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Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Fri Jan 31, 2020 2:36 pm
by BuddyBoi21
Hey y'all,

I feel like I am not entirely here. Like there's something that physically feels off in my being and at first I couldn't recognize what it was but after typing it out and thinking about it more I realize.
I very much feel like I've been relapsing hardcore into my defensive behaviors like emotional numbing, avoidance and distractions.
I've felt more lonely than usual lately, for a number of reasons and decided to try and "shut the feeling off" in order to cope with it.

1. Being that I work so much I've made less time for myself or for doing fun things without the stress of procrastination. (Something I tried to avoid but didn't do)
2. Being in a situation where I have little to no time, I don't have time for dating even though I would like to.
b) I went on a "date" and it felt like I was awkwardly hanging out with someone I just met. When talking about this situation with them they saw it as "good" that I was single. It made me feel like wanting a relationship or wanting to actively go on any dates were just a waste of time and pointless.
3. In my time with traditionally platonic relationships, I've felt invisible or like I'm "bad" at starting or maintaining friendships. Like I must remain independent, only rely on myself and be careful not to trust other people too much.
b) This makes me feel like I just "should not" be where I am. Like I shouldn't have signed up for these commitments where I'm working closely with these people. Like I shouldn't have gone out on this "date" because I'm supposed to be alone.

I just want to keep building and pursuing these other aspects of my life and hope the dating/love/sex aspects of my life "fall into place" at some point. It sounds and feels stupid to me to hope for these things which is why I felt even more inclined to numb the feeling.

It felt soothing to not feel it, to disregard it and just fantasize about throwing myself so deeply into my work and other pursuits that I would just end up becoming completely repulsed at the thought of dating another person for any span of time or pursuing casual sex at all.

I feel like it'll "get better" but until that point I need to focus on myself like the "date" had said. It's healthier that way right?

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Fri Jan 31, 2020 11:22 pm
by 0PT1M15T1C
Hi, I'm probably not the most educated person to be answering/responding to any of this but maybe something I can say can help?
The things you have mentioned have been things my friend group and I have been discussing quite a bit lately, both about myself and another one of the people in the group.
When you're saying you're trying to shut the feeling off when you're lonely I wonder if that's partly because you just don't feel motivated? If it is the case the main thing that helps me is just plan something fun, (I know it sounds vanilla) but whenever I'm feeling that way, I know being with friends and putting myself in a place that forces us to interact, without technology really helps me. A while ago I was feeling pretty depressed and even though I really didn't want to leave the house I planned a time for my friends and I to head to the mall and do a little clothes shopping with our Christmas money. (Mind you, we're 15 and to us that is extremely exciting)
As far as the procrastination I find what really helps is set aside a day, and set yourself small goals. Plot out how much time you think it will take you to perform a task and remember to always overestimate a little. Then time yourself and keep track of how much time is left. I know I don't have a job but this trick really helps for keeping up with school work, studying and chores. Let's say cleaning the bathroom, you think it might take you 15 mins and you time yourself and only used 10. Now keep track of that 5 minutes and you can either use it then, or let it build up with your other activities which sets a time limit for your break!
I'm really sorry to hear about the date, that just sounds quite rude to be honest to say to someone. Now although there is a point of ensuring you are happy and satisfied with yourself before adding another person into the mix, I don't feel that is where the comment came from. I want to say you are worth the time and honestly, screw that person, if they want to be rude are they really worth it?
I get the feeling of not feeling like you should be there, possibly not belonging, and feeling like you are supposed to be alone. But what i've learned over time (and through speaking to a therapist) is that sometimes when you're struggling with something your mind wants you to stop doing things such as hanging out with friends and tries to tell you that you shouldn't be there or aren't wanted. A lot of times when you follow through with what you are feeling that way, you are just adding to it and furthering putting yourself in a sad space if that makes sense? Sorry I just don't know a better way to describe it. With that being said though, there is time for a break from people and I totally get that. Sometimes it really takes persistence and a lot of effort to work through, but trust me, you are worth it!
You seem overly exerted and stressed out (I apologise if I'm wrong) and like I said, I don't know much about working but sometimes it can be useful to use the trick I mentioned for time management or maybe even create a to do list, one section with the priories/must be completed right away, the "These need to get done but aren't as urgent" and the "I'd like to get done". Try to set realistic goals for how much you can get done in a day, I find if I'm scared or worried about how much I have to do and how little time I get more done if I take a second to plan it out and relax myself first.
EDIT: Oh and as far as the "It's healthier" thing, sometimes it may be helpful, but that's completely up to you. Honestly, I'd say this person just wasn't worth it if they don't want all of you. You are worth the time it may take. I always try to remind myself that, and after a while it actually works, it's not just one of those BS statements. Especially with my friends when I'm feeling that way, I remember that even though I can be a total bitch (teenagers amirite? haha) but I'm still worth the time because everyone has their ups and downs, and it's fine you may be at a down.
I really hope that I understood everything correctly and I deeply apologise if I misinterpreted.
I hope I could help at least a little. I wish you the best.

