I’d love to be in a relationship.
I usually avoid saying this. Not because I’m embarrassed but I might as well say ‘please patronise me.’ Cue everyone and their mum telling me that I need to love myself first and stop looking for someone to complete me. (Everyone saying this are in a relationship themselves, as if having a partner magically makes you an expert.)
I always need to explain myself, as not to create an image that this is all I ever think about.
“You need to stop obsessing over the thought of dating and it’ll come before you know it”, a crisis house worker tells me.
She got a lot of material out of me saying just one sentence.
I tell her that I don’t want to date, I’d just like to have someone to tell about my day. Co-exist with me.
She didn’t have anything to say after that.
I’ve been single for six years. I don’t like labelling myself but that statement is definitely factually accurate. I haven’t really thought about it to be honest. My previous relationship was so horribly abusive that the thought of dating again has been about as appealing as eating a whole nest full of fire ants. It doesn’t make sense why would you, so you don’t think about it.
I’m officially not bothered by what others think of me. That’s the hardest thing for me to relate to when someone in the MH-community talks about worrying about what others think. I just don’t care. Never have.
That doesn’t mean that for about half a second when someone points out what a long time six years is that I feel like a freak.
Only recently, when I say recently I mean in the last year or so, I’ve started thinking that it would be kinda nice to have a boyfriend again. Or a girlfriend. I don’t like the word partner because to me it’s so business-like. I also hate words like significant other or other half.
“Have you ever thought about how deeply your experiences have affected you?”, my counsellor recently asked.
I haven’t but when it comes to relationships it’s very obvious to anyone who spends more than five minutes with me.
I don’t like dates. I have a genuine problem with organised events where I’m expected to behave in a certain manner. It’s such an odd phobia that I have a hard time explaining it properly even to those closest to me. Karl Pilkington said it best: “I don’t like having fun.”
I usually hate quotes but have never related to anything so much in my life. All my closest friends know that I can’t meet them with an expectation of enjoying myself because the pressure of having fun will cause me to become so overwhelmed with anxiety over not wanting to let the other person down that I shut down completely.
I detest romance and romantic gestures. It’s such a deep and multi-layered hatred that I consider it more of a personality trait at this point. Whenever I’m involved in a discussion where something is considered romantic by others, it either fills me with similar disgust as motion sickness or leaves me completely detached from the conversation to the point where I feel like I don’t speak the same language.
In my family love was shown with small everyday gestures. My dad’s homemade lunches were the cause of envy from his colleagues. Mum got up with him whatever time of the morning it was that he needed to get up to make them.
I got my non-ecological habit of leaving a light on whenever I leave the house from home. If I ever turned off all the lights before dad came home, mum would tell me to leave a light on for him.
“Why?” I asked once.
“It’s nice to come home when you know that someone has thought about you.”
That stuck with me. I still leave a light on for myself when I have an evening shift. Is that some of that self-love everyone keeps telling me to obtain?
Anything more grand than leaving the lights on makes me uncomfortable. When my colleagues gush about a bloke who took his girlfriend out to a lake in a rowing boat despite pouring rain to propose to her, I’m not even kidding when I say that I would’ve said no.
One Valentine’s Day my abuser gave me a dozen roses he made himself out of red masking tape and pencils. It was either the same night or the night after that when he’d already be yelling at me for asking him to do something he considered outrageous. The time the detailed masking tape petals had taken to make and his words were in such stark contrast that I hid the roses into a drawer and didn’t take them out until we had already broken up.
I’m not good at receiving gifts. I immediately start thinking what is this other person about. Are they expecting something in return? I also hate surprises to my very core. I need to know what is happening at all times. If someone booked a weekend getaway without telling me, I wouldn’t go. I’m quite a practical person who hates fuss in all of its forms.
Like weddings for example. I consider them quite a narcissistic event and fail to see what’s so romantic about them. If it was about public declaration to another person like people claim it is, you wouldn’t make such a big deal about whether the flowers are purple or lilac, just saying.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have trust issues. I hate asking for help. If I ever ask something from you, you can bet that before that I’ve used up all my other resources. Literally all of them. I’m self-reliant to the point of ridiculousness, like that man who drove to hospital with a nail in his heart because he didn’t like bothering people.
When someone offered to come to the doctors with me once I looked at her like she had just taken a shit on the floor.
Why? There’s no reason for you to be there. I’m perfectly capable of going by myself.
This self-reliance makes me a pain as a patient. The point of me being in a crisis house was for me to have someone to talk to 24/7 and despite the staff telling me multiple times that I shouldn’t be afraid to bother them, I’d have to psych myself for hours before finally knocking on the office door.
I’m not saying this is all bad. Like said, I’m quite a practical person. By the time I left the crisis house I’d gone from suicidal ideation to ordering my prescription for a pickup in the town I was staying and ordered groceries online for home delivery. I get things done, you could say. No matter how ill I’ve been I’ve always looked after my affairs. Bills have always been paid on time and all the necessary paperwork has been filled in.
