I was out with my lovely friend Amy the other day, and we got to discussing dating and being demi. I don't really have many opportunities to talk about it with good friends who get it, but Amy gets it. I am SO GRATEFUL for the opportunity to verbalize to her what's been going on inside of me, because putting my thoughts into words often leads to things becoming clearer and me understanding something about myself that I'd had trouble getting my head around. Yes, I need to write more. Writing is great but also rather hard for me. I'm working on it, so here we go. I'll also be putting this up on megg.us but i'd rather type it here than link.
I talked to her about how much I've changed in the past ~4 years, and how it's been difficult to adjust to this new normal. I talked about having difficulty dating, and before that, having extreme difficulty being sexualized post-trauma. Or even just having people noticeably find me attractive. While I still have some issues there, it's not to the extreme it was (there were times it made me literally vomit). We discussed how my view of myself has changed. Gaining self-esteem, self-love, self-worth, and confidence has been amazing, as I did not have that for most of my life. I actively hated myself. I insulted myself all the time and even self-injured. That urge isn't there anymore—the habit is gone. There's still times when I call myself a dumbass in my head for forgetting something or making a mistake but it's not often, and when I do I notice it, correct myself and replace it with a kind/gentle thought. I'm pretty amazed by this. I tried to change this for a long time, but the root of it was hidden so deep inside that I couldn't reach it. My brain just buried it all in self-defense. Trauma shook just about everything loose. It was horrific and extremely difficult, but when stuff came up I was finally able to face it and deal with it. I don't know that I'd label that as a "blessing" or a "benefit", but I am certainly thankful for the outcome.
I've come to realize how distorted and dysfunctional my relationship with love and...well, relationships was for a long time. I didn't feel confident about myself, didn't love myself, didn't trust myself, and didn't value myself. There was a big hole inside me when it came to self-worth, and so I relied on others' opinions to fill it in. That of course is a precarious position to put myself in, not to mention the people I love. It wasn't just self-worth I sought in other people, either. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I was also searching for my identity: who I was as a person. Sometimes even my personality. Relationships became my self-expression, became my identity. Who I was changed depending on who I was with, and because I put all this stuff (consciously and unconsciously) on my relationships, they struggled. The hole inside me gaped. I tried to fill it with people, I tried to ignore it with alcohol. My relationships were unstable and so was I. They struggled and failed and so did I. I hurt a lot of people and I hurt myself.
I'm not going to say I'm ashamed of this stuff, because I'm not. I'm not going to shame myself anymore. I've spent too much of my life shaming myself for everything and it's been unhelpful and destructive. Through my healing I did come to recognize that what I was doing was unhealthy and hurtful, and when I finally did come to that realization I worked to change it. And change it I have.
I don't *need* relationships like I used to. I was a serial relationship-ist for a long time. Being alone was frightening. I needed the attention and affection I wasn't giving myself and sought it out in others. I needed the stability and solidity of relationships to function. When I became single, I immediately started dating and hanging out with friends w/benefits so I didn't have to face that gaping empty hole inside me. These days I give myself attention and affection and love, and that's changed everything. I'm not indiscriminately seeking people out to gain affection or intimacy. That sounds bad—I did have some level of discrimination, but I generally let emotion lead me, and it led me into a lot of uncomfortable and distressing situations. I wasn't listening to my inner knowing, or to anything rational inside me. I just felt shit and believed it (whether true or not) and then did shit. Emotions can reveal a lot but they're just not truths, and while I did have some good experiences, a lot of them were anything but.
In my years of healing I've learned that I have ME to rely on. I'm working on that and getting stronger every day. PTSD forced me to have to learn how to adult all over again: how to take care of myself, how to manage day to day shit, how to communicate with people and listen to others. How to be social. How not to be awkward in social situations. It's thrown some serious curveballs at me like brain fog, issues with memory, stuttering, muscle and joint pain/stiffness, all of which flare up if I'm triggered. I get overwhelmed a shit-ton easer when I used to be the multi-tasking queen (not that that's something to be proud of. My skill at multitasking came from an anxious, fearful, overly analytical racing mind) I've had to adapt and cope with this new stuff. Some things I won't get back and I've had to learn to live with it. I'm setting reminders to set reminders. I step away from situations when they start to get me worked up. It's hard, and it's not all good, but I'm doing it. I'm settling into this new life and I'm doing it all myself. I feel PRETTY DAMNED AWESOME about that, too.
Now don't get me wrong, I do get lonely. Last year was really bad due to the circumstances I was in, but this year has been so much better. I'm not isolated. I have [a] real job[s] with guaranteed income and free time. I get to socialize with people on a daily basis. Loneliness doesn't consume me. It doesn't make me want to curl up into a ball and implode. I can spend time with myself and enjoy it. I enjoy it a lot, in fact! I love myself.
I LOVE MYSELF. I can say that over and over and over and know that I mean it. I feel it deep in my gut and my heart as a truthful statement. I HAVE worked very hard on my healing, and I'm continuing to work very hard on my healing. I don't shame myself anymore when I recognize my negative behavior. I acknowledge it and where it's hurting me and others, apologize if necessary and possible, and work to change it. I don't rely on anyone else but myself for my own stability or for my sense of self worth. I don't rely on anyone else to save me. Funny enough, I had so much trouble asking for help in the past because I saw it as shameful, and yet things would inevitably reach a boiling point inside me, explode, and I'd end up getting that help. I do try my damnedest to help myself first, but have gotten so much better at recognizing when I *do* need help and then asking for it. Doesn't mean I always get help, but I can ask now.
So on this "meh" feeling about dating: I'm not having to seek out other people to validate my self-worth and provide me with a sense of stability. I have that now, independent of anyone else. In my head, I'm not constantly putting myself on display for others or wondering if I'm attractive enough. I'm not rating everyone I meet in my head on their attractiveness and suitability as a partner. I'm not constantly evaluating others' interactions with me to determine if they're flirting and/or if they think I'm attractive (ok TBQH I still do this with some women but only because the line between no homo and yes homo isn't always clear to me o_o I am clueless).
With that in place, my demisexuality has popped out and said OH HEY. There's a lot of beautiful people in the world, but I don't feel sexual attraction to many (most) of them any more. I don't even think about it, really. That happened on its own a couple years ago, and it's so completely opposite of how I used to be that it's been hard to adjust to. I thought I was broken for a long time. I most definitely had (and still have some) trust issues, but I worked on them in therapy for a long time. After a while, I felt inside I was willing to try. I enabled my OK cupid profile and messaged people. I downloaded some other dating apps and made profiles there too. I've had extended conversations with a good handful of folks , and yet have been so noncommittal about it. I'm sure this has probably pissed some people off and/or made them nope the hell on out, but I don't know. I can take it or leave it right now. To some extent I'm still afraid of getting close to other people and being disappointed, but after my conversation with the lovely Amy on Tuesday, I've realized that's not what's driving me.
I'm just ok being by myself. If someone comes along and the stars align and we hang out and I feel that deep emotional connection and it goes from there, that's great! I don't *need* it. And I don't *want* to need anyone, platonically or otherwise. I don't want anyone to make me happy, make me a better person, always have my back, or save me. I want that from MYSELF, and I have it and it's getting better every day. I have old friendships and new friendships that benefit from this. Perhaps eventually I'll find someone in that same place, fall in love, and our powers combined will enhance all of it in each other and make it Even Better. These days I don't *need* anyone else to be happy and secure and stable anymore. I just need me. And I'm SO OK with that.
Thanks Amy <3
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