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Sat Feb 01, 2020 8:50 am
by Siân
Hi Buddyboi,

Loneliness is a really hard thing to deal with, and owning up to it can take some doing. i'm glad you could share here. Recognising that you are "shutting down" to cope is also a good step, now the question is are there better ways of dealing with this feeling?

It's great that you have a lot of big things going on right now keeping you busy and hopefully you are finding your work, music and campus organisation rewarding. Those are all important parts of a fulfilling life. But we need connection too; not romantic connection necessarily but people we are close to and form mutually supportive networks with. I know you've been feeling a lot of frustration and hopelessness around dating, and we've discussed that in other threads but the thing that I really noticed here was your comment about friendships and how you maintain some distance for independence.

We often look to romantic relationships as the answer to loneliness, but no single relationship or type of relationship is going to fulfill all our needs. Friendships are constantly undervalued as sources of deep connection and intimacy - often lasting far beyond most romantic relationships. So no, I don't think it's "healthier"to be alone and not put effort into people, but perhaps you might find it rewarding to put effort into building and maintaining friendships first and romantic relationships second?

0PT1M15T1C had some thoughtful suggestions about how you use your time to do the things you need to do and also making plans with the people in your life so I'm not going to retread all of that. I just want to leave you with this piece from Captain Awkward on loneliness and belonging: Moving vs. Staying. Instructions for finding Your People and Your Place.

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Sat Feb 01, 2020 9:06 pm
by Gone.Sorry.
Hey, Buddyboi21 - I completely agree with and second everything 0PT1M15T1C and Siân have said. I just wanted to pop by and add...

Being vulnerable is really scary and tough. But I think you find that if you work on being a little vulnerable with people - leaning on your friends when you need to lean on them, asking your friends for help, opening up to your friends about how you feel, not pushing your friends away - you'll be blown away by how much they truly care about you and value your vulnerability.

Sometimes self-care means that we give in and listen to our feelings (ex. taking a mental health day off work when we're too tired/stressed/frazzled to deal with work/coworkers/outside/whatever). But sometimes self-care means recognizing our unhealthy coping mechanisms and specifically going against them and doing what's actually better for us (ex. wanting to pull away from friends to protect/punish ourselves but instead setting aside the time to at the very least hang out with them knowing that a lowkey hangout is perfectly fine).

By the by, a lot of people find dating awkward and weird and even exhausting, so you're certainly not alone there. It's okay to take breaks if you want/need. Taking a break doesn't mean "giving up forever". It means just that: taking a break until you have more energy/motivation/desire to date again. It's also okay to just pursue ways of dating that you more genuinely enjoy instead of forcing yourself to do it how you think you should but don't enjoy. For example, that might mean having your friends set up blind dates for you instead of utilizing dating apps. Or it might mean not using dating apps and instead making the time to go do/try new things and meet people offline by doing that. Or it might mean using dating apps but being more selective about who you meet offline. Or it might mean a first date is a coffee shop brunch date that won't last as long as a dinner might and an excuse lined up if you want to leave at a certain time. Or maybe it means that a first date is finding something new or interesting to try in your city that will put you and your date a little out of your comfort zone (a rock climbing gym? axe throwing? games at your local game library? an art class?).

