Dating with Anxiety

Can you Land a Second Date Despite Your Obsessive Worrying and Thought Patterns?

A small structure that resembles a jellybean and is lodged in the frontal lobe of my brain next to a structure that looks vaguely like a seahorse is sabotaging my dating life. It is my amygdala. I have generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. It takes a strong, strong man to deal with me (at least I think it does) because I drive so many men away (at least I feel like I do) with my craziness (did I just stigmatize myself).

I went through a fat, awkward stage as I suffered through puberty. As a result of this, I did not have any luck with the grade school dating scene, which was absurdly prominent at St. Genevieve’s School. I wanted a boyfriend and I couldn’t get one. This failure was just about the only thing I could think about, as I was diagnosed in seventh grade (just when my hormones began raging and my friends began “dating”) so I did lots of reading about boys and relationships. I read all of the articles titled things like “How to Tell if He’s into You” “How You’re Driving Men Away” “How to Get His Attention” “How to Flirt” and “Why He’s Not Texting You Back.” I watched He’s Just Not That into You every time it came on Bravo. I assumed this would prepare me for dealing with men in the future because all men are the same- simple, stupid, straightforward, and sex-driven (I wish).

My first boyfriend, Steve, was emotionally dependent on me. He valued me because of the advice and stability I was able to give him. He texted me every day, all day (a quality that seems charming but one that worsened my OCD and fueled my need for reassurance). He was my first real kiss and my junior prom date (stereotypical high school sweetheart stuff). I thought I was in love. Then we broke up. Then he came out as gay (end stereotype, end romantic history).

Will I ever have another boyfriend?

I haven’t dated anyone since Steve and I broke up during my senior year of high school and I’m convinced that I won’t find a man in college, or ever. I feel that I am destined to become a cool aunt, or an old woman who knits afghans, drinks herbal teas, and yells at small children. Eventually, I will die alone, gray and withered under fluorescent hospital lights clutching a pillow instead of the palm of a loved one, and speaking deliriously to an overweight, over-worked nurse.  She’ll look at me with eyes full of pity and then run home and tell her children that they need to marry. (I’ve thought about my future many times while crying into bowls of chocolate ice cream that I hold with shaking hands and this is the only logical way it could end.)

My thoughts tend to spiral because of my anxiety.  They also tend to have physiological effects. When I can’t control my brain, I can’t control my body. I’m frequently left shaking, vomiting, crying, and curled into the fetal position just because of my rollercoaster, joy-ride-from-hell type of thought patterns. Who wouldn’t want to date the human equivalent of a Chihuahua?

Now, I have been on dates since Steve and I broke up; I just haven’t been able to retain any of these men. It’s hard to date when you have anxiety, OCD, and all of your ideas about what boys are/how they should act are shaped by articles you read in seventh grade written by insecure women to sell magazines. You overthink a lot, and you need a lot of reassurance. You also sweat a lot, move a lot, text a lot, talk a lot, cry a lot, and drink a lot of alcohol. You are a lot to deal with (at least you believe you are.)

Because of my OCD, certain thoughts and visuals tend to get stuck in my head. Several years ago, I was watching season one, episode three of The Office. In this episode, Michael puts Dwight in charge of picking out a new healthcare plan for the other employees. Dwight responds by commanding everyone to write down their ailments. Jim and Pam decide to mess with him and list fake diseases. One of the diseases they invent involves your teeth turning into liquid and dripping down the back of your throat. This is disgusting, absolutely disgusting, truly repulsive and horrifying. I had nightmares for weeks. It still freaks me out and now I am scared of teeth, all teeth, including my own. A similar thing happened when I was watching the Disney movie The Incredibles and I associated the flying metal disks used to decapitate people with Frisbees.

When you are on a first date with a guy and he asks you what you’re afraid of (which honestly is kind of a weird question) you should not “be honest” (as Cosmo tends to encourage you to be) and reply with “Frisbees and teeth.” These are not common fears and he will think it is weird.

I am also occasionally subjected to panic attacks because of my anxiety disorder. Panic attacks occur when your internal resting state undergoes a dramatic change in a short period of time, i.e. when you become aroused (sexually or otherwise). When I have a panic attack, my body responds by emptying the contents of my stomach without much warning. Shortly after the first date word vomit debacle, I was topless in bed with a different boy (it was a strange week) when suddenly I knew that I was going to vomit. I couldn’t help myself. I threw up in his bed. I am beauty. I am grace. (Where’s the “How to Redeem Yourself After a Man Sees Your Nipples Dripping in Vomit During the First Time You Hook Up” article, Cosmo.)

And so my dating life continues to be nonexistent. I text the boys first too often and with too much emotion because I need reassurance that they want to see me again (OCD), I give bizarre answers to questions about my personal life (OCD), I vomit in their beds (anxiety), and I’m sure as hell too nervous to meet people via dating apps (anxiety). After, all these years of reading Cosmo, I still have no man, just stacks of magazines and loneliness (sigh with me here, ladies).  I want my money back, and my dignity.