This is usually the time for somebody to say that it’s really not about my ability to look after myself but someone’s desire to support me.
It’s one of those things I understand on a rational level but don’t really get it. Why would they? I can trust my parents to want to help me no matter what because I’m their child but anyone outside that bond is a bit of an epiphany to me. Why would they do that?
In my world everybody has an agenda, even if it is for them to feel better about themselves.
I know I sound like a delight. Am I like this because of the trauma or was I like this always? Is she born with it or is it Maybelline? I genuinely couldn’t tell you.
You could even claim that it clearly would be easier for me to remain alone. I’m not arguing. It would be easier. I have a pretty decent life going on. I have a job, a flat and close friends.
It’s just that I have these little thoughts popping into my head from time to time.
What it would be like to take a trolley instead of a basket when going food shopping.
I’ve become really good at measuring spaghetti for one person, so that there isn’t too much or too little. Every once in a while I find myself thinking how much would I need if I was cooking for two people.
What it would be like to buy two tickets instead of one. What it would be like to go food shopping with someone else and ask what they’d like. What it would be like to call someone in the middle of the night when I’ve seen a nightmare and know that they’d rather I called than try to calm myself on my own.
I travel alone a lot and only consider my own preferences when organising activities. How could I handle it if someone didn’t like what I had planned? I haven’t had to make compromises for so long. I’d like to try though.
There are plenty of unappealing things about me. I’m an insufferable smartass who can’t leave anything be. I go on tangents about things that genuinely don’t matter but when something is genuinely upsetting I’m indifferent. I’m merciless in a sense that I don’t let anything slide. I don’t practise a three strike system. You’re out immediately. Ask me about all the people I’m not friends with anymore because instead of telling them how much something they did hurt me I just cut them out.
It’s way better to be alone than with someone who isn’t good for you. I’m alone but not lonely.
But sometimes it comes. I can’t watch things like 24 hours at the A&E. Not because I’m squeamish but because it makes me too sad to see the husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends who hold the patient’s hand, try to comfort them and wait with them so they’re not alone.
I spend five hours on an orange plastic chair waiting to see a doctor. It hurts to breathe. At the end I’m diagnosed with pneumonia and taken to a ward. During those five hours a drunken man starts groping my breasts and I’m too scared and in too much pain to ask for help.
I wish I’d had someone then.
Another admission. This time I’ve burnt my hand. An elderly couple comes in after me. The husband has a nasty gash on his forehead. He sits on the plastic chair while his wife explains what happened and gives out the usual information like names and birth dates. I would give anything to have someone at that moment to do that for me but through pain I have to start thinking of my allergies and how my last name is spelled.
At night when I wake up from a nightmare. They are always disgusting. I have no clue how my mind could come up with the sick images it does. It’s hard to wake up to an empty flat and calm yourself down every time.
I’m having my bandages taken off my hand. A girl sitting opposite me has also hurt her hand. She leans her head against her boyfriend’s shoulder. He strokes her hair. Neither of them says anything.
Being jealous isn’t the right word. I don’t want what she has. I’m happy she has someone there with her. I’m just sad that I don’t.
I don’t know who’s shoulder I imagine myself leaning. I’d really like to meet you though. I don’t know what you look like. I’ve always been a bit weird like that in the sense that I don’t have a type. If you were to line up everyone I had ever fancied, you’d struggle to see any similarities between them. There’d be people of different ages, genders and shapes.
It would be useful that you’d be taller than me, so you could change the light bulb that has been out in my kitchen for the past six months. But if you’re not, that’s fine. If you can just hold the ladder steady while I climb, we’re away.
It would be nice if you were good at things I’m not good at and vise versa. It would be nice to feel like I’m helping and a team with multiple skills is more useful than with two sets of the exact same skills.
My bestie and I send each other memes every day. By now I can tell which ones are going to be her favourites. The joy of getting it right each time hasn’t faded yet.
Seeing something and knowing that the other person would find it funny is such a special feeling, especially when it’s confirmed.
It’s quiet, fleeting joy. I don’t feel joy but I feel warm for a moment. It’s sun beams on water.
The thought that someone would like to know me to the extent that they could see something and know that I’d find it funny, tell me about it and get the same feeling that I get with my best friend is something that fills me with something I can’t really describe.
I’m a bit odd as a PTSD patient because I don’t really have triggers as such, like loud noises. One thing I recently realised that I do have is that I hate rooms with yellow walls. It’s because my abuse mostly happened in a room with yellow walls. If the walls are yellow I feel like they are collapsing on me at any second. Colour that is usually associated with joy is puss, phlegm, rotting, disgusting.
I hope that one day I can tell this to someone and they’ll just say:
“It’s ok, we can paint them a different colour.”