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:14 pm
by BuddyBoi21
Hey everyone,

So you all have some over arching themes here that I'll address in bulk in this first reply.

I do understand focusing on forms of intimacy and do prioritize my friendships. I do NOT view romantic relationships as more important than every other type of relationship in my life. I do however recognize for myself personally that there are certain needs or desires I have that can't seem to be satisfied by friendships or "friends with benefits".

When I was writing this thread, I was relapsing into an old unhealthy coping skill. I was emotionally shutting down and numbing my feelings because I didn't want to feel anything pertaining to feeling lonely in reference to my romantic feelings. Especially since prior I ended up venting to one of my friends who viewed my feelings and views as codependent.

Once I heard that, plus what my date said (they both meant well!) I spiraled completely and wanted to hyper focus on every other aspect of my life instead of dating or romance. This mindset going to a point where I even wanted to actively refuse anyone who shows romantic interest in me, especially those I'm very attracted to.

I had the mindset that I must be 100% independent and capable of taking care of myself, a mindset my therapist deemed extremely unrealistic and counterproductive in trying to date.

That being said I was able to ground myself eventually. I want to emphasize that I don't need a romantic/sexual relationship but would like one. I feel like there are some areas of my life that can't be fulfilled by my platonic relationships (sex being a great example).

I'll further address my friendships and platonic connections in the next few posts.

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:52 pm
by BuddyBoi21
Hey 0PT1M15T1C,

I'll start by clarifying that I don't feel lonely because I don't feel motivated. I feel lonely just because that's simply how I feel in regards to my romantic situation and can't distract myself with partying or friends due to schedules and being more busy young adults. I will say I feel unmotivated to pursue dates or romantic partners unless there's a very special circumstance (check out my other post about "Knowing" when it comes to potential partners) because of "dead ends".
Dates get cancelled and never rescheduled, dates like this one where I'm not even touched and there's no compatibility or just flat out not being interested in the person at all.

While I would love to put more time into my existing friendships, I physically can't schedule time with my friends. I'm 21, a full time student, involved in organizations on campus, starting a new job and try to put some time into my hobbies. My friends and I are all young adults so simply scheduling time away from phones isn't nearly as simple as when we were in our teens.

I was able to see one of my closest friends yesterday by putting off some homework because of how stressed I've been lately. I went out and got a piercing. I've seen people dye and cut their hair so since I can't do either and had been planning on getting something like this, I thought "why not today?".

I try my best with procrastination but at this point it feels more like I'm overwhelmed with my schedule and experiencing burn out. As mentioned before I do a lot and don't schedule much time for myself. It's getting/gotten to points where whatever little free time I do have I end up just doing nothing for as long as I can. I currently do implement the habits you've suggested though.

Again that date didn't mean any harm I'm sure but it did hit me in a way that I found unpleasant. For the most part, in my own experiences, I feel worse when I isolate myself and tend to process my feelings better with support or being direct with them.

Time management can only go so far in my case. My therapist, my closest friends and my family all note that I tend over exert myself with "work" of any kind and don't allow myself to "play" or enjoy different aspects of life and socializing (dating included). That last part is something my therapist has been consistently concerned about for quite some time since I've more openly acknowledged my desire for a genuine romantic relationship over casual sex.

You understood a lot of what I said and I really appreciate your support.

Thanks!

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Sun Feb 02, 2020 5:33 pm
by BuddyBoi21
Hey Siân,

I don't really know exactly how to deal with shutting down aside from "phoning a friend" or trying to distract from it. Usually I just try to find a healthy outlet for this but I haven't had an intense shutdown like this in a long time.

