let me type away and then come for a hug after and we talk about it. Maybe not fully, but we do talk about it and thats the most important thing (I think), starting that conversation and beginning to feel like this person can accept what you say.
Laura is someone I feel blessed to have met, she is in so many ways a better human than me. I am envious of her faith, her belief is stronger than my belief in... anything.
I love her passion for equal rights, her desire to provide a good and enjoyable education to young people and the way she selflessly supports those around her. Laura expects nothing in return and is truly one of the kindest people I will ever met.
This in itself is a challenge for me, because Laura is so amazing. I do become frustrated at my actions and my mind. I worry that I will be incapable of the relationship and the love she so deserves. I worry that she will interpret my relationship struggles as a failure or problem with her, when it isn't, its all me.
In the last few weeks, I have begun to feel that maybe I could be capable of, or even want, more than the single life and casually dating. I would like to have someone to talk to and share my life with and to share their successes and to see them happy. Plus I love a hug, I don't see Sophie or Jodie often enough to survive off their hugs.
I think, for me its continuing to talk about my struggles with Laura and to continue to be open to hear anything she has to share too. We both know we are not always able to talk, or we might not have the right words, but we are there for each other.
In one of our conversations I spoke to Laura about some of my worries and what if we break up in X months. Her response was beautiful. She said I would be very sad, it would hurt, but I would believe that it was happening for a reason and have faith that it was what needed to happen for both of us.
Laura spoke with a balance that even in my calm mind I struggle to imagine and her faith helps (I think) to bring balance and perspective to her life in a way I just can't quite process.
I know Laura's hopes for the future and I do worry that those maybe things I am not capable of or don't regain a desire for. But I think it's accepting that those things can change. I have experienced the negative side of that change in someone else, maybe in the future I will receive a positive change. Who knows.
What I do know is that right now, scarily, I am happy. I have found someone that is amazing and I like spending time with and someone I could imagine a potential future with. Fuck knows what that future looks like, but I can imagine it.
For me, its about continuing to talk, to listen and enjoy now.