Lukewarm Heart

Over the past few years of being single and living alone, I have developed a lot of strange, unhealthy habits. Last night as I was falling asleep, I tried to imagine what it would be like to allow someone to be close to me or to live with me again. It was bizarre to think about, honestly. For the majority of my life, finding a loving partner to spend my life with was my only desire. I really didn’t put much emphasis on anything else in life. Spending my life alone was my greatest fear and there were so many nights as a teenager that I cried myself to sleep at just the thought of it.

I never imagined I could feel so different. Not only do I not particularly care whether or not I fall in love again, I’m honestly skittish about the whole idea. It’s almost like I don’t even remember what it feels like to be in love. Well, apart from the lingering, dull ache it leaves behind years later. That doesn’t seem to fully explain this change in me either though. After all when I first became obsessed with the idea of finding love, I had never even experienced it before. Yet I was still so certain it was the one thing that would make me happy, that would make life worth living. I would have risked anything for it. There is always risk involved when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone you love. Now I’m not sure if I even believe it’s worth that risk.

You’d think this lack of interest would be a comfort to me, considering how much I use to agonize over my loneliness. Yet, even though this new state doesn’t necessarily cause me pain, it’s still a cause for concern. How can it be that in the span of just a few years I can feel so completely different about something that was once so vitally important to me? If I could be certain these were an accurate reflection of inner growth and independence, I might not mind. However, there is part of me that wonders if this isn’t somehow a result of so many years on anti-depressants. Paxil has helped me in a lot of ways, and I am grateful for that. But now I’m beginning to question if I’m even still the same person I was before. Which version of myself would I ultimately prefer? Can I even trust the way I think and feel now?

I used to put the concerns about my abnormal behaviors on the back burner. Telling myself that I would easily be able to stop them once I have someone new in my life. Now I’m starting to question that logic. Perhaps I’ll just end up choosing my behaviors over love in the end. And whether or not that is still important to me is irrelevant. Whatever my decision ends up being, I want to know that it was my decision, not something that I chose out of fear and mental illness. I don’t want to be alone just because I am too afraid to change or to get hurt again.

I guess I will try to just look at this new, unfamiliar perspective as somewhat of a super power. I don’t have to feel nervous or pressured on first dates, I can just relax and have fun. The value of my life no longer hinges on the love and approval of someone else. Rejection or abandonment don’t seem that scary when you know that you are perfectly capable and fine with being on your own. My only fear now is about whether or not I still even have the drive and motivation it takes to make a relationship work. Can love even blossom in such a lukewarm heart?

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Unsettling Side Effects

For the last few years I have been taking an SSRI called Paxil to help me deal with my social anxiety. While it has improved my life tremendously in some ways, it also has had many negative effects. For one thing, even though it has completely obliterated nearly every shred of social anxiety I experience, somehow it has seemed to dramatically increase my general anxiety. Now rather than being anxious about talking to people, I am just vaguely anxious about nothing in particular all day, every day. I find this completely bizarre. I have no idea how that is even possible. Then again I never have been fully able to comprehend how any medication can effect my mind in such a dramatic way.

That isn’t the most troubling side effect I experience though. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about how Paxil has effected my emotions. I used to cry a lot as a teenager, multiple times a week at least. But as I grew older, I noticed it took more and more to make me even tear up. I assumed at first this was just a normal part of growing up. Then my sister, who also takes Paxil for social anxiety, mentioned how it makes her not feel anything. Until that point I had no idea it could be a side effect of this medication.

I laughed it off at first. Even thinking of it as a positive side effect at times. It was much easier to remain unaffected by the difficult events in life we all experience. It was almost like a protective barrier. However as time marches on, I have started to worry about it. I miss feeling things deeply. You can’t eliminate negative emotions without also dulling positive ones. I may not cry as much, but I also don’t laugh or love as fiercely as I once did. I feel somewhat like a hollow shadow of a person.

I even miss being able to cry at this point. After all, it is healthy to cry. It can even feel good. Instead of letting out that pain and sadness, it now slowly collects as a heavy inky blackness in my heart, weighing on me more each day. I fear it also makes me appear cold and uncaring to those around me. I am missing out on so many shared human experiences. While I am no longer afraid of people, it has made me feel more on the fringes of society than ever.

I fear when my loved ones pass away, I will stand at their funerals dry eyed and empty, unable to properly grieve such immense loss. I fear I’ll never truly love again either. Maybe that is why I cling so desperately to the ghost of past love, only being able to feel it through memory.

I don’t know what the answer is to these issues. It is extremely difficult to stop taking this particular medication. It has terrible withdrawal effects and must be done slowly with medical supervision. Not only am I afraid to face such a daunting challenge, possibly returning to my original state of social anxieties, but I also find it distasteful how much money I would have to spend on medical appointments within the course of this task. I do have insurance, but it only pays for one visit a year. And I would need many more than that to monitor such a transition.

For now I will just soldier onward. Hoping that someday something will stir my heart again.