For already established relationships vulnerability isn't difficult. Since my friend and I chose to make a mini road trip off of getting my piercing, we drove through where my ex from when I was 18 lived. I made the decision to pass by their house. I remembered everything from the area. Where the streets were, where we had our dates, where I broke down and cried and called hotlines or even messaged y'all here because I couldn't afford therapy at the time.

With that I knew deep down I needed to continue to acknowledge my feelings from that relationship. I have different perspectives on the way our relationship ended; a vague feeling of "what did I do wrong? If they loved or cared about me at all, why didn't they just tell me the truth?", "It's their fault I'm f*cked up. I can't trust anyone because of what they said and did. I instinctively can't trust anyone even though I want to so badly" and lastly "Am I really over this?". This October it will have been 3 years since I left that relationship. I feel like I hold this trauma and trust issues and that I'm not "really over it" because I experience trauma. It sucks. I cried and just felt like they didn't actually care if they didn't have whatever it takes to at least tell me the truth.

It's why with this new potential person I feel attracted to they're just someone I want to enjoy until I (possibly) get hurt, knowing full and well that I will get past it.
With friendships I hope that I further clarify and properly word that I don't feel like I NEED a romantic/sexual relationship.

I just feel like there's a form of intimacy I can't satisfy with platonic friendships or extremely casual relationships, at least not anymore. I find it rewarding to maintain my friendships and when I speak of being out of place, the majority of my "new friends" who are basically my future coworkers for this summer job are mostly cishet and neurotypical. I also feel like whenever I open my mouth no one understands me, my humor, my passion for political activism and I just feel awkward around them.

I shrink down because I feel like I talk too much and come off as nice but weird. It might be a projection of my childhood but it doesn't mean it feels any less real. It's also why I talk about leaving and not being here because this job is supposed to be an extremely large commitment meaning in the summer I will not only have to put my hobbies on hold but also take one less class. It also means I'd be in school an extra term. THAT'S a much bigger reason I consider leaving, not just because I feel like I don't fit in but because I feel like I'm taking on too much again and need to choose myself and my interests over another commitment that may test my mental health and well being.

I do like what both of you and 0PT1M15T1C have said. I know where my people are but I think my biggest problems are currently over exertion and feeling bad/weak/codependent for wanting to be in an intimate romantic/sexual relationship.

I hope this made more sense.

Thank you!

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Sun Feb 02, 2020 5:50 pm
by 0PT1M15T1C
Okay, yeah I'm sorry I misinterpreted some of that, and I'm really glad to hear that I did misinterpret the date and that they meant no harm. You do seem to have a lot going well around you and I'm glad you appreciated what I said, sometimes it's a little harder to do that just because I have no experience with being an adult whatsoever (And for that in a way I'm grateful, not paying bills or having to work is amazing) It also sounds like you have a lot going on! wow. It's also good to hear you're finding time to do things you enjoy, even if it means putting off homework.
I know you started off your post with this "I'll start by clarifying that I don't feel lonely because I don't feel motivated. I feel lonely just because that's simply how I feel in regards to my romantic situation and can't distract myself with partying or friends due to schedules and being more busy young adults.: and I feel that makes a lot sense now reading everything through again.
I also want to say I loved hearing this bit ""why not today?" " just because I find that's when I feel the happiest and find myself feeling more comfortable and I hope that's true for you as well.
I definitely hear what you're saying as far as overexertion and that does sound like a lot to be taking on.
I really hope you are able to find a good balance in the future but I'm not really sure what other advice I can give because for me personally I don't have an interest in dating or casual sex, so hopefully Siân can help you out with that part? Idk.
I hope you have a great night/day/evening/morning depending on where you are.

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Tue Feb 04, 2020 12:13 am
by Gone.Sorry.
Sorry, this post might be a little overwhelming since I see a couple subjects in your posts I wanted to address. Of course feel free to skip over anything irrelevant or that you just plain don't want to talk about (or even just let me know if this is too many people in your thread and you'd like me to back out).

