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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Doing Things Differently

I follow very strict daily routines. There was never any real reason that I began doing things in this particular order. It just kind of fell together that way. Now it’s become a pattern that, although has its variations depending on what I may have to do that day, has become very domineering. It has started to concern me as it’s begun to strongly resemble OCD. This all day ritual that I must perform or else I won’t be able to feel okay. Not that I feel no anxiety even when I’ve completed everything perfectly.

I know that the obvious solution is to stop letting myself do things in this order every day. Then I will see that everything is still fine when I divert from my normal routine. But like any form of addiction, I usually tell myself, “But I don’t want to stop.” This feels like only a half-truth at best. Regardless I need to stop so that it doesn’t continue to escalate and become an even more overpowering compulsion. I’ve already seen it slowly expanding to consume every waking hour. Once upon a time, it was merely my mornings that were off limits. I’ve left lovers in bed so that I could start my reading and study Spanish. At that point it still just felt like being efficient and productive. Come afternoon I would be free once again to do anything I’d like.

But now that morning routine has bled out into the afternoon, the evening. It sounds crazy even to me, but yesterday it was a great internal struggle to allow my best friend to come over and hangout for a few hours. I dearly love her and don’t get to see her often enough, partly due to this madness of mine. Still I was so tempted to make up an excuse not to see her so I could make sure my day was an exact photocopy of the day before. I’m not sure if anyone in my life right now is even aware of this issue to be honest. If anything they just admire my “commitment” and “productivity.” Little do they know it’s more like an illness than a virtue.

Nevertheless, I am going to try to change, if even just a little bit. Yesterday I had my friend over. This morning I accidentally slept in, so since things were already going to be slightly off, I managed to do my yoga and meditation first thing. It was very interesting. I want to encourage myself to make small changes to my rigid routine every day. Just to prove to myself that I can. Maybe eventually I’ll even set aside a day to make totally different.

All of this sounds completely insane to me as I write it. I can’t imagine what it sounds like to someone who’s never experienced anything like this. I wouldn’t even know what a normal person’s days look like at this point. It seems like most people just sit around all day. Whereas I feel compelled to fill every single moment with something, even if it’s something silly. Now that I think of it, although I always have something playing on YouTube or Netflix, I can’t remember the last time simply watching it was all I was doing. It is usually just on for background noise as I work on something else.

It may sound like this isn’t a huge issue and that I must be accomplishing a lot, but sadly that isn’t always the case. A lot of the time, there are other things I actually need to be working on, but I never get around to doing them because I’ve already filled up every second of my day with other projects. It is becoming impossible for me to shift my priorities and focus on the things that need my attention, but aren’t every day activities. I feel like this leads to me appearing lazy or letting people down. It’s something I’m unable to explain or even justify to anyone else. So far I’ve been able to manage it, barely. But I fear that if I don’t actively work on dismantling this toxic, overbearing routine I won’t be able to manage it forever.

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Mental Illness & Culpability

Earlier this week, I did something awful at work which I immediately felt sick with regret and remorse over. Despite, by the grace of God, managing to get away with it, I have spent a lot of time thinking it over. I keep asking myself why did I do it?

Part of me says I did it because I am selfish and callous, cruel even. I didn’t want to have to stay late. I didn’t care about anyone but myself in that moment. Not the client that I could have helped, not my friends and coworkers, not the organization that I’ve come to love. It was more important that I got home on time and maintained my meticulous schedule. Me, me, me. I am just an despicable person.

But another part of me challenges that explanation. If I don’t care, why do I feel so wretched about my actions? Do I only feel guilty because I was worried I’d get caught? I didn’t get caught though. And I still feel terribly ashamed. I also know that logically my actions weren’t even in my best interest. While taking a different path may have still caused me anxiety it wouldn’t have been anywhere near the amount I inflicted on myself by making the choices I did.

Part of me wants to say it isn’t my fault. That I am mentally ill. That I am simply unable to control myself sometimes because of this. I have severe anxiety. I have intense OCD behaviors. These things are manifested in poor decisions and inexplicable actions. I am unwell. This feels more true to me than the idea that I’m just a shitty person who doesn’t care about anyone. But is that only because I’d rather it be true?

I want to take responsibility for my actions though. I don’t want to make up excuses for myself. But I also want people to understand why I sometimes behave in these unforgivable ways. I don’t want it to be a justification, but an acknowledgement that I need help. I guess the culpability comes in when you consider that I know I need help, yet I haven’t made an effort to go ask for it.

After all this thinking though, I started to wonder about other people. Are there even any truly bad people? Or are they just displaying symptoms of mental illness like me? It’s impossible to really know what they are experiencing inside themselves. Many may not even understand what they are experiencing. I don’t think there are evil people in the end. Just sick people that need help. Whether they understand that or not.

I hope I can keep this lesson close to my heart. I hope it can help me do better in the future. Help me be more forgiving, more understanding, less angry, not as quick to pass judgement. Likewise I can only hope others will be able to understand and forgive me for my shortcomings, for my mistakes. And ultimately, I hope I will be able to forgive myself too.

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OCD

Today I have a fun excursion planned with my very best friend whom I’ve known since we were in third grade. We’re both 26 now and despite how we’ve both changed, we’ve miraculously managed to stay dear to one another for all of these years. I am constantly humbled by her friendship. I am filled with gratitude knowing that I have such a wonderful, loving person in my life who I share so many poignant memories with.

Given this background, you’d think I would be quite happy and calm this morning, looking forward to our day together. However, I have been on edge since she asked me to hangout today. This flare up of anxiety at the idea of spending time with someone has become a real worry for me. What am I worried about? Well I’m worried because now my rigidly structured day won’t be the same as usual. Ridiculous right?

I woke up extra early today so I could make sure I had enough time to check off all the little boxes that I normally do. Workout, draw, write, read, study Spanish, yoga, meditation, etc. All wonderfully productive and positive things. However, my obsession over making sure that each and every one is accomplished every day no matter what is unhealthy.

I don’t know why it’s always got to be all or nothing with me. It doesn’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things if I skip a day of doing yoga or drawing something. I recognize that this anxiety over not performing these tasks is a symptom of OCD. I don’t know if I’d be diagnosable, but I certainly feel confident saying that I have a lot of obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

I’ve only come to really accept this recently. It is a scary realization. As a psychology student I learned a lot about OCD, and I know if ignored it only continues to escalate. The best way to combat this is to intentionally do (or in my case, not do) the things that your brain is telling you will be negative. This inevitable results in pretty much nothing significant happening and the brain can be reassured that its fears were unfounded.

The problem with OCD is, even though I know all of this, I’m too afraid to implement this plan of action. It seems far easier to just continue on the way I have been, avoiding my anxiety while simultaneously being enslaved by it. Once again, a great reason for me to seek out a therapist that can help me. I hope something comes of me coming back to that idea again and again. Maybe if I think about it enough I’ll eventually build up the courage to make an appointment with someone. For now thinking about it seems like all I’m able to do.