Love… A word that can make even the most composed person feel ANXIOUS. It’s far too complicated a concept to explain easily and relates to various aspects of your life.
I tend to form very close relationships (including friends) and have loved many people in my 27 years, both men and women. Some I still love and some I don’t.
When I was eighteen and madly in love with my first boyfriend D, it never occurred to me that such an immense feeling could ever fade. The mere thought of it was ludicrous. We were going to be together forever, get married, have kids and grow old in a cottage by the sea. Ah the sweet musings of a naive young girl. He was completely my type; indie, long hair, big eyes, played guitar, had his own car – superficial moi? D was so bohemian and free. He always swore that he’d never get a 9-5 job and wanted to live in New York or Paris (I know, I know.) But I was eighteen and got to go to my boyfriend’s gigs and hang out backstage. I felt like Kate Hudson in Almost Famous!
My first experience with love was pure euphoria, (otherwise known as the hormone Dopamine. Bit of trivia, Dopamine is also activated by cocaine, which puts the whole drug use thing into perspective) I’d never experienced anything so overwhelmingly positive and pure, it felt wonderful. This was the first time in my life that my brain hadn’t picked something to pieces, which for a person with an anxiety disorder is a big deal! If even my anxiety was silenced then this must be something great.
I felt secure in my happiness… and was consequently betrayed by it. When I found out that he had cheated on me (via a letter) I imploded. I was reading it in my parents room and my whole body was shaking violently. Everything that I had relied on for the last twelve months suddenly evaporated and I crashed into cold hard reality. I didn’t understand how something that solid had crumbled, it didn’t make sense. I had an overwhelming feeling that nothing was ever going to be the same again and it terrified me. That night I stayed awake until morning. I sobbed so hard that my nose bled and the tears literally dried up (no joke, nothing was coming out.) I’d never felt such pain in my entire life and there was no respite. By the time the sun rose my body was past exhaustion, I barely had the strength to urinate (seriously, it was that bad.)
Looking back I should’ve spotted the signs of my anxiety disorder. Heartbreak is awful, but my reaction was certainly extreme. It was classic catastrophing and all or nothing thinking (in CBT terms.) I can’t live without him (what an embarrassing cliché, but I thought it!) I’m going to be miserable forever and this has ruined my life, were the major thoughts. Actually reading that now has triggered a ‘light bulb’ moment. I’m going to be miserable forever Is one my main ‘irrational anxious thoughts’ to this day. Bloody Hell, I didn’t realise that’s where it originally came from. Still, it’s nice to be able to prove myself wrong… I did quite happily live without him and the break up didn’t ruin my life!
So I ditched the cheating boyfriend, got myself a hair-cut and found a glamorous job in fashion. Right? At least that’s what I’d like to say, but sadly life isn’t like an American rom-com. So instead I stayed with him and spent the next two years trying to keep him happy. Why you ask? Well because I couldn’t deal with the mammoth change of being single again and all the anxiety that came with it. A small part of me thought that I could re-claim the euphoria of my first experience, (spoken like a true addict!) As a semi mature adult I realise that staying with him only made my anxiety ten times worse. I now had new ‘what if’ thoughts to contend with; what if he cheats on me again? What if he leaves me? I tried to morph into the ‘perfect’ girlfriend, which was a huge strain both on my mind and body. Oh and the texting… let’s talk about that nasty pitfall. Tell me, how does a text have the power to alter your mood for the entire day? It doesn’t matter whether you’ve passed your exams, got a new job or cure cancer, a disappointing text from someone you ‘like’ can make everything else feel like shit. Here’s an example from a guy I dated three years ago:
Me: (Took about 30 minutes to think of something really witty, cool, but flirty to say) – Guess who? 😉 It was a surprise to bump into you last night, I didn’t think many people went to that bar. (not a surprise at all, I’d worn my best dress, new shoes and checked his facebook in advance to make sure that he’d turn up.) Oh well, I guess we’re both geeks! We should meet one night this week if you’re around?
Him: (2 HOURS later – I was practically throwing a fit!) Dunno, I’m skint right now lol.