BuddyBoi21 wrote:When I was writing this thread, I was relapsing into an old unhealthy coping skill. I was emotionally shutting down and numbing my feelings because I didn't want to feel anything pertaining to feeling lonely in reference to my romantic feelings. Especially since prior I ended up venting to one of my friends who viewed my feelings and views as codependent.

[...]

That being said I was able to ground myself eventually.


I'm glad you were able to ground yourself! That's great. =) Was it very difficult to realize you were dropping back into an unhealthy coping skill? Have you talked about with your therapist/do you have strategies you practice for catching when this happens so it's easier to recognize and therefore confront it? For example, mindfulness can help us stay aware of patterns like this. Of course it's not easy to just stop the behavior but recognizing it sure does make it easier to address it!

I had the mindset that I must be 100% independent and capable of taking care of myself, a mindset my therapist deemed extremely unrealistic and counterproductive in trying to date.


I would argue that this is an unrealistic and counterproductive mindset for life in general. From relying to the power company to keep us connected and able to do things like cook to the grocery store to stocking food for us to consume from pets and friends and family for an emotional connection to others, we rely on many people and structures that we not even really think about on the day to day. I'm interested by the way you stated this as an observation by your therapist, though. Do you disagree with this statement? Do you see your therapist's point in theory even if not in practice?

I'm 21, a full time student, involved in organizations on campus, starting a new job and try to put some time into my hobbies.

[...]

I try my best with procrastination but at this point it feels more like I'm overwhelmed with my schedule and experiencing burn out. As mentioned before I do a lot and don't schedule much time for myself. It's getting/gotten to points where whatever little free time I do have I end up just doing nothing for as long as I can. I currently do implement the habits you've suggested though.


Based on these, I'd say this rings quite true:

My therapist, my closest friends and my family all note that I tend over exert myself with "work" of any kind and don't allow myself to "play" or enjoy different aspects of life and socializing (dating included). That last part is something my therapist has been consistently concerned about for quite some time since I've more openly acknowledged my desire for a genuine romantic relationship over casual sex.


!!!

Have you thought about doing school part-time (or at least trying to cut back on how many credit hours you're taking a semester) and/or limiting the amount of organizations you're involved with on campus? What immediate reaction does the thought of taking these actions like spark for you?

I know different people enjoy and desire different levels of "busy-ness" but no time for your friends, not a lot of time for hobbies, feeling overwhelmed, experiencing burnout, and spending all your free time just doing nothing are all very clear signs that you're taking too much on!

I've done college twice and I didn't even work during the school years (well, grad school I was technically working either as a teaching or research assistant, but it's a bit different from taking on a separate job like you likely are). I know how busy and stressful school can be. I know that sometimes you feel like you just need to power through the next semester or few semesters, but you have to take the steps necessary for yourself to take care of your physical and mental health. And overloading yourself while adding more to your plate isn't going to help your physical or mental health!

I don't really know exactly how to deal with shutting down aside from "phoning a friend" or trying to distract from it. Usually I just try to find a healthy outlet for this but I haven't had an intense shutdown like this in a long time.


Maybe you haven't because it's not something that's been relevant for you for a while, but have you brought this up to your therapist and discussed strategies you could implement/try? With how much you have on your plate right now, there's a good chance that shutting down could become more intense and more common for you, especially if you don't take proactive steps towards addressing it. Sorry if this sounds pushy or aggressive or judgemental! I certainly don't mean it that way - I'm honestly just really worried about you. =(

Phoning a friend is great, as is distraction, honestly. Have you ever tried guided meditation or do you have any grounding practices? These might be useful for redirecting your thoughts and helping to keep you present.
You might be too busy to go out for a hike (or otherwise not like hiking), but are there any garden-y or natural spots around campus or wherever you live (for when it's warm enough)? A tree you could sit under? A pond to visit? Something that really helps me when I'm getting too depressed and anxious and frazzled and disconnected and numb, is going for a hike and just getting to be in nature for a while. It's honestly just so refreshing. I can breathe outside air, listen to nature sounds, and... the feeling of re-centering that just spending some time in nature brings to me is honestly so difficult to describe. It almost feels like... a rebirth, honestly.

