"I want to reintegrate myself romantically — am I supposed to just pretend I'm normal, or make excuses for my weird neuroses?"
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Dear Miss Information,
I'm not exactly at rock bottom, but I'm pretty sure I'm as close to it as I want to get. I'm a twenty-eight-year-old female first-year law student suffering from social anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Those problems have resulted in an academic performance so far below what I'm actually intellectually capable of that I'm facing the prospect of dropping out or being kicked out of school.
The same problems have also driven my supposed best friend away. To be fair, this relationship was mutually unhealthy for a variety of reasons, but it still hurt being told more or less that I was just too much crazy to deal with. These issues have also caused problems with my family, as they feel like I'm driving them away and they worry about me a great deal.
I'm currently seeking help from a counselor whom I like, and I feel like there's potential for improvement from working with her. I'm aiming to reintegrate myself socially and, at some point, romantically and sexually. I'm just worried about this reintegration/resocialization project. Am I supposed to just pretend I'm completely normal, make excuses for my weird neuroses, come right out with it, or something else?
— Into The Wild
Dear Into The Wild,
I love the concept of a "resocialization project." It reminds me of a releasing a circus elephant back into the wild, or teaching Bananas the Finger-Painting Chimp how to woo a lady-chimp. Really, any phrase that makes me dwell on chimps is a good one, so I thank you.
Uh, anyway, the first step here is giving yourself some credit: you've got a lot on your plate, and, more importantly, you're taking charge. Things may feel bleak, but as long as you don't lay back and give up, you're doing great.
If you're prone to erratic behavior, you should absolutely mention it to friends. It doesn't have to be a PowerPoint presentation, but it should be a conversation. For instance, tell them that you may fall off the radar from time to time, but it's not a reflection of your friendship or what you think of the person; it's just a fact of your headspace right now. Most people should be fine with this. And, if they're not, don't take it personally: that's more a case of them failing at understanding than you failing at socialization.
There is a double-edged sword to dealing with any chronic illness: while having to "out" yourself to new friends sucks, that vulnerability can engender greater closeness. It takes courage and honesty to tell someone, "I'm not doing great right now," and most mature, together people will respect that you opened up. You'd also be surprised at how often you're met with, "I know what you're going through." More people understand periods of depression and illness than you might suspect — give them a chance, and people might surprise you.
So, while preparing to release yourself back into the wild, start with one thing at a time: stabilize yourself so that you feel comfortable with your actions and proud of yourself. Then start to collect more acqaintances and friends. Then open yourself up to relationships. Periods of healing and coccooning are not for the faint of heart. Introspection takes tremendous amounts of work, and you should applaud yourself for all of the energy you are putting in. You're not weak and you're not retreating. You're taking the time to ground yourself as a human, and that will pay off in your future relationships.
Dear Miss Information,
I made it my goal in life to somehow attain charisma. And honestly, I got it. Now, at age thirty, it is easy for me to make friends. Therein lies my problem: I'm good at making friends — boyfriends, not so much.
Here's the latest example: I met a guy a month and a half ago. We made eyes the first time I met him, and slowly but surely things progressed. We became friends, then became buddies, then hung out all of the time. We work together, so every time we'd be at the same job, he'd seek me out and we'd chat. Forever. He texted me. He messaged me. He initiated all sorts of conversations. He's touchy-feely with me. He invites me out (with others), but then sits and talks to only me. Promising signs he's into me.
But there's one problem: this is where it all stops. All the signs say he's hitting on me (and honestly, he is), but then there's never any physical follow-through. Part of me wants to hold out because, you know, he'll get it. He'll see I'm a physically attractive guy. And honestly, I've gotten to the point of no return. I have a huge crush.
What do I do when I am consistently friend-zoned? And what do I do about this guy?
When most of us meet someone new, we do an instant calculation: "Would I bang this person? Circle one: y/n." It rarely has much to do with intention — it's more like, "if the apocalypse happened, I'd hook up with my garbage man before I hooked my dentist." Do you intend to hook up with either? No, but it's good to know where they stand in your mind. It's just a bit of internal calculus. Sexy, sexy calculus.
If you find you keep ending up in the "just a friend" camp, think about the ways you present yourself — are you always the wacky buddy, never the bride? It's easiest to process in terms of energy: generally speaking, "charisma" is a buoyant force (bubbly!) while "sexiness" is smokier and more grounded. By all means, stay your charismatic self, but know when to downshift it into sexy territory.
Those are the generalities; now let's zoom in on your dude. It sounds like one of two things could be happening. It may be possible that he is into you, but doesn't know how to bridge "flirting" into "post-apocalyptic banging." Or, he may be less into you as a person and more into the validation and attention you provide him. From my limited vantage point, I suspect he's leaning closer to Option #2. If he's aggressive and proactive enough to invite you out and be touchy-feely, he's likely aggressive enough to have made a move… if he wanted to. Think about your dynamic. Does he seem genuinely interested in your perspective and feelings? Or does he seem more into having someone to grind on while drunk? If he only invites you out to group things, or makes no effort to see you one-on-one, he probably considers you more of a "party buddy" than a viable partner. Just a guess.
Whether my speculation is right or not in your particular case, this is the take-home message: don't let your fixation overwhelm your own faith in your charms. Are you giving him the the spotlight while you're playing Coal Miner #3 in your own life? If it feels like you are, give up the crush and move on.