IS THAT ALL I FREAKING GET? SERIOUSLY.. DID YOU SEE MY AMAZING TEXT? IT WAS PRACTICALLY A LITERARY SENSATION AND HE COULDN’T EVEN BE BOTHERED TO WRITE THE WORDS ‘ I DON’T KNOW’ PROPERLY.
Anyway, back on to my original point. My ex dictated my moods for two years, if ‘we’ were good then I was good if ‘we’ weren’t that I wasn’t.
I was 22 when I finally cut him loose. We went to a festival with friends (YNOT Festival.. it’s awful, don’t ever do it to yourself) and he was playing. I didn’t see him for most of the day as he ‘liked his own space.’ That evening as I was hanging out with my two close friends (who happen to be a couple,) I suddenly realised; that’s a normal loving relationship, they’re both happy to be with each other. What the fuck am I doing? I knew there and then that it was over and planned to breakup with him the following day. Unfortunately the bastard beat me to it… kind of…. When he arrived he suddenly got a text that made him freak out. I asked him repeatedly what was wrong and he eventually said; I kissed Jess last night. Apparently Jess’ boyfriend found out and had messaged me on facebook. So I would’ve found out anyway. Still, at least he made it easy…. I kicked him out and that was that. Four years, done. Ironically, it wasn’t half as painful as I’d been expecting. If anything it felt as though a great weight had been lifted.
Do I regret any of it? To a certain extent yes I do. I think that I could’ve shielded myself from a lot of unnecessary stress, but then I certainly learned a lot from those years. I knew that I would never let it happen again and I haven’t. So let’s take that as a positive, my first love taught me how to spot and avoid a bad man. Ironically D now works in a dead end office job, has a baby with his girlfriend and still acts like a boy in a man’s body. Somewhere along the way the bohemian thing stopped being romantic and became sad.
My first experience with love also taught me not to trust my instincts. This has been a hard lesson to learn, but it’s always accurate. For example, whenever I’m in an anxious situation such as an interview and have a panic attack, my instincts usually scream something like: RUN! Jump out of the window immediately, head to Heathrow Airport and fly straight to Japan.. only then will you be safe!! – So I take the collective decision NOT to trust them. That’s the thing about instincts, they’re very primitive.
Fear = triggered too keep us safe
Love = triggered to makes us have children (depressing but true,)
Sadly, all the shades of grey such as; happiness, security and common sense rarely surface.
To end on a happy story. I met my current boyfriend/best friend/rock/love of my life by going completely against my instincts. We met on PlentyofFish.com for starters, which went completely against my beliefs (only perverts and paedophile’s use the internet right?) Dan wasn’t my type and I didn’t really want to go on a date with him. He was presentable for one thing and cut his hair regularly. He had a stable job, a flat and a savings account. Worse yet, he text back within ten minutes each time. (Oh my God what an arsehole huh?) However, within minutes of meeting him I knew that I’d struck gold. He’s made me laugh every day for the last three years and he treats me well… who ever thought that it could be so simple? If I had to summarise Dan in one sentence it’d be; He’s a good man. Which might sound boring to some, but I know just how wonderful he truly is.
I’ll stop there before I make everyone throw up, including myself!
Time for some love advice. Here are a few things that I’ve learned along the way:
- If someone is going to cheat on you, then they’re going to cheat on you. No amount of worrying or changing yourself will stop it. There’s nothing you can do.
- If you’re worried that you might have a weak moment and text your ex, then give your phone to a friend or relative. It sounds silly, but removing the temptation is very affective.
- The idea of change is worse than the reality of losing a person, especially if you’ve been with them for a long time. Things will get better and of course you can bloody live without them, you just need to keep yourself distracted.
- If you’re friends and family have reservations about your partner, then there’s probably a good chance that they’ve spotted something bad. Remember, they love you and just want the best for you. (Unless they dislike all your partners!)
- Never continue to date a man just because he’s beautiful. Accept the fact that he’s a thick as two short planks, can’t spell his own name and thinks that sun tan lotion is really yoghurt in disguise. (Long story, he moved to Australia.)
Let us finish with the famous Beatles lyric: All you need is love – but for the love of God just make sure it’s sensible!