.

Finally, I just wanna sympathize with you. I'm so sorry for everything you've been through and are struggling with. Trauma is so hard. Neurodivergency can be so hard. It's okay if you're struggling right now. Even when you're making uphill progress, it's natural to stall or slip backwards sometimes. I know that doesn't make it feel any better, but honestly, it sounds like you are doing and are trying to do a lot of good things for yourself and that you've spent a lot of time working on sussing out what it is you want and need for yourself, and that's all great work. I do hope you're finding ways to give yourself a break. Please make sure that you're eating, drinking, and sleeping enough. Not doing enough of any of these things can really compound feelings and struggles as well as bring down your health, and right now, it sounds like self-care is something that would be a good idea to pay particular attention to. <3

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 10:56 am
by BuddyBoi21
Hey horriblegoose,

When it came to shutting down it was a bit hard at first to recognize it. It wasn't until I reminded myself a vow I took for my development: I never wanted to be toxicly masculine. This included emotional numbing. I told myself I've gotten too far to fall back into my old habits and started sobbing in my car. My therapist and I didn't discuss in depth the specific coping skills I have to cope with relapses but I feel like I'm gaining enough awareness to catch it and process it quicker.

I completely agree with my therapist and it's why I describe this whole situation, including that shift in thought, a relapse. I know it's unrealistic but it felt so comforting to think of myself as "untouchable" or "unable to be controlled by my emotions toward someone". This idea or framing that wanting romantic love and having a romantic relationship would put my independece and (insert word that means I'm immune to being vulnerable here) at risk if I liked someone "too much".

That all being said it's very much an unhealthy view of romance since I want this area of my life to be fulfilled. My therapist heavily validated my desires for a romantic partner and that there was a good chance many people felt the same way I do, I'm just more likely to vocalize it.

After the whirlwind of the week I've had I'm happy to let you know I will be cutting back on my credit hours to help. A big red flag that made me come to this decision is that I'm failing my other courses and top of not taking care of myself. I also didn't want to sell away my summer and drop my hobbies. The job I had signed up for would've been a nice environment but I know it would ultimately make me unhappy to be unable to take time for my personal interests.

Initially my first reaction was (or would have been) feeling disappointed in myself and feeling guilty. I almost chose my work over my passions, that this was "a part of growing up" and that "real adults do tough things they don't like to get by". Once I snapped away from that less than a minute later I kept into account what was said to me and how I felt. I internalized and now understood I was exhausted. And with my experiences last year from paid work to full time schooling, volunteer work and saving up for my top surgery while navigating a relationship that later became an unhealthy relationship I said no amount of money was worth running myself into the ground.

I don't have specific grounding techniques but I do like music and exercise as outlets. I can't find myself to sit still enough to meditate so I just listen to music and get lost in it. As for exercise, I was weightlifting for a few months and now I'm planning going back to a boxing gym for self defense. It makes me feel strong and secure.

Lastly, I really appreciate all of your input. You know exactly where I'm coming from and helped to steer me in the right direction for my personal development. I'm really happy you validated a lot of what I'm feeling and thank you for reminding me that road bumps happen.

Thank you so much again for all of your help as well as the other commenters on this post <3

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 4:28 pm
by Mo
It really sounds like you're developing a lot of self-awareness about the feelings you're having and that you're taking some positive steps to change things and take care of yourself, which is all great! :) Road bumps definitely do happen but what I'm hearing is that you're doing a lot to ensure a smoother ride overall in the future.

Re: Sensual Healing: Navigating Dating, Loneliness and Mental Health as a Young Adult

Posted: Sat Feb 08, 2020 12:26 pm
by Gone.Sorry.
That's such a great update to hear, BuddyBoi21! Those are all some really great steps to take care of yourself. <3 Have fun at the boxing gym! I started something similar a couple months ago myself and have been really enjoying it - and love interacting with the people there as well.