I'm in the early stages of a relationship with a wonderful woman; it's our second go at this. I'm pretty sure this is love. But my anxiety and depression is holding me back, or making me doubt how I feel, or stopping me from actually expressing how I feel. And I don't know how to navigate this. I don't know whether to push through all these uncertainties or walk away. Help me work it out, mefites.
posted by six sided sock to Human Relations (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been agonising about writing this for several days; I'd promised myself never to write another relationship question on AskMeFi again, and yet here I am... Apologies in advance.
You'll remember, if you look at my posting history, that I left a bad, some would say abusive, marriage at the end of 2012. I spent much of 2013 trying to build a life for myself. I had no intention of dating anyone for a long time.
Enter J, in around about August 2013. J and I had been good friends six or seven years back, but we had fallen out of touch for one reason or another. We met again in summer at a professional networking event in the city where she lives.
We hit it off immediately, and a coffee-and-catch-up date developed into a second, proper date over dinner, which then turned into a third date and so on. When we were together, it was like there was no-one else in the world for either of us. We were great in conversation, great in silent contemplation, great in bed, and for a while it seemed like everything was wonderful
At the same time, though, I was struggling. I wasn't admitting it to myself — maybe I wasn't even able to at the time — but I was suffering from a deepening depression and a lot of anxiety. Leaving my marriage had been stressful, but my finances were by then very poor, work had become slightly toxic after I was summarily removed from a management position with no warning. In short, I felt worthless.
Whilst falling in love lifted me for a while, as things settled down a bit I fell down a deep hole of depression and anxiety. I'd already had several anxiety attacks when travelling to see J (she lives some 3 hours away from me by train) and sometimes was barely making it without melting down. In late October, when I was due to head down for a long weekend with her, I got a phone call telling me that my cousin with whom I was very close had been killed in a car crash. This tipped me over the edge and I phoned her and told her that I couldn't come down, that she was better off without me and that I was breaking up with her, because I didn't have the wherewithal to deal with keeping a serious relationship together. I completely imploded, and looking back I deeply, deeply regret handling things as badly as I did.
The next day, knowing that I'd had very little control over my actions the day before, I went to my doctor, got a psych referral, and am now doing okay on SSRIs, with a side order of anti-anxiety meds should I need them (so far, I haven't; lots of yoga and mindfulness has been good enough to manage it so far). But the damage was done, and in our final conversation before Christmas (which, as J pointed out, I owed her) I said that I needed time to work on myself. From then, we went NC, with the exception of Christmas and New Year text messages.
Four weeks ago I ran into J at yet another work event (I visit her city regularly for work, and its on these travels that I come closest to using my anti-anxiety meds. For some reason, long distance travel is very stressful to me right now). She asked me if I'd be okay with going for coffee and I hesitantly said yes. We started talking and it was like nothing had ever changed, everything was wonderful again. She told me that she understood about my anxiety and depression, having suffered from both herself, and that she wanted to help me through my struggles.
We spent several days in each other's company, just hanging out at first, but gradually things got to the point where we were sleeping together again.
Since I got home from her city we've kept in touch by email, phone and Skype. My heart leaps when I see her or hear her, and I know that she feels the same.
And yet, it feels like there's something missing. I don't know what it is, but it's almost as though a part of me doesn't want to be in a relationship with this wonderful woman, whom I'm pretty damn certain I love and with whom I was, not all that long ago, been very happy. And I don't get it.
I'm supposed to be spending this weekend with her, but every time I think about it I get one of those horrible anxious knots in my stomach. I've tried to talk to her about it but I find myself playing down just how bad it is. On top of that, I then get angry and shouty at myself in my head for not telling her how horrible it's feeling: my internal voice tells me what a liar and a worthless person I am for lying, and then, more insidiously, another internal voice tells me that the best way to punish myself is to share the pain with no-one and deal with it all myself. How I get up in the mornings I don't know.
I don't know how to unpack these feelings (I have a therapist, and she's great, but she's also out of the country right now, so she can't be of much help). I don't know how to phrase "I want to love you with all my heart and I feel like we belong together, except that there's this huge gaping something that I don't know really understand and can't explain, and which is absolutely killing me inside, and by the way that weekend break we've got planned is terrifying me" in a way that doesn't make me sound like a gigantic asshole for leading her on. She's asked me a couple of times if I'm sure I want to pursue a relationship, and I said yes, because at the time I was... and then later I found myself thinking "... but really, I'm not all that sure..."
I don't want to be the guy that led her on, but I feel almost certain that's what I'm doing. I'm also aware that depression and anxiety both lie, and I could be falling victim to that; I can't really tell which is which.
How should I navigate myself through this? Is it best if I just call it off with J and let her be, despite the fact that she wants to support and help me? She deserves better than this, surely. I know someone's going to say "put on your own oxygen mask first" but I owe it to her to be a decent human being before I start worrying about myself.
(And yes, I should have waited longer before dating. I'm a mess right now, and that's helping no-one).