I saw my friends last Saturday night. My college group who I feel most at home with. You know the type: the people you can spend hours talking to about politics or your anxieties, the ones who acknowledge and appreciate the fact that you never show up empty-handed, the individuals who make you feel special for simply being you. Those kinda friends.
And it should’ve been great. It should’ve been comforting. It should’ve been exactly what I needed after months away from them, months I’ve spent trapped in routine and in my mind. And it was, I guess. I mean, the few hours I spent with them, I was able to plaster on a smile, laugh at the right times, crack some jokes. But the entire time, all I could do was evaluate my feelings. For my boyfriend, who sat next to me and caught my stray tear before anyone could notice. For my friends, who I couldn’t bring myself to look in the eyes during conversations. For myself, the gnawing hatred and shame that threatened sickness.
I’ve mastered the art of hiding what’s inside me. I’m an open book, but I choose when to share certain chapters, and who to share them with. And I couldn’t let myself go there, because how could I possibly explain this to them? To anyone, really?
It’s terrifying to even write this. I’m sitting on my bed feeling the nerves of someone about to jump out of a plane. You think I’m being dramatic, right? I don’t blame you. Most people do. And maybe that’s the issue. Or maybe I am.
Either way, I need to get this out. It might make you uncomfortable, or not want to be around me, or think that I’m horrible. It makes me all of those things. But if there’s even the slightest chance that someone in my shoes is reading is, and feels sane or relieved or hopeful because of it, then I’m willing to risk it all.
Let’s just get one thing straight: I love my boyfriend. I’ve been with him for over four years. He’s supported me through every adversity I’ve faced throughout our relationship.
Yet lately, that doesn’t feel like enough. Because to me, being in love is synonymous with being numb.
If you haven’t heard of relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder (ROCD, which I’ve briefly covered in an earlier post) you probably think I’m a selfish person who will never be satisfied. Who will always need more. And maybe you’re right. That’s my biggest fear.
But fighting it only makes it stronger. And so, when I get these thoughts telling me that I don’t love my boyfriend, or these feelings of butterflies talking to guys I don’t even view in a romantic light, I can’t even reassure myself that it’s just my OCD. Because doing so is like putting out food for a stray cat, only to come back the next morning to see three more, and being too overwhelmed by their presence that you can’t help but give them what they want – which is everything that you have.
OCD finds loopholes. Unless you literally tell yourself, “I accept that this might be true,” you won’t get past your fear. But how can you say, “I accept that I might be emotionally cheating on my boyfriend,” or, “I accept that I might have feelings for another guy,” and not feel your heart breaking in the process? Not hate every part of who you are? Please, tell me how. Because I can’t do that.
Still, I have to. And I have to expose myself. To continue having these platonic friendships that feel like secret romantic relationships because of the OCD’s warped perspective. So, even doing what it is I am instructed to do in therapy feels like I am choosing to cheat on the love of my life.
It’s isolating. It’s confusing. And it’s hell on earth, to put it lightly.
And so, as I said goodbye to my friends that night, I made sure to swallow the cries that were about to demand my attention. I just barely made it into my car before hysterically sobbing in the passenger seat as my boyfriend watched from the driver’s side. He pulled me toward him as we sat outside our friend’s house, telling me it was okay. But he didn’t know what was going on in my mind. Maybe I’d explained it to him in confessions before, but surely he couldn’t understand exactly how terrible I was. I’d spared details, like the fact that as he held me in that moment, I couldn’t feel him; and all I wanted was to run back inside and get comfort from my friends because I just couldn’t fucking feel it from him. And I desperately felt like I needed it.
Maybe I’m flawed for wanting attention in these moments. Maybe that’s human nature. My mind always jumps to the first conclusion, and so I repeat that there’s something wrong with me. That even my painful self-awareness isn’t enough to save me, or my loved ones, from the monster that I am.
It goes like this: the OCD causes me to feel (or not feel) something, then it tells me the reason I’m feeling (or not feeling) it is because there is something wrong with me, with my morals, with the situation I’m in. So, not feeling my boyfriend’s presence meant that I must be bored with him, right? And then, feeling the need to be consoled by someone else meant that I was actively seeking another guy’s attention, which is basically emotionally cheating, which I was basically choosing to do.
It felt like I’d been drugged, beaten, and dragged into a mess that I was blamed for making. When all I’d wanted to do was visit my best friends. To get away from reality for a night. To get some alone time with the guy that I love. But I just ended up crying myself to sleep that night in the hotel bed, facing away from my boyfriend, then waking up the next morning to cry myself through the rest of that day too.
I could hold the tears back long enough to order a coffee and buy some candles at the outlet mall, sure. To others, I was probably a cheerful girl enjoying Sunday with her guy. But as soon as I had a second away from civilization, I was choking on my tears. I couldn’t even breathe, I was crying so hard.
But I’ve grown so used to it that it only makes me numb. I’ve grown used to hiding my swollen eyes with makeup. To crying in the bathroom at work and blaming allergies. To locking my bedroom door when family visits. To overcompensating with sarcasm around my friends. To lashing out at my boyfriend for no reason but the fact that I know I don’t deserve him, so why is he even bothering to stay with me?
More than anything, I wish I could talk to my friends through this. But my mind tells me that’s wrong. That’s emotional infidelity, nurturing intimate connections with people who aren’t my boyfriend. Craving someone outside of my relationship. And the more my mind says no, the more I want to do it – because it feels “forbidden.” And the more I want to do it, the more guilty I feel for being actively “excited” to do it. For not wanting to turn to my boyfriend, the one guy who I should seek safety from, but can’t because how the fuck do I explain this to him? How can he help me when all I can actually feel around him is shame and, well, nothing else?
It consumes me. All of it. The doubts. The terror. The false emotions. The inappropriate thoughts. Lately, my happiness is fleeting. And even those small bursts of joy are only euphoric sighs of relief, and they’re typically ruined within a minute by another episode.
No, I’m not okay. I know I will be. But right now, I’m really not.
It’s hard for me to accept this. The fact that I can’t always be optimistic or inspiring, even though I know the strength is in me somewhere, under the weight of this turmoil. I have to find it in myself instead of searching for it in someone else. I need to make myself better. And I will. But it will take time.
They tell me to write pretty. To offer hope. That it’s my job. But I can’t always end on a positive note. Life doesn’t work that way, and I’d be lying to my readers, to my loved ones, if I brushed this off as a “phase” or a “rut.” If I told them that choosing positivity is a simple fix. That self-love is easy to practice. That happiness really is a choice.
It’s much deeper than that – a hole I dug myself over the span of months, years even. Climbing out requires strength and motivation that I just don’t have right now. I can stand on the shoulders of someone else, yes; but ultimately, I have to be the one to look up and move in that direction. I have to be the one to separate the dirt from the soil, so I can learn to grow.