This Is Why I Don't Date
I am going to make a disclaimer from the very beginning of this post so I can get it out of the way and not have to worry about it later. I am 36 years old and I don’t date. Ever. Everyone I know is getting married or pregnant, meanwhile all I am doing is buying extra iCloud storage so I can take more photos of my dog.
Relationships for me have never been smooth sailing. At 20 years old, I moved to another country to live with my first love and ultimately my first heartbreak. He was my best friend for a year before we got together, so I thought if anything was going to work, then this would be it because it was based on friendship. There wasn’t any anxiety with us as we had been friends for so long before a relationship happened.
Living overseas was incredible for a while, but very quickly descended into a nightmare. It was during this time when mental illness began to completely consume my life and my brain, putting enormous strain on not only me but my boyfriend at the time, because the sudden changes in my personality and mood were so out of character we both had no idea what was happening. I was also knee deep in my battle with anorexia again and this time bulimia had decided to join the party, so that was one part of it. It was also when my major depression first manifested and because I had no idea I even had depression, I thought I was going “batshit crazy.”
When I was growing up, I was bullied as a child by dancing teachers, school teachers, parents of kids at my school and by my peers. All of the negative comments and harsh words spoken to me became my inner dialogue, which was already pretty negative because of my eating disorder. When all of these things came together, I ended up so socially anxious that life became impossible. I couldn’t even go to the local supermarket without thinking that everyone was judging me badly and laughing at me.
This destructive negative inner dialogue became my norm. It was naturally how I thought and I couldn’t escape it. I think this is why it led me throughout my 20s to be involved in relationships with people who cheated on me, physically, verbally and emotionally abused me and destroyed every single ounce of self-worth and confidence I had left inside of me.
After I hit 30, I decided I should get back out there. I was prepared to try and push through my anxiety and just do it. So I went on two different dates with two different people. We had been conversing over emails and messages for a few weeks before I met them in person. When the time came for me to meet them on a first date, all the prep work I thought I had done for my anxiety was useless. I was a mess.
I get nerve rashes on my neck and face when I am worried or anxious, so was sitting there knowing I looked like a beetroot because I could feel my face burning (this is how I know the redness is there without me having to look in a mirror). I couldn’t eat dinner on both of these dates as I thought they would be judging me about how I eat (another of the joys of having an eating disorder). I couldn’t make eye contact and could barely speak. I knew I had no chance of seeing these people again and this was confirmed when they both said to me afterwards, individually and this is verbatim: “You’re amazing over the phone and on messages, but rubbish in person.”
I don’t introduce myself to people by saying “Hi, I’m Erin and I struggle with debilitating anxiety, depression and anorexia,” so they didn’t know I had a mental illness. But what they said isn’t right anyway — it’s rude, judgmental and unwarranted. These experiences have put me off dating for life.
It’s hard to reach a certain age when you’re at a point when you should be seen to be conforming to what society says — either in a relationship, married or with kids. But for me, I think: screw what society thinks. Don’t worry about anyone else but yourself. I now know I need to love myself before I can even think about loving someone else, and I am so happy at where I am in my life right now, I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything. If it happens it happens, but I am not rushing around looking to settle because I don’t think conforming to how other people think you should be living your life is very fair. I am single, happy and loving life. And who needs marriage and babies anyway when you can have a dog instead?
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Thinkstock photo